At the front of the small empty courtroom C.D. raising her deep-set hazel eyes against the incumbent heat, reviewed the room for reachable windows. She opened them and then returned to the awkward slab of wood they had chosen for her, as a chair. Bracing her back against the obstructions of mahogany that supported her arms, she turned her body at odd angles and then made efforts to make herself comfortable. Drawing in the musty air, she was exhausted from five hours of traveling by cramped police buses. After fighting sleep for a few more minutes, C.D. simply gave in.
That pleasant morning of January 1850 the tail of Caroline’s uniform was invitingly white and the older woman’s hands sweetly adjusted the foreboding hem. Bright brown eyes complemented her habit and C.D. imagined that they traced her grandmother’s then changing figure. There were no words in this memory. C.D. had never lived it, but her grandmother had told her this account.
There had never been a need for words between the Mother Superior and the then novice canoness. After all, a mentor has the most teachable moments viewing the statues of The Beloved Mary and admiring the Saint Francis of Assisi. Whether acknowledgement of Assisi as a town in central Italy is necessary, one never knows.
For all the moments C.D.’s grandmother had spent thinking of going to Italy in those days, to delight in the truth and the lies of the stigmata many bittersweet tears were shed. In this memory of youth, C.D.’s grandmother knew that she would have to quickly embrace being a prioress, even if she cared very little for celibacy, chastity or charity. Caroline gently moved her heart and her hem in the same direction and away from the order of her life. For her, heaven was too far to reach, while hell and earth seemed to meet at the same place, the moment she rejected all the desperate expectations lain before her.
“You have been given a splendid opportunity my child,” echoed the voices of both Caroline’s mothers, in her delicate mind. At that point, she hated her delicate mind, bound by such selfless exploits such as giving up her hopes of freely seeing the world, beyond a regiment veil.
“You vow to give yourself purely to Christ Our Lord and to the service of His people and giving to the least, the most?”
“Yes, I do.”
“You vow to give everything you have, to the poor and to the needy?” The longest pause of Caroline’s life, took three seconds to take it’s course.
“Yes, I do,” she solemnly replied.
“In the sight of God and the presence of these witnesses I affirm, by the power invested in me, by the Catholic church at Rome, as your archbishop that you, Caroline Linton have been accepted into the Franciscan Order.
“Caroline, we are so very proud of you,” replied my aunt in a seemingly indifferent voice. I was so comfortable here, that I had forgotten those many heated arguments that had ignited the birth of my alter ego, the nemesis Carl Douglas Gore. This was a hidden life that I could use recklessly to bail carnage on the church at Rome. Playing roles was painful but only to a point. There was one thing that I would never lose lust for, and that one thing was revenge. C.D. Gore was brazen, insolent and undeniably crude. His work was controversial and reviewed by many as overtly and excessively critical of tradition. He was believed to be an effeminate man, yet strong in mind. This was the only acknowledgement that he was a male figure in the church. Radical, was the most gentle of adjectives used with regard to a man considered as a heretic in a time that demanded women be knowledgeable but not excessively acknowledged for this trait.
“Many assume that I have hidden my feelings. But I have been true to myself in every word I have published thus far. Men, women, the sexes, possess their differences so that they may complement each other, not gain the power they seek over each other. Where your brother lacks, you will give him freely. Why then would you deny your sister, what she deserves? Grant her the education she longs for. Let her possess the knowledge she yearns for, and let her test her own wisdom. After all, God would grant her wisdom, so she may reflect His image in her beauty and elegance. Does your arrogance blind you to the fact that, if she is truly no threat, arming her and letting her wage war will prove such? After all, how could she challenge you intellectually if her mind cannot appreciate the things this world possesses? ”
“Knowing that my order was in danger because of what may have been promiscuous dealings with obstinate journalists willing to compromise their own personal beliefs, for money, I could no longer publish under the pen name, C.D. Gore and carefully removed my veil, gave up my vows and quietly removed myself before I was knowingly expelled. As clumsily as it all happened, I do not regret that I left Sicily and migrated to Rome. After all…”
“But grandmother, there were so many that you left behind.” Deep set hazel eyes looked back at her. Hidden behind unruly brown and black curls, a young, impressionable girl sat at the feet of a woman who had seen the world, at its worst and seen her opportunity to change it, and did so, well. Those admiring eyes glowed with knowing. Knowing, that one day, she would have to choose, but that because of efforts like her grandmother’s her choice would not be so difficult.
“…And yes that is true, but after all, I have you, Caroline. I have all that I adore. I would live my life over again, and choose the truth once again. No one can take that away from me.”
Reaching up, holding ever so tightly, the young vital love that encompassed her throat, made the choice Caroline had made so many years before, once again so worthwhile in the sight of God and Caroline Linton-Duke needed no witnesses at all.
Those deep-set hazel eyes belonged to C.D. If she had known that one day she too would embrace all the things her grandmother had, she would have held on a little tighter, a little longer for the sake of her own life spring.
“Ms. Caroline Deborah Linton-James, also known as C.D. Gore,” the bailiff summoned, anxious to start the proceedings.
C.D. tore herself from dream full sleep, understanding for herself that the tribunal staring back at her as she rose to stand, would simply be another moment when history would silence a woman, with a view, a belief and a dream.
In March 2007 I spent a week writing in Samara, Costa Rica. This trip garnered 16 pages of poetry and prose. It was a week-long writing-intensive workshop. I was 19 at the time, and as such many of the pieces reflect my immaturity, my growth, and my journey in my craft, and ability.