Dirty Halo

By Erica Lamar

I didn’t mean to listen. I swear. It’s not even really my fault. Papa had practically chased me down here. He scared me. So much. Very much. So you see, I had to hide. He yelled my name throughout the chapel. The aggressiveness not really fitting in. Pastor Jones, all around nice guy. Family man. Yeah right. I held my breath, my lungs sticking to my throat like tape. I did always have a stellar record for holding my breath. My nickname was even fish for a while in 6th grade, until they decided they liked fatty better. When he finally gave up, I let a needed breath of air out. I was all ready to leave when you came in. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” I sat shock still. I just didn’t want to face Papa. I just didn’t want to have my teacher ask me where I got this bruise. Again. I just wanted to not be scared. But you came in. “I hurt someone, someone I deeply care for.” You spoke, your voice filled to the brim with blameworthiness. ​You made me feel…well. Just feel, I guess. “I’ve come to expose my infidelity.” ​You said, choking on the word as if it were some kind of poison. Your thick with guilt voice wrapping around my heart, strangling it.​ “Honestly, I don’t know why I did it. Boredom? I guess.” You laughed then. I laughed too. Even though I had no idea why. “I’m lying.” You said. “I do know why.” I waited for you. For a moment I thought you had left, and I was free. Free from your burdens, free to engulf in mine. ​But then you spoke again. “Julian. I love him, I do. But…I” You sniffled. And I wanted nothing more than to speak to you. Encircle you with contentment.​ But I couldn’t. “I like girls.” I held my hand to my mouth, hoping it would keep me from spilling out words, words I’ve heard Papa say many times. “Women. And
no, Father. I’m not coming here for sin of liking girls. You believe what you believe, and I
believe what I believe.” You said. “I’m here because I hurt someone. Because I cheated. Because while I was kissing Julian, hugging Julian, vowing my life to Julian. I was sleeping with Marissa, kissing Marissa, falling in love with Marissa.” You spoke with such conviction, such heartbreak. I didn’t know what to say. Truly. For Papa never had a nice thing to say about homosexuals, though I did catch Papa on more than one occasion, stealing kisses with our choir director, Mr. Hardy. Mama pretends not to notice, but I’ve seen her. On her knees, asking God “why her”. “Father?” You said. Sorry. For I could not bear it. The coward I was. The coward I am, left. Ran, actually. I ran away from that damn confessional, away from that church, away from you. And yeah, years later when you asked me how I felt about leaving you, the poor woman alone with your thoughts, sins, confessions. No one to turn to. I feel guilty, I guess. But then I think, perhaps it was a good thing Papa chased me. Maybe I learned something. Maybe you did too.

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