We both met as so many of us do in the Bible Belt,
hiding in the corners of a church get-together.
I still remember what you were wearing,
the blue white and yellow flowery dress
white high heels
an uncertain smile.
You told me hello and I sighed with relief,
happy the burden of initiating was not on me.
I have never been good at taking steps
unless they are fast and afraid.
We chatted and laughed and talked about
how awkward these things can be.
You told me you were new to this church,
said I looked new too.
I averted my gaze and sheepishly explained that no,
I actually come here every week and hide in this very corner.
The following Sunday, I was at your house
having lunch with you and your husband.
You made burgers that were a little overdone
but they tasted so kind
and the sweet tea you had brewed seemed
to balance it all out anyways.
I would have asked to do the dishes,
but we ate on paper plates and drank from red solo cups
so I merely gathered up the mess and pushed it down into
the large black bin underneath the sink.
The three of us watched a football game for
a little while afterwards until I finally admitted
I don’t particularly like sports.
You laughed and said you didn’t either,
but your husband does and there’s nothing good on
Sunday television so you don’t mind.
I hugged you both and we made plans for a week from then.
I wish we had kept doing this for longer than
the next three weeks.
I wasn’t a vegetarian yet so I didn’t mind eating burgers
with your little family every seven days
if it meant I kept feeling safe and fed and loved.
But I wasn’t expecting that you wouldn’t feel
all of those beautiful things from me.
The preacher had spoken of secret sin just an hour before
and it was convicting enough for the congregation
to start the music back up again and confess
all of their shit to whomever was willing to listen and pray
that their souls would be set free from temptation.
And that’s when you pulled me aside, shaking,
ready to admit to me that you were actually a lesbian.
You loved your husband so much,
you were the best of friends,
but you loved the woman on the side more.
You always have.
And you didn’t want me to stop being your friend
but you also knew you couldn’t change to
be what this place with its devoted goers wanted.
The tears spilled from your eyes as you explained
you had just talked to the preacher’s wife
and she had tried to cast the demons out of you
instead of listening.
I was so stunned and so confused and
all of the words I wish I had said never really came
to the forefront of my mind.
So I just stared blankly at you and backed away a little
before asking if you wanted me to pray for you to be healed.
I wish these weren’t the last words I ever said to you,
but I deserved the way you ran from me.
I was so cruel back then.
The next Sunday, you were not there and I sat by myself
in the back corner once again.
I scanned the crowd secretly,
hoping you would walk through those doors and give
Jesus a chance to set you free from your perversion.
But you never did and instead missed the preacher’s sermon
on how people can be healed from homosexuality since
it is so obviously a choice
and a distortion
disgusting in the eyes of God.
I remember thinking, wow, if only you hadn’t ran
from the truth.
It has been about four years since you cooked me burgers
and refused to let me sit alone in the back of church.
And I think of you often.
I hope you are well and surrounded by friends who
do not call you perverted,
I hope no one has tried to “cure” or cast demons out of you
in four years
and I hope no one has used your life and vulnerability
to build another shame-inducing sermon.
I didn’t know it then, but I know it now
that there is nothing unnatural about who you are.
You loved me better than I could love you,
and I am so sorry.