Content Warning: The post contains extensive discussions of religion and the passionate lack thereof; sexual abuse.
“I told you you shouldn’t have talked to him.”
I hate it when my hallucination is right.
Wiping the bitter tears from my eyes, dropping my phone from my ear after having held it there for far too long, I was reminded why I didn’t talk to him. He had been one of my closest friends, someone who encouraged me to turn my life around, a major reason that I am who I am today. He is endlessly important to me, but between us has always stood a wall he put up.
I thought this time would be different, I thought maybe time would have changed him, I thought maybe I’d be allowed to exist without sin in his eyes. Someone doesn’t hate religions and everything they are over night, the breed of vivid rage that boils in my blood is carefully brewed. A fall from grace is more of a clawing war, raging on through agony and fear. Once my halo fell from above my head, tightening around my neck, I could never go back and soon religion was the enemy.
What a fool I am, trying to be friends with the enemy.
Star crossed, not by my design, it is a friendship doomed to fail. Because to me they are a friend, but to them I am a sinner they are to love. I’m far too prideful for that patronizing, I’d rather be hated. I’d rather they tell me I’ll burn in hell, rather be outright called a sinner, than know that they are thinking those things behind a smile they feel obligated to flash.
Being the lone anti-theist in my world, it’s a struggle to feel welcome. Few can understand my rage, my vivid anger and hatred toward religions. My peers are primarily religious, my family too. I had a friend like me once, but she was taken by the very thing I despise. Standing on the outside of this cult of beliefs feels a lot like being the only person with their eyes open during mass prayer. I can see them, but they can’t see me, not unless they open their eyes too.
It’s quite a dissonance, knowing that if I invite my friends to my wedding, most of them won’t come, and the ones that do won’t ‘agree’ with it. The day gay marriage was legalized in the States was a celebration for me, I remember smiling so wide, a splash of rainbow in my world so charming I’ll never forget it. But that day probably looked very different for my friends.
I wonder sometimes if they really see what they’re saying, when they say they cannot ‘condone’ my ‘choice’. Do they understand that being intimate, or even standing too close to, someone of the opposite gender makes my core sink, makes my heart drop, makes me nervous and terrified? Do they see that when they say they believe I’ll burn for loving, they mean they’d prefer me to die alone as to adhere to their belief that my love will anger an invisible force? When they say those things, they’re really saying they’d rather me marry someone