Due to lack of power at home, I’m sneaking in this flash fiction piece at the office. Please forgive the lack of editing, as I’d rather not abuse my boss’s tolerance for personal use on his computer systems.
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“So be it!” With that group declaration, the bishop rang the death toll, slammed the Bible shut, and capped the wick of my candle before knocking it to the floor. It rolled to my feet, coming to a stop in the spot that held my gaze as the clergy completed my excommunication.
I didn’t need to be told. I left the candle where it lay, and skulked through the large double doors of the church. The bitter cold assaulted me the moment I stepped out onto the grand stone steps of the only place I ever considered home. The Church was no longer my family. An anathema, I stood alone, cold and homeless, without a clue as to how to proceed.
My secret had been discovered, and to beg shelter from any of my few acquaintances, I’d have to further reveal what I’d hidden for so long. I’d been lying to everyone. That will be how they’ll feel. But to me, it wasn’t a lie. I am a man. I am. I was born in the wrong body. I have breasts that I bind, and I am missing key parts below the waist, but I am male.
I chose a life of religion, because a vow of celibacy would easily explain my desire to avoid close physical relationships. I thought I could hide my birth defect beneath my robes. I thought I could live among the priests, and give my unwavering faith to a God who made me wrong. I thought if I did, He would fix me.
I hoped. I prayed.
And then one handsome priest found me irresistible. I didn’t see it coming, didn’t recognize his advances, and suddenly he had me pinned against the wall of the cloister, his excitement – the hardness I yearn for, that I know I was meant to have, and yet do not – pressed against my thigh.
And then he shifted, pressing that one thing I should but do not wear against my hips, against my groin, against the place he expected an equal reply.
His eyes widened, and mine darted about, my gaze desperately seeking an escape.
From him. From me. From the exposure of everything that I am. And that which I am not.
“You’re a woman!” His voice hissed out from between clenched teeth, and echoed in my ears, my heart fell into my stomach, churning in acid, and my soul fled the safety of faith, into fear, despair, and sorrow.
My head snapped up at the old title, so recently tore from me. The memories of discovery fled, but the pain did not. I drew myself up but could not muster a smile for the young man standing at the bottom of the steps watching me.
“Harry, please.” I stepped to the side and gestured at the grand doors that had just expelled me. “Enter. I am no longer able to guide you. I have been excommunicated.” I had hoped saying it would break me from my quagmire, but it did not. I feel so empty, and I could not use pain to inspire me to action any longer.
“What? Why?” Harry’s soft brown eyes reflected his empathy, a quality I cherished and encouraged in him. He climbed the stairs and stopped in front of me.
“It matters not.” I looked away. Again, seeking escape. I do not want to relive the secret.
“Of course it does.” He took my hand. “You’re cold. Let me buy you a cup of coffee.”
I started to object, but he turned and started down the steps with my hand in his. “Better yet,” he said. “Let’s go to my apartment. I’ll make us some pasta.”
He ignored my feeble objection.
He stopped when I yanked my hand from his. He looked back at me, patiently waiting.
“I am not a man.”
He waited more.
“Did you hear me? I was born a woman. I live in the wrong body. I…” Tears stung my eyes, and then my cheeks as the chill air cooled them.
“We can talk about it over dinner,” Harry said.
“You don’t get it. You should be casting me out.”
“Like they did.” His gaze darted toward the church, but then returned to my face. The emotions he carried remained when disgust should’ve replaced them. “Come with me, Father James, let’s talk somewhere warm. Let me bear your burdens for a change.”
He held out a hand. I took it. As we started down the street, I said, “Jimmy. Please call me Jimmy.”
“Okay, Jimmy.” He squeezed my hand. “I like that better than James. It suits you better. James is too…”
Harry laughed. “Pretentious.”
“You do understand, I’ve been lying to you?”
“You’re a man, a priest, and a friend. What’s to understand?”
“I’m not a man or a priest.”
“What are you,” he paused and met my eyes, “Inside.”
I didn’t hesitate or consider my answer. “Male. I’d swear it on a Bible if they didn’t keep it from me.”
“Then you haven’t lied to me.” He squeezed my hand and then dropped it. He put his arm around my shoulders. “You’ve always been a man to me, and a friend. I’m here for you, Jimmy.”
This is first time my name sounded absolutely perfect. Perhaps I just discovered a path I was meant to take. “Thank you,” I whispered so quietly I wasn’t sure he heard me until he answered with a silent squeeze around my shoulders.
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