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The Dome

A dark look into a frightened soul

This is more of a stream of consciousness than an actual story, but the character in it has a story to tell, his own story.


I glance at my swollen belly, disgustingly wet from the sweating, while sitting on the creaking chair in this awful tavern. My old and weak hands are holding a pint of warm beer, barely enlightened by a feeble light coming from a small lamp hanging just above the counter I have my elbows on. Next to me, on a small plate, a horrifying resemblance of a toast.


I think about home, miles away, and ask myself whether I will ever see it again, whether I will ever go back to my old life, my job, my room. Years and years I spent in that room, the room in which I used to take off my robe, the only room in which I used to do it, at least initially. The room that ironically has never known any other God, besides myself. And Alcohol. And Cigarettes. And prostitutes, sometimes.

I sigh, while taking another sip from the pint of warm beer, drinking the last drop of it. I have never brought myself in those conditions, not after dawn. It never took much, every time that night came down, for me to finally take off my robe, the clothes of who was known in the village as Father Gerald, and simply turn into Gerald. Gerald the asshole, the drunken, the smoker, the vicious.

I wasn’t always like that, though. There was a time I truly hoped the warmth of religion and God’s hug could relieve me from the pain that back then was torturing my stomach from the very first moment I opened my eyes every morning.

I was young, and I lived in a small house in the countryside, alone. My parents loved me, and they were paying the rent of the house, since I didn’t have the money even to buy myself regular meals. I had just a few friends. They were quite enough, though: humble, kind, and always ready to help me. Nonetheless, I was alone. I sometimes found myself staring out of the window, enjoying a beautiful view, a bright sun embracing me, a beautiful nature, one of these random moments capable of making even the most awful man of this world smile. And smile I did, more than once.

The problem is, that smile lasted for a few moments, those few minutes in which I was purely happy, before I would start to feel the guilt and the pain within me growing again, always stronger than the previous time. I didn’t have the right to smile, nor a good reason to be happy. I didn’t have anything but weaknesses, uncertainties and questions, more and more questions. Who am I? What the hell should I make out of my life? Why am I here, staring out of my window, even daring to smile? I’m Gerald, a young boy with a degree in something useless, without any ambition besides that of finding a regular job, probably a boring one. A boring job that won’t take me anywhere. Yes, maybe it will lead me to have my own family, a dear wife, some children. But what then? What was there in the world that could make me smile? What should I make out of my life? Would someone ever tell me what to do? Or was I doomed to keep just hanging in this asphyxiating limbo? Hanging on this brief life, wasted by staring at some yellow leaf falling from a tree and finding myself smiling for these silly things. 


And yet, should I smile at all? Should I forget about everything only because the sun is embracing me? Would I have to do what all those normal people seem to do, appreciating the sun, not caring about my existential doubts, or even worse, like those who smile even though they went through God knows how many disgraces?

No, I wasn’t like them and I couldn’t be. I couldn’t pretend, I wasn’t a hypocrite; I couldn’t live my life like it was only a duty: eat, survive, reproduce.

One day, I had that thing which often goes by as an  “enlightenment” in literature: I opened my eyes, and suddenly I knew, I was sure about it, that only one thing could save me from this suffering suspension: faith. Ok, it’s true; I grew up in an atheist family, even though they baptized me for the sake of tradition; ok, I had never believed in anything, nor had I ever prayed. Nevertheless, back then, I thought I could have forced myself into believing in something for once in my life, into following the spiritual lead of the world’s nature. Only in this way, I thought, I could stop myself from asking whether I was wasting my life or not. I could be led by the faith and choose a prepacked identity to just wear, without asking questions. A robe. It’s as simple as that, I thought.

Hence, I became a priest.

It has been 40 years from that day. I’m moving to my 70th year of life, dealing with wrinkles, tiredness, wrapped into a constant smell of tobacco and whiskey. The first years of my new life actually helped to remove the pain; it felt a bit like being chronically ill and being given morphine for the first time. I dedicated my whole time to studying, in order to understand a religion that I didn’t feel like mine, not back then, not right now, never. But, I forced myself because I had something to aim at: peace and the ending of those horrible questions.

So, I kept studying, I forced myself to believe, or better, I forced myself to believe that I could believe, like anybody else, and eventually, I wore the robe. 

The robe was large, but I was happy, it felt good and I didn’t change it. I started to smile without feeling guilty, because there was nothing I had to ask myself. I had made a deal with my soul. I had a role. I had a written and foreseeable future, I had a robe to wear every single day. 

