Bernadette at Lourdes

“Bernadette at Lourdes” and “Lolita Condemned”

Robert Rubino

“Bernadette at Lourdes” and “Lolita Condemned”

Bernadette at Lourdes

Sister Mary Rose (so young she could’ve been your actual sister)

marched you and her other seventy-two second-grade students

(no teacher aides, no volunteer parents, just the good nun)

eleven blocks west toward the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge

to the palatial Hobart Theater

for your first movie-in-a-movie-theater experience

The Song of Bernadette,

which — go figure — featured no song

and in 1955 already had been around for twelve years...

but to us was as fresh as our unsoiled souls

as fantastical as a 19th century French peasant girl’s heavenly visions

as miraculous as curative spring waters sprung from the dirt of the local dump

as mysterious as falling in love for the first time

— with 24-year-old Jennifer Jones as the 14-year-old Bernadette

— with the very name Bernadette

and in love with the plot’s seductive subtext:

— there’s lonely-but-lovely long-suffering specialness

in seeing something no one else sees

whether in the wide world …

or within oneself.

Lolita Condemned

The film version of Lolita

sickly slickly sold itself

as sexy, scandalous, sophisticated

and weirdly wickedly sardonic.

Well that’s awfully intriguing said you

and just too damn tempting too said you

a good 14-year-old Catholic boy basically

but burning to be bad.

CONDEMNED! FORBIDDEN!

Don’t dare see this filthy film

commanded the pink-faced pastor

from his high and mighty pulpit.

Combination seduction intimidation

really irresistible — can’t not see it now said you

a good 14-year-old Catholic boy basically

but burning yearning to be bad.

And so you walked to the Earle Theater

located hard by the foreboding rumbling

of the Roosevelt Avenue subway station

told the couldn’t-care-less cashier you were 16

... and sat vaguely afraid ashamed

and oh-so dreadfully eager-anxious in the dark-as-sin dark

staring at the projected smokey light from above

and you saw the forbidden condemned Lolita.

Later when you exited the clean quiet theater

into the din and dirt of Roosevelt Avenue

you felt nothing … nothing but sad and cheated.

Of course not nearly as sad and cheated ...

as a child repeatedly raped (off screen, how tasteful)

— by a predatory putative stepfather.

Not nearly as sad and cheated

as the forbidden condemned Lolita.

About the Author

Robert Rubino

Robert Eugene Rubino was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in creative nonfiction for "Spinning Shame Into Nostalgia" (Hippocampus, November 2016). He has published prose and poetry in various online and print literary journals, including Elysian Fields Quarterly, The Esthetic Apostle, Raw Art Review, MacQueen's Quinterly, The Write Launch, Cathexis Northwest, High Shelf Press, Gravitas, Forbidden Peak Press and Haunted Waters Press. He's old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and smart enough to solve the New York Times crossword puzzle on Mondays (other days not so much). He lives in Northern California.