Father O’Brien’s Unsent Letter

by Rochelle Sherbert

My Dearest Adan;

I know this letter has found you well and in good health, as you expressed so delightedly in your correspondence.  I find myself slowly adjusting after a trying time. I have faith I will adjust, be it slowly; through my trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and my humble work here in this warm and abundant corner of California. I must inquire; did you not receive my last correspondence? Have you read the book I sent? Perhaps not, perhaps you are having such a blessed time you have not had a chance to read. You indeed think I should simply rejoice, feel “gladness” for you. Alas, no. The months I waited like a fool for your letter, concerned you had taken ill or had an accident. I have been sick in my heart with longing. A longing that is always with me and I strive daily to quell. A longing that I share solely with you and perhaps the devil himself, a longing that tangles with shame and guilt. A longing you seem to have carelessly forsaken.

Forgive me for my indulgent self pity as it is a particularly ugly sin. What I am trying to say is this birth you speak so “gleefully”  of is a lot like death for me. This tiny wad of needy flesh that is your new born son, that for you is only joy and a shameless pride as I suffer alone in a foreign land longing for my Adan. Again I indulge, forgive me.

The summer here is quite hot, perhaps an excuse for my embracing misery. The farmers and the migrants they hire toil in this sun all day. I have the refuge of the cool rooms of the chapel and Rectory. The community is welcoming to this foreigner. They have strong bonds between them. I go from home to home weekly and they serve me dinners of local fare that is fresh and delicious. They have something here called a Musk Mellon Frappe which is a refreshing favorite of the townsfolk and now I agree, I look forward to entering a home that may offer some to me. Perhaps I am becoming a local resident, although not a day passes without a parishioner reminding me that I have not lost my accent.

Damn you and your glee. How dare you go on without me and with such carefree ease. Yes, birth is a lot like death. That I should be without you, not simply without you, but without a country, without family, all alone and you should be married. Married! To a woman!

Yes, I am severe but my severity is pure. Who is this woman? Does she know how impure you are? Your deceit will someday turn back on you.  Suppose the day comes when this woman discovers that you fancy men? Do you not wonder about my sacrifice? My suffering? My loneliness? How can you possibly not wonder?

Please, my dear Adan, do not construe this as a punishment. I am the one who is punished, who has chosen the punishment. I am the lost now, confused by the very choices I have made for myself to have chosen to be exiled rather than face you daily, rather than compromise. What is forbidden shall be forbidden now as before. Perhaps it is better or was better when we did not communicate. At least then I was left to imagination and memory as my only device to be near you, then I did not know about this family you have created. There is no solution and nothing that can be done. You have made your choices and I have made mine. I struggle with both. As you know these are not our best choices yet they are simply our only choices. However, I must add that I do feel righteous in regard to my particular choices as opposed to yours. Despite this strange land with some odd customs and multiple races of humanity.  My choice carries no shame in deception. I have denied temptation and chosen to live in celibate austerity. You will have to find a way to reconcile your deception and ask God to guide you to a form of penance for your unjustifiable corruption of virtue.

Forever yours,


Writing is a second calling for Rochelle Sherbert, one she now explores fervently. She has been published by Grey Wolfe Publishing, Channel 10 News Sacramento, and Point Reyes Light. She has also read at Why There Are Words in Sausalito. A California native, she is intrigued by its history and beauty, and often uses it for inspiration.