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Short Story: I Saw SK

By Carrie Buddington

I saw SK Monday night. There it was, that well-known religious habit of beige trimmed in black walking before me. She must have been at the school’s Invocation, but I didn’t see her there, or, I presume, she me. I just stared at first, walking behind her. Getting used to the fact that I was facing a part of my past. I was glad it was S and not some of the others I had lived and worked closely with for 20 years. At least she is no threat to me. She was a child when I left and must be in her 20s now. We have no bad history between us. I feel sorry for her, and am glad that she can go to college and see a bit of the real world. Maybe it will help her ability to think for herself. 

I waited until she turned the corner so I could see a part of her face and verify that it really was S, and then I said, “S? SK?” She turned and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, is that really you?” or something like that. It was a friendly chat. At first she seemed really happy to see me, and then that familiar moment came where she remembered that I had left, and I could feel her withdraw a bit. She stayed pleasant, but I know well that sense of shutting down when you remember the rule about not talking with those who have left.

We were both heading toward the same building. She told me it was her first day there, ever, and she didn’t know where the building was for her class – so I pointed it out – and that she was taking an Ethics class. At first she asked if I was teaching there, so I told her I was a staff assistant as well as a student. Then I asked her why she was there and how often, and what was she taking. She is coming up on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for a class each night. I have classes this semester on Monday and Wednesday, so we might see each other again. I am curious to see if she stays friendly or if “they” will tell her to avoid me. I am apostate after all![1] She didn’t use my name. Either she can’t remember, or all she knows is my religious name and doesn’t know what to call me now; but she didn’t ask, either. This week she is commuting from the home-base group each day, but next week she will be staying over those nights at a local convent’s guest house.

I can’t help but be curious about why they are letting her come to college. That was so taboo when I lived there. They were sure that any college would so corrupt their youth that it was better for them to be uneducated. I hope coming here will help her to think critically and to see the lies behind all their religious spirituality, but I have no way of knowing.

I came home feeling pretty good about the encounter. I don’t feel upset or threatened, but I also lacked a part of my feeling. That night I was awake for 2 hours in the night, which is a sure sign that I am stressed about something and suppressing it. The next morning on the way to work it came to me that I am worried that “they” will cause me trouble. Like the time I got subpoenaed. It turned out to be nothing, but the emotional stress was a pain in the you-know-what. I know they can’t cause me any serious trouble, and I have left that life behind and have built a wonderful new life for myself, but…

The but is the worrisome background noise of that part of me who would like to bring them to justice, would like to expose their lies, and would like to tell people of the pain my family and I have suffered at their hands. If I give free reign to that part of me, I will attract their attention, and possibly garner their counterattack. When will I be willing to take that risk?

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[1] I use apostate here in its strict meaning, as someone who is “abandoning a religious or political belief or principle.” I am not using it in the current sociological fashion as someone who is out for vengeance against their former group.
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About the Author: Carrie Buddington is a former member of The Community of Jesus, Inc., a Bible-based Christian community. She joined in 1970 when she was a newly converted Christian, and she raised her three children at the Community. She worked in many of their offices and became a Senior Sister in the Convent. One by one her children left, and finally in 2010 she was also able to leave. Having been denied requests to pursue education while at the Community, she is currently attending Boston College for a bachelor’s degree in psychology while working full time as an Academic Support Assistant at Boston College, and plans to work toward a master’s degree in social work. She is a member of the International Cultic Studies Association and looks forward to being able to assist others who have left cultic groups to start a new life. As part of processing what she has lived with for 40 years, she is writing a blog: mylifecoj@wordpress.com Her story appears in ICSA Today 6.3, and photographs and poetry in ICSA Today 7.3.