Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
My mother used to call the Catholics vampires because were so fixated on drinking the blood of Christ. "The only reason they chose wine to represent His blood was to give them an excuse to be alcoholics."
The first time I went to Catholic mass, I was nine and spending a school vacation at a friend's cabin in Remote Resort Town. I was so fascinated with the rituals that I followed my friend up to the altar and heard the priest say "This is the body of Christ. It was broken for you. This is the blood of Christ. It was shed for you." Shed not spilled but shed. Something done with Purpose, something even more powerful than Reason. As an adult, I recognize the power of His blood being shed instead of spilled. As a child, I envisioned snakes.
Despite my family's somewhat negative view of Catholicism (my parents were both raised Catholic, and were practicing adults until the Catholic Adoption service deemed them unfit to adopt...and for the record, as the child they did end up adopting and raising, they're saints compared to an overwhelming majority of Catholic parents I know), I've never been one to generalize about people. If I'm going to dislike someone, it's going to be for their specific attitudes and actions or their vocation.
I refuse to generalize about Catholics, but I will say that in my experience, catholic priests are snakes. I remember hearing about priest abuse back when I was a pre-teen in Cranberry Lake. My neighbor across the street was raped by a priest in the seventies. She was raising her children Congregationalist. By the time we moved from Cranberry Lake to Nowheresville, she had converted my mother. While I've never had strong opinions on the religion front, it was nice to see my mother find something she believed in.
I found my faith in the body of man. I've never felt the need to kneel for any man, but I've prayed to eyes, and made sacrifice for holy voices that offer me love or forgiveness.
Ryan's eyes were salvation. That first night, when the awkward drunken conversation had been pissed out of us in the river of Guinness and Cider Jack, our conversation got exceptionally sober.
"When did you realize you were gay?" he asked me. I told him a condensed version of the truth.
I suppose this was my moment to ask him when he realized. I didn't.
The subject shimmied into something abstract and unimportant like what we looked for in guys, when I noticed that Ryan had fallen asleep. On my floor, like a teenage girl at a slumber party.
There is something perfect about the physical appearance of a sleeping man. Still, all I wanted to do was interrupt his sleep. A kiss on the cheek, pulling him up by the arm and leading him up to my bed. I wasn't thinking of fucking. I wanted to rest my head on his stomach and listen to the tide of his breath.
"Ryan." I whispered as I brushed his hair back. "Ryan."
"It's me, Insafemode."
"Oh. Safey. Is it time to go to wor--" comprehension pried his eyelids apart. "What?"
"I thought you might want to go upstairs and sleep in a bed."
"I was hoping." His eyes swiveled away from mine. "But there's the spare bedroom if you'd prefer."
"I'm sorry. It's--" his eyes came back, as if on a pendulum. He leaned in to kiss me. His tongue tasted like barley. His 3 AM stubble scratched my own. I bent toward him for another kiss when he shot up and into the bathroom. Another sacrifice to the porcelain oh god of hangovers.
"Are you ok?" I asked when he came back out. "I know I'm not the world's best kisser, but--"
"No, it's not that, it's--"
"I know. I was kidding. We both drank quite a bit tonight."
"It's not that either. The last time I kissed a guy--" I knew this was a pause I shouldn't fill. "I was raped. My--" He turned and spoke to the TV, as though it were displaying the real truth behind human emotion, rather than reflecting the streetlight as filtered through venetian blinds. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Now I can't-- can't kiss a guy, can't even pass a fucken church without shaking." "Fuck. Fuck him."
I was nine years old and standing behind Patrick, waiting to take communion for a religion I knew nothing about. Everyone else in the church was standing up and walking toward the altar. I heard the priest say "This is the body of Christ. It was broken for you. This is the blood of Christ. It was shed for you."
Ryan was shaking in my arms. Baptizing me with his tears. His tears shed for his lost faith. It occurred to me, shed is more than a verb meaning to pour forth. It's also a noun. A place to store things when you don't need them, but know that someday soon you will: a rake, a bicycle, a secret, your religion.