Today was Benedict XVI’s last day as Pope. He stepped onto the balcony of Castel Gandolfo as the teary-eyed pilgrims below shouted, “Don’t go! One more prayer!” But the sun was setting. It was time to hang up the red Prada shoes. He couldn’t go out like John Paul II. Those last years were just too awful. They carted the poor Pope around like Weekend at Bernie’s. No, it was better to go out with dignity. It was time to slip off the ring and make that long walk into the Vatican’s backyard, where in a few weeks he’ll be peering out the window, watching as some other guy tools around the Square in his old Popemobile.
That used to be me, he’ll think. I had it all. I was infallible. Now I don’t even know if I picked out the right yogurt for breakfast.
Most days he’ll putter around, check the thermostat, start a word jumble, but he’ll keep thinking about all the things he could’ve done. Removing the ban on condoms, for instance. He’d always been told they were uncomfortable and ruined the mood, but he’d never actually put one on. He’ll think about the corruption, the hypocrisy. Condemning homosexuals, while hiding pedophile priests?
That was rich, even for me.
But mostly he’ll wonder if he went out the right way. Right before he stepped out of St. Peter’s for that last time, he’d considered pulling a Jerry Maguire, throwing out his arms and asking, “Who’s coming with me?!”
But he didn’t, and now it’s too late.
Or is it? he’ll think.
That night, when everyone’s asleep, he’ll sneak across the villa, quietly open the closet, and there it will be, the old big hat. Maybe just once, he’ll think and try to hoist it on his head before falling back against the wall, tired and out of breath. He’ll catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror and remember he’s no longer the Vicar of Christ. He’s just “Your Holiness Benedict XVI,” “Emertis Pope,” and “Emertius Roman Pontiff.” Sure, they look impressive on his business cards, but none carry the gravitas of plain old “Pope.”