Right after, I got assigned to a church, with a little warm house attached to it, where I could spend my time alone and sleep well at night. Alone, but with my faith, or at least the reflected image I had of it. It suddenly felt like having a big, transparent, glassed dome above me, my faith, which kept me safe. After a few years, I actually became so acquainted with that feeling, that, looking up, I would see the dome. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t know what it was made of, nor what its scope was, but I knew – from my point of view at least – It had the goal of keeping all the questions, frustrations and pain, that terrible pain in my stomach, away from me. And I saw it, standing there upon me, bright, reassuring, firm. A dome in my house, a robe outside. My shields.

It felt like this for some years.
Until Martina.

Martina, a beautiful woman of about my age, who used to attend my church and confess her sins to me. Martina, a beautiful woman I fell in love with after some days. The day it happened, or better to say the day I realized it had happened, I turned my eyes above me: my dome had a small crack. It was very small and meaningless for now, completely under control, but I knew that couldn’t be a good sign. I knew it and I didn’t care much.

Martina started to attend my church regularly, we started to talk, she stayed way after the Sunday’s mass, and she ended up staying at my place for a coffee, or just passing by to have lunch together on a random Wednesday. Heck, she would even just come by to clean and tidy up my apartment, a complete mess until she showed up.

“I like you,” I found myself telling her on a random rainy Thursday, while she was blowing on the hot soup she had prepared for me. Those three words I shot at her had the only consequence to make the creak on the dome even wider.

She replied with a smile:  “I like you too, Gerald.”

“No, I like you more… in a man-to-woman way. I like you as in ‘I would like to kiss you’”. I shot more bullets at her, and this time her smile faded away.

We ended up in bed, my first time, not hers; I’m quite sure about that. After that one time, it happened another time, and yet another, until we started to make it what I believed was a steady relationship.

“I’m thinking to renounce to my vow, we could just have a normal life, without sins and guilt…”

“No, Gerald, this is your life.” she interrupted me, rudely. “I’m just something among the brackets of your life, Father Gerald.”


And as soon as they opened, they closed. Suddenly, from one day to another. Martina didn’t pick up the phone ever again and never showed up in my church. If it hadn’t been for my robe, for my already written and secured route of life, I could probably just have stayed at home for days, lying on my couch and drinking cheap alcohol. And maybe that was exactly what I needed, thinking with hindsight. Nevertheless, I had to wake up, stand up, answer to the morality I had sewn on myself. I had to face my faithful Christians.

Surprisingly, not only was I good at it, but there wasn’t even a sign of my pain showing up during the whole day. The story was completely different, though when I was entering back home. After taking off my robe, I would jump right away on my bottle of whiskey before the explosion of emotions I couldn’t and didn’t want to handle would burst out again.

The creak on the dome strongly widened, accompanied by a worrisome crunch.

One day, suddenly, out of the bloom, I woke up with that long-forgotten stomachache. It was back. At the same time, for the first time, the dome gave me a weird feeling: it felt like it had come lower on me, like I didn’t have enough space anymore, not even to completely stand up and raise my head up, it was like I had less space, less oxygen for breathing. Less and less, from then on, did the idea of coming back to my apartment at the end of the day make me feel good. On the contrary, it was now a moment of the day I thought about dreadfully. A bit like the feeling someone has when he knows he has to leave his warm home to get out, where he already knows it’s freezing.

Why the hell did I take the vow? I wasted a good part of my life, I wasted Martina, I wasted several Gerald I could have been, only to choose the one who didn’t even exist in nature, so that I myself had to build his identity with sweat and efforts, and force him into a new reality. I wept, but then wore my robe and led the Sunday mass from my altar, looking into every single of those faces in front of me, those faces asking for answers, and probably even finding them sometimes. So I felt better, because I was doing what my identity demanded me to do. A marked and steady route, that’s what I thought at least. I was relying again on the dome, or on the robe I wore. But the dome was lower, and the robe felt tighter and tighter on my body.

After some days, I hence realized something: while I was wearing the robe, the pain was disappearing. So did the questions. I was having no troubles nor doubts, I was feeling like that robe was keeping me with my feet on the ground, and I could walk on a regular and steady route I could even glimpse the end of. It was a warm feeling, reassuring and even pleasant. On the contrary, though, as soon as I took off my robe, it felt like all the gravity rules lost their meaning, and I found myself flying randomly, up and down, right and left, upside down and the other way around. Meaningless, completely meaningless and far from having even a weak handhold leading me back the marked route, which faded away from my view. I was an object of the wind’s desires and of the force of the fluxes of life. In those moments, the pain came back, stronger than ever, and stronger were the questions arising.

Why? Where? For what purpose?

