“Give me an anatomy lab any day,” Rachel said. “Anything as long as it’s not a chemistry class. I hated college chemistry; it almost did me in. My teacher was a Sister—”
“Wait, where did you?” Paula interrupted.
“St. Francis. Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t believe it’s been fifteen years already!”
“What was her name?”
“My chemistry teacher? Sister Carol. She was AWFUL.”
“I had her, too. She’s still there!”
“NO WAY! How in the world did she manage to stick around for so long? She couldn’t explain anything and she HATED when I asked questions. She got mad that we didn’t already know all the answers. And the labs. Ugh. I’d always finish them really fast and she couldn’t believe I was done. She’d check my work then say, ‘Good, you can help the other students then.’”
“That sounds like something she would say.”
“And I’d be like, ‘No, thank you. I’M going home,” she announced in a sassy voice. “And I’d leave. I didn’t want to stick around; I had better things to do.”
“She teaches physical chemistry now, the highest level they offer.” Paula paused and grinned slyly in Rachel’s direction. “I’m her lab assistant, actually.”
“Oh…I should probably watch what I say then…”
Paula laughed. “Nah! It’s okay. She still has a hard time getting the words to come out of her mouth—more things are going on up there in her head than she’s able to convey—but she’s great. She’s really great. She keeps me in stitches, constantly rolling on the floor.”
Emily turned to Paula, “You probably get to see the end of semester reviews. What do students say? Are they pretty hard on her?”
“They’re actually quite positive.”
“Huh?” said Rachel. Are you sure we’re talking about the same Sister Carol?”
“Oh, it’s her alright, no doubt about that. I think it’s because she’s old and all the students think she’s cute… She’s a character though, and she’s no saint! I still tell her that. I say, ‘You’re no angel, Sister Carol’ and she just laughs. She’s not. She always sneaks me into the cafeteria for lunch—she’s been doing this for 10 years. I always ask her if it’s okay and she says, ‘I’m allowed to bring you in as my guest. It’s fine.’ Well, someone finally called us on it and what did she do? She turned to me and IMMEDIATELY said, ‘Paula! Did you forget to pay today?’ Passed the blame, just like that! What happened to being her guest!?! I guess not!” Paula laughed again.
“And once we got tickets to a basketball game, nosebleed seats, terrible seats. But she didn’t like them, so she walked down to the first row and took a seat right in the middle of the court, front row center! It’s not like anyone’s going to kick out a little old nun, and she KNOWS it!”
“Oh, and when she goes to bars—”
“She goes to bars, too?” several people gasped in amused disbelief.
“Yes, she goes to bars, and when she does, people constantly buy her drinks.”
“She’s wearing the full…what do you call it?” Emily gestured to her head.
“Habit? Yep. Wears it all the time. She always asks me when I’m going to become a nun, but I’m getting too old to begin now, she says!”
“No way!” Rachel exclaimed.”How old are you? 30?”
“I’m almost 40. Just 3 years away, actually.”
Rachel turned to Paula’s sister, Laura, “And how old are you?” she demanded.
“Thirty-six,” said Laura.
Rachel sighed. “You girls have the best genes ever. You look so young.”
Paula ignored the complement and bounded eagerly back to the abandoned topic of Sister Carol.
“It wouldn’t be such a bad thing to be a nun, let me tell you. People just throw money at Sister Carol. When we go to the grocery store together to pick up supplies for class, people CONSTANTLY pay for things for her. And when she was down in New Orleans for Marti Gras—yes, she went to Marti Gras!—some guy came up to her, handed her a $20 bill and asked her to bless him and PROMISED her he’d be at mass on Sunday morning.”
“She’s hilarious. She’s a nun, but around here she might as well be a celebrity. She does some segment for one of the local news stations—33? 21? I can’t remember—but a bunch of people recognize her from there, too.
“Well, it looks like I chose the wrong profession,” said Emily.
“When you’re around her, you understand why, though,” Paula mused. “She just fills the space with joy and happiness somehow. It radiates from her. People today long for that kind of presence. They have a lot of respect for her.”