Quasi Benevolence

“I’m sorry, but you can fight this urge. If you refuse, however, we will be forced to terminate your volunteer position and your job here at the church.”

The hot chocolate emanates warmth through my body. However, a layer of ice is coating my veins, slowly freezing me. The heat’s fight is valiant, but it’s no match for the coat of frost.

The world spins, my heart all at once sickeningly slow yet lightning fast. I can see my hope hitting the floor, smashing as easily as a porcelain vase. I didn’t expect this. Maybe begrudging acceptance, maybe a meaningless spat and storming out a door. The cold detachment is at odds with the contents of the conversation.

It shouldn’t feel like I was walking through the woods, the trees reaching for me and the night swallowing me whole.

“Now don’t be confused, we’re not blocking you from attending service.”    The faux kindness he was showing me was enraging. Two different reactions were braced for, hatred burning bright as a star, or acceptance given like one would put their hand into a pit of vipers.

“But we have to have the people who serve exemplify our values, and I’m afraid we cannot advocate for same-sex attraction.”

Stars burst inside me, going supernova in an instant; quickly collapsing and becoming black holes.

Indifference quickly morphed into burgeoning hatred. They refused to call it what it was. Homosexuality, such a simple word, yet one shrouded in controversy. Said in hushed tones, swept under the rug along with society’s other maladies. As a way to hide the topic of the discussion, it was called same-sex attraction, attraction between the same sex.

All words that if not strung together like twinkling lights, no one would understand the meaning he was trying to convey. But if someone heard homosexuality, they would begin to listen, begin to hear. Maybe they’d even try to help.  

But no one came to my rescue, no one tried to save me as I entered a cavern that many before me had. As the ground beneath me shifted and I fell into a pretty, little cage, the door slammed shut and the key thrown away.

I knew how a bird felt now.

“And don’t feel like you are the only one that’s gone through this issue. We’ve had to do this multiple times.”

How is that fact supposed to pacify me? How is that supposed to choke the life out of my hazy sense of fear? To kill my hopes of love or being treated humanely, as it suffocates beneath a blanket of euthanasia.

The fact that they have done this before, that the person might not have had the strength to fight it.

“Joey, don’t worry, it’s manageable. I’ve had friends that decided to be celibate their whole lives. I understand that it’s not ideal, but that’s a choice you’ve got to make.”

That was the advice he offered. That it was ultimately my decision, like he hadn’t backed me into a corner like some wild animal. He asked that I give up a chance at love, at happiness. Is a choice still a choice if you’re forced into it? As if the decision is so meaningless? Like it didn’t divide my life into a before and after?

“Well, Joey, I’m glad you’ve begun to see my way.”

Emotions shift and swirl until they were an indistinguishable cloud of feelings. In the end, melancholy and acceptance were crowned twin victors, each hesitant to begin their reign.

I didn’t have the voice to fight. All of the rage, the bitterness, the fury, condensed to the size of an ant. Tucked into a dark recess of my heart, to fester and ferment.

How could I have chosen myself over the kids I work with? He knew that the way to get agreement was to target them. It was a sadistic move, to go after children. Especially when some of them had special needs.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be here to help. You don’t have to do this all alone.”

It was a twist of somber humor. In an attempt to make me feel reassured, at peace, he instead filled me with dread and apprehension. He tried for camaraderie, and instead begot isolation.

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