“I love these old claw tubs,” he whispered as he nibbled her earlobe. He took his shoulders off their rest on the porcelain and wrapped his arms around her. “And they were big enough for two.” His lips moved down along her neck. Brady looked down as their legs stretched to the spigot. She took her toe and touched his instep. He drew his leg up. “Please don’t,” he leaked.
“Mark,” she soothed, “it’s not as bad as you think sweetheart. It’s just a couple of toes. You’re so much more than toes.”
“Brady, I’m just so humiliated.”
She leaned into his chest. “I understand. But it’s not grotesque. It’s not.”
He shut his eyes, spread his limbs to the edge of the tub, and rested his head against the tile. “You know, I look at my foot and it’s just the death of so many things.”
“Like what Mark?”
“Oh, well,” he sighed. “Well it’s a reminder of diabetes for starters.”
Brady started to speak but silently shut her eyes.
“Baby.” He caressed his palms along the length of her arms. “Do you really want to have this conversation?”
“Yes,” she murmured.
“Well, I had always planned on returning to the seminary. You know, finishing it.”
Brady shifted a bit and took a silent breath.
“Honey if you shift like that again, I’m not going to be in the mood to talk,” he whispered as he slid his hand up and cupped her breast.
“Yes, we’ll get back to that later. Talk to me.”
He sighed and closed his eyes and put his head back on the tile. “There’s just something about talking about all this with a woman I just made love to.” He leaned his head and kissed her ear. “And we’re making love now Brady. We’re in love.”
“We’re in love,” she nuzzled against his neck. “So talk to me.”
“Okay, I always told myself I’d go back. I've balked and I've waited. But in my head and in my heart, it was my plan. And then diabetes. And then my foot. I just took it all as a sign.”
“Yeah, a sign He said no.”
"Okay. Why Mark? Why no?”
“Well. All right. My health isn’t going to improve. I mean, do you get that? It’s not going to get better.” He looked down to his foot, lifted his hand, and pointed to it. “I’m going to lose that. And maybe the leg too. You know I’m losing my eyesight. So, it’s all just a big screaming no.”
“You can still be a priest Mark,” she pushed her words past her lips with a silent force.
“Well, here’s the thing: yeah, I could be. But I think the priesthood can't be about the man. The man can't be the center of it. He should serve and not be served. It has to be about God and bringing God to people. See, diabetes is so fucking narcissistic. It's like this beast that eats everything to feed itself. It makes my body share precedence with my soul. So everything is always about me. I know this sounds intense, but I’ve thought about this for years.” He stretched his arms along the periphery of their pool. “Priesthood cannot be about the man. And that’s why I always agreed with a celibate priesthood. I always thought it was so unjust to a woman to make her third. The priesthood cannot be about the man. He has to be last.”
“I understand that.” She considered her words. “But why can’t you be a priest and just make it about other people?”
“Okay,” Mark shifted and pushed the soles of his feet against the tile. “What if someone needs the Last Rites and I’m forced to keep my foot elevated? Should I go? Should I risk my leg? Who comes first? God gave me the legs. Is it a sin to risk them? And when I go blind, who’s going to take care of me? And what about the money for healthcare? Who’s going to pay for all the shit I’m going to have to have? Surgeries and insulin and orthotic shoes. All of it. Who’s going to pay? Is it fair to take the money out of the collection basket and pay for me instead of giving it to the missions? Or to the schools? Or the hospitals?”
“Well, I understand all that. But, there’s insurance.”
“Yeah, baby I get that. If I had enough money - I’d endow it. I’d give a big endowment to a religious order and I’d enter the order. I couldn't be a missionary priest because of the risk of infection. Because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. But, I could still serve. You know?”
“But see all the ifs? Too many ifs. I’m taking that as a big no.”
“Mark?” She took her hands and put them on his arms. “Um, am I keeping you from all of it?” Her words were as quiet as the air between them.
“Brady? Baby? You’re not my consolation prize. I promise. I take my foot as His no. And I take the timing of you as a yes. You came into my life at just the right time. The timing of you is perfect. You’re perfect for me.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. She rolled through their wet until the splash slapped the tile.