That tired cliché about time – time heals all wounds – was, in Sister Aloysius’s opinion, a load of bull. Time did not have healing abilities. Time did not patch up your wounds and leave you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. If anything, time simply stuck a bandaid over the gaping hole, never allowing it to fully heal. It simply scarred on the surface and remained raw beneath.
The aging process left her a little bitter about the old adage, and why shouldn’t it? She’d always been told that no matter the problem, no matter the extent of the pain, a little time would make it all go away. But it never did, did it? The pain she felt over the death of her husband was still as aching and devastating as it had been the day she received the letter about explosive shrapnel tearing apart his heart. It was if the metal had been embedded within her own chest. It was a pain she simply learned to live with, a pain that she carried with her every day, a pain that never ceased.
To Aloysius, that annoying little phrase was simply something that was whispered to children to ease their fears. Perhaps for them it even worked if they believed it enough, much in the way that prayers became mantras as if repetition brought God closer. Aloysius was smarter than that; she knew the placating words didn’t have healing powers. She knew better.
No, time hadn’t healed those old wounds, and it would not heal this one.
Aloysius did not see Sister James before she left. She offered no word of luck or goodbye. She couldn’t. She watched from her window as Sister James headed down the brick path, her suitcase clutched firmly in hand. Something twisted painfully in her chest as the young woman paused and turned her face up to where Aloysius stood, as if seeking her out one last time. Aloysius stepped back. She would not allow James that final kindness, not for a woman who was actively killing what little remained of Aloysius’s heart.
Instead of watching the remainder of James’s trek towards the gate, Aloysius sat at the edge of the bed that the two had secretly shared. She could not resent James’s brother for becoming ill, nor could she resent James for choosing to leave St. Nicholas in order to be closer to her family. Sister James was doing the right thing, but even so, Sister Aloysius was gutted.
Her husband, Paul, had preferred to sleep on the left side of the bed. It took nearly a year for Aloysius to become accustomed to the fact that she would never again feel his weight on the mattress. James, however, had preferred the right. With a clench of pain that burned throughout the older woman’s entire body, she wondered how long it would take before she stopped waiting for the dip in the mattress as the younger nun climbed in beside her.
And so it would begin again: time would move on. Seasons would change, classes would resume and a newcomer would take over the 8th grade. James would teach elsewhere. James would, inevitably, outgrow the love she had for Aloysius.
After Paul died, it had been easy to move forward with her life. Despite the ever-present throb of pain, it had been easy to give up the life she knew in order to become a nun. Time now, it seemed, would simply move on without her. She could hear the tick of the clock on the desk and with each passing second, Aloysius felt what little comfort and happiness she possessed slip away from her. She felt that she would never move out of this moment, that she would be forever trapped with the knowledge that right outside her window, Sister James was crying and hoping for a final glimpse of the older woman. This moment would symbolize that Sister James was forever out of reach.
Her throat tightened as tears threatened to fall and, before Aloysius could talk herself out of it, she leapt to her feet and closed the distance to the window. James was already gone.
Aloysius had to let her go. It was the right thing to do, but she didn’t have to like it. She didn’t have to, and wouldn’t, pretend to be happy that the light in her life had gone. She would simply have to accept the fact that this raw, empty pain would never cease.
Time, quite frankly, could kiss her ass.