And it would keep going on like this, until I would wear my robe again and start my daily routine. While this kept going on, I slowly started to separate the two situations, tracing a red line between Father Gerald and just Gerald. With the robe, I was smiling, listening to the confessions, quoting the bible and giving answers I didn’t even have for myself. Without, I was smoking, drinking, asking questions and often vomiting in my dirty, sleazy bathroom in the middle of the night.

One night, I was awakened by a sudden knock on the door, which made me startle in the first place. After having realized what was happening, I stood up and went to the door. It was awfully cold outside, it was raining and out in the rain stood Enzo. Father Enzo, my dear friend who had led my first steps into religion. My colleague.

Enzo was completely wet, so was his face. At a second glance though, I realized how red and swollen his eyes were. Enzo was crying, desperately. I invited him to come in, made him sit at the only table of the house, in the middle of the room. Without saying a word, I took a dirty glass from the basin, quickly cleaned it and, after having filled it with water from the tap, I put it under his eyes.



“Why… What time is it?”

“It’s the middle of the night, Gerald. Forgive me. Thing is… I lost my brother, Michael. I just left the hospital."

“ Oh… I’m sorry Enzo, my condolences my friend… Any chance you want a whiskey?”

“No, thanks, water will do it… I just need a friend I guess. He was suffering for months, you know that. He’s better off now”

“He probably is”

We ended up talking a lot of very different topics—him with his water, me with my several glasses of whiskey. We carefully avoided the main topic relating to his mother, but it clearly was the elephant in the room until it exploded, and he started to cry again. He then stuttered some words that touched me in my deepest soul. 

“You see, Gerald, you think you are finally settled, you smile to who is in your sight, you wake up glad, cause you have nothing to worry about. Cause you don’t want to worry, you just want to live your life… neutrally. But then… All these unforeseeable obstacles of life. You have good, so you have evil. You have love; hence you have hate. Everything just contributes to spoil the neutrality and apathy you’ve built around you with so much effort. Knowing this is what destroys me”. A few moments of silence followed, which seemed eternal to me in that barely lightened room. I could only hear Enzo sobbing on the other side of the table. He continued after a while: “The longer you live, the more you will have to face. It’s mathematical. Well, it’s statistics. This is what statistics is about: a simple mathematical rule that looms upon us, forcing us to think about the worse that could happen at any moment, after a prolonged period where everything seems to work just fine. It’s better you don’t forget this rule, brother. Hence, after you find your smile again with much effort, a tragedy just jumps in, like a close person leaving this world, and you are unprepared again, even though you knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Yet, every single suffering along your route, every single obstacle, every piece of pain will always stay with you. And that little smiling boy within you starts to grow wrinkles on his face, to lose his hair and his smile, and he will start to eat you from the inside. Yes, ok, you will smile again, but that smile will hide behind itself your own scars, painful moments, cries and disappointments: a pale smile is what it’ll be. It’s the same for every man who’s not able to live neutrally, but instead is rather involved in passions, love, affections. That’s it, that’s how the natural course of life goes for everyone on this world”.

“But you have your faith, Enzo,” I replied, after a few seconds of uncertain silence, “Your route is marked, you can foresee your obstacles!”

“No. It’s not like that, Gerald. Faith is within you, it’s a support, a relief, a consolation, but nothing will ever erase the obstacles, the unexpected events, the pain and the sufferance on your path”

The creak on the dome widened again, and I even had the feeling of a piece falling out of it. I started to feel my stomach eating me from inside, piece by piece. I thought about my parents, about my life. I ran to the bathroom and vomited.

After a while, I hugged Enzo at the door and he walked away, back to his apartment. After he left, I stayed at the threshold. I had an awful feeling of emptiness. What Enzo said had given me a terrible feeling of weakness and fragility. I thought about how weak I was, about how many potential threats to my neutrality and safety were surrounding me: affections, relatives, friends, physical and mental health of all of them, of my own, my mental health. After all, how solid could the human mind be? How much could it take to throw my life away and find myself in a state of crazy unconsciousness? How many chances were there of the same thing happening to any of my friends or relatives? How many chances were there that the same could happen to some friends or relatives of them, spoiling them indirectly, threatening their peace? And then there were Enzo’s words… What he said about religion: was faith really just a consolation? And of what consolation could it be for me, since I didn’t even really believe, if not for the sake of my interior peace? Did I grossly fail everything? Did I make all the wrong choices? Was I wrong about everything? Repressing my pain with violence, like when you put the dust under the rug? While I had those thoughts that night, the dome shook so hard I had to interrupt my thoughts and force myself to sleep.

The day after, I turned my eyes above me, on the dome: the creaks seemed to be out of control. For the first time I had the terrible feeling that it could actually break down one day. It was a possibility now. I forced myself into the robe and started my daily routine. The robe was starting to be too tight on me. The space I used to have, which allowed me to move freely into it, had almost disappeared. I reminded myself to buy a new one as soon as possible. Same thing we could say about the dome, which reached such a low level I could hardly stand up: I had to walk hunched. I went out and joined my faithful Christians.

