She just stood there. Semi-smile, white hot, waning crescent moon; bullshit eating grin. Just stood there; I’m glad its awkward.
I guess I should count myself lucky that she wasn’t actually thumping my forehead with that bible I’m sure was in her purse, expecting ‘the words of Jesus Christ in red’ to be burned into my face. But the concept of luck would seem as spurious as her half-fledged, long standing ideal of heaven in her mind.
Woe is me: I’ll never earn that wristband for the high-horse pin, paved in gold, where the Good souls go. Trees that bud virgins and bleed milk with leaves of silk: all love.
All love but mine. The wrong kind of love wasn’t blind in her eyes. My open sexuality fogged up those stained glass windows to her would be hippie soul turned god-patrol. She saw me as a cause for saving. There was just a little too much bounce in my step, sway in my hips and ungodly thoughts on my lips for her to ignore.
The silence lasted too long and after a forced nervous giggle, she reached for what was probably a tract from her bag of judgment. It looked bottomless. The hemp-woven, teardrop sack sitting on her hip was a prop; a ploy to make me feel like a peer. ‘See, young bohemians like you and me can love the lord too, SEE.’ Who knows how many pamphlets, tiny ‘New Testaments,’ and crucifixes it contained? I didn’t care to find out; I stopped her hand about three inches before she got to plunge it into her satchel.
She ignored the fact that I had seized her wrist with a little too much fervor. Hard enough to demonstrate my refusal of whatever the fuck she was about to subject me to, but gentle enough to avoid the bruises that I wanted to kick into her Jesus-kneeling knees.
The proper tools of abuse were all I learned from my father, that and how to take a dick. I wanted so badly to tell her that I could take the sin sour smell of cocaine and cock over the scents of sage and hypocrisy on any given Sunday, but she didn’t deserve the full extent of my own guilt trip. I eased my grip.
‘S-Sorry…,’ we both stammered. The simultaneous, obligatory apology would have been adorable if life were a romantic comedy. If I weren’t blinded by the events of my entire life and the silent rage that boiled inside me, maybe I could have respected her fire for Christianity, but I’m not Hugh Grant and she’s not some actress trying to pretend she’s younger than Hugh Grant.
I’m Raymond Calera, and I’m tired of being accosted by ‘saints’ attempting to ‘save’ me. In general, I wasn’t as stoic as I had been thus far; quelling my emotions kept my muscles tensed and my gaze fixed. In fact, under any other circumstances I would be dancing circles around this stick figured, glaze eyed ‘Sarah plain and tall,’ kicking dust all over that 1960’s curtain of an ankle-length skirt. I could raise my bronzed hand straight to her remarkably average face and dismiss her outright. I would bare my teeth, skipping as playfully as these slim-fit, graphite black jeans would allow: gran leap, gran leap, changement, plie entendue, bow and flip a nice big ‘Fuck off!’
But I was frozen, everything was, especially those eyes. Her cold fire stare could have had me undone if it were the right night. I like making straight girls happy sometimes. Sometimes they need it. Sometimes I need it. This one sure did.
Her countenance said that she just thought I was nice and would enjoy some Jesus in my life. Her ears peeked easily from her flat brown hair, awaiting an end to the silence. She was as harmless as a friendly retard. She was.
Every bit of the hate bubbling up in my chest came with a bit of guilt, because I knew she meant no offense. She had no defense, save her book of lies, laws and lessons of that long dead plutonic lover of hers’. She loved him, she might have loved me in a different life; she probably wanted us in a big happy boring ass threesome. She wouldn’t have spoken it, but those kryptonite shards said it all. Her eyes talked too much.
I could see her mouth moving, breaking the silence for her. But I was deafened to the moment. My last memory of sitting under church bells rang too loudly for me to hear any appeal she could make.
After waiting at the doors for five minutes, after second-guessing at the stairs for a minute, after sitting in the car taking intense drags from a cigarette, watching brightly dressed WASPs for ten minutes, I made my way inside. I only had to open the door halfway before a hairy palmed, teenaged usher almost pulled the bastard off the hinges to hand me a program. Beeming with boyish purpose. Maybe that’s what allowed me to let my guard down. He’d done his job. I’ve always liked women in dresses and men in suits as much as I’ve liked androgyny; I was enamored by the Americana aesthetic. The atmosphere was tinted with stained glass hues and the pews emitted the fragrance of the good book. I didn’t think I stood out too much, but I wasn’t trying to hide. Maybe they issued a homo-in-need memo. Maybe Sheryl made an announcement before the sermon. However it happened, I found my way ‘helped’ to the front for the admonishment. I figured the collective effort of the church folk appealing to God for favor on my life couldn’t hurt me. Peoples shoulders just seemed to part, as if I were destined to stand on the pulpit and have the reverend pray tooth and nail, spraying coffee-stained spit, holding my forehead with his palm, thrusting my skull into the space behind me, just short of hitting one of the various parishioners standing behind me with their hands outstretched to catch the dick-sucking demon that was sure to fly from my body.
He asked me if I believed in god. I said yes.
He asked me if I believed that Jesus died for my sins. I temporarily suspended my doubt, for the sake of cordiality, and nodded.
He told me ‘Jesus is love,’ and the crowd around me trembled in excited agreement. I felt the buzz of the religious experience. I saw the others, praying and crying and wanted to know that feeling as intimately as they. When he started praying for me, I closed my eyes, slowly raised my hands and knew I could be on the verge.
I hardly heard the details of his shouting over the squealing of the organ, the ‘hallelujah’s of the parish and the pounding of my heart. I was shocked at how easy it was for me to give myself over to the spirit of the church and wondered why I hadn’t done this before.
I got my answer.
“I pray against the spirit of homosexuality and sexual deviance today Lord!” He said it as if I should have known that Jesus loved every part except for the tarnished bit of fag in me. He never skipped a beat. He never even opened his eyes to see my reaction. He didn’t just disapprove of my life, he had assumed my own self-loathing. After a few more requests for my salvation, he sent me off with an “Amen.”
I was made a tool. Walking languidly back to my seat was the ultimate defeat. Why didn’t I deliver my own sermon?’ I thought, sittting back in my seat, no longer trolling for ass or looking for enlightenment. I took the patronizing pats on the shoulder from middle aged women in the rows behind me silently. Save for the reverend, the men of god sure weren’t going to touch me.
– Ryan Smith