Dear Old Friend

 

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

of nature,

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,

but loved.

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.

 

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