Some evenings after that one, I was sitting on my chair, drinking a good wine I had received as a gift. I was obviously wearing the identity of Gerald the drunken, Gerald, the potential victim of the winds of life. Potentially. In fact, I was just sitting there drinking wine and thinking about Martina, and about Enzo’s words. I was dizzy, I heard the dome creaking above me and at the same time, I was feeling the adrenaline rising in me. I felt I had to do something. Something despicable at the eyes of Father Gerald. Something that would make me feel guilty. Guilty, dirty, weak. Alive. I felt a growing sensation of excitement while I was listing all the possible sins I could perpetuate.

Suddenly, I stood up. I wore my jacket and went out of my home, took my car and drove toward the area I knew was attended by the nicest prostitutes in town. And so it started, and it soon became another vice to add to my long list. My life was caught into a vicious circle of squalor and misery. I had begun with a rightful lifestyle, led through the tools of faith, until I started breaking some innocent rule, but only for a noble purpose: love—a clean and high sentiment. Afterwards, I ended up getting drunk alone in my room, but still protected by the dome upon me, by the certainties of my future, of my tomorrow, even though I was allowing myself to swim for a couple of hours among the uncertainties of life, drifted away by the waves of anarchy and passion. At last, I had ended the circle by dedicating myself to the farthest thing from the righteous and faithful life of Father Gerald: paying for sex; so wretched and wicked I was! Father Gerald had become something external to me, I felt his identity far from me. And yet he didn’t judge me. No one judged my intimacy. No one, but me, the real me, my deepest me, who I had always repressed into the deepest corners of my soul. 

Why was I doing this? Why did I feel the necessity to leave my certainties to dedicate myself to moral anarchy, sex without love, drunkenness aimed at nothing but delirium of insecurity and paranoia? Was I the weakest creature on this world? Seriously? Or is it that everyone thinks and acts in these ways in his or her own intimacy, in that small part of our mind that no one will ever be able to reach? Maybe, even the most right and fair creatures of this world hide within themselves the pain of intimate insecurity and failure, fear of death, fear of nothingness? Or is it me? Am I the sick one? Am I the wrong one?

Yet I kept waking up day by day, stand up, take a painkiller for my hangover headache and join my faithful Christians in my little church, wearing my tight robe (I never bought a new one).

After some years, my life proceeded like that of an automaton. A smiling priest during the day, a crazy man victim of passions, ravings, drunkenness and cheap sex during the night. 

Until last night, last night I was coming back home drunk as hell, stinking of alcohol, tobacco and cheap sex. Just before entering my room, I stopped and turned back to the car. I started to drive without a destination. Around dawn, I got hungry and stopped in this small pub along the way. The inside of it is the seediest place I’ve ever seen. It’s dark, barely enlightened by a light coming down from the roof just upon the wooden, sticky and smelly counter. I sat down and stared at the bartender, ordering a toast and a beer. He gave me a warm beer and a cold toast. And I smiled.

“This is what life is… “ I mumble, catching the attention of the bartender, who didn’t seem to like the idea to start a conversation at 5 AM. “Life is nothing but a seedy pub, if you accept to live it. You enter, you drink your warm beer and eat your toast – probably made with expired ingredients by the way - and, if you want, you smile. Without feeling guilty, without asking yourself where you’ll go afterwards. This is what you have: a warm beer and a very low-quality toast” The bartender glances at me at this point, playing the touchy one, like he didn’t know the toast was horrible! I continue: “Are you ok with it? Drink, and eat. Aren’t you? Drink, and eat. Or you could get out, sure, find yourself a destination, maybe less sleazy, maybe more. Is it really worth it though, to totter along a street looking for a better pub, for a good quality toast? Or even asking for directions? Really? Isn’t it better to just try, enter a random pub, put your elbows on the sticky counter and smile of your disgraces, your wretchedness, of your nothingness? After all, you don’t have an alternative. These are the rules, and this is how you play the game…. Give me another beer and warm this damn toast please!” I exclaim, then falling in silence, conscious of the nonsense I had just let out of my mouth. I stay still, smiling, embraced by the smell of beer, puke and piss, in the silence of the pub, only interrupted by the sound of the cars passing by outside. Father Gerald has never been so far, and probably he won’t ever come back. I finally have failed.

And it’s at that moment that, in my house, far away from here, I hear the dome breaking down in thousands of pieces. But it doesn’t matter, not anymore, because the bartender is reluctantly already warming up my toast.

And I smile.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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