Anthony Cartucci has six matches left in the matchbook he is holding and he knows exactly what he’s going to do with them: set fire to the pieces of him that have been controlling his life for far too long.
The first match he burns is for shame. The calendar tells him that he is forty years of age, but inside he still feels like that seven-year-old boy who had his life destroyed by a priest; the same priest he later learned who had destroyed so many other lives. He knows that he shouldn’t be ashamed of what happened. Father Gabriel should be, and yet over the past thirty-three years shame is exactly what Anthony has felt. But not anymore.
The second match he burns is for fear. To Anthony, it has felt as though he has been in a constant state of fear ever since the abuse happened. There is the fear he feels anytime someone is nice to him. Surely they’re only after something, he believes. Then there is the fear he feels that if he were to tell anyone his secret, they would see him for what he is: damaged goods.
The third match he burns is for the self-hatred that he feels. You get what you deserve, Anthony was taught to believe; so bad things must only happen to bad people. But Anthony is starting to realize that the people who do bad things to you are the bad guys, not the other way around.
The fourth match he burns is for the walls he has built up around himself. Build a fortress, don’t let anyone in, drive away everyone who tries to get through to you and then that way no one can ever hurt you again. All that has gotten Anthony is a lifetime of loneliness.
The fifth match he burns is for allowing himself to feel powerless all of these years. Feeling powerless that day in the rectory transferred into all other areas of his life: feeling powerless to go after his dream job, feeling powerless to design his own destiny, and feeling powerless over the way others treat him.
The sixth and final match he burns is for the victim he has allowed himself to become. There is a time for sadness, a time for anger, and a time for grieving, but Anthony has spent too many years on those things. It’s time for him to move forward. It’s time to forgive both himself and yes, even Father Gabriel. It’s time to let himself know happiness.
As he watches the last match burn, Anthony feels something that he hasn’t felt in more than three decades: peace. That’s when he knows that his years of suffering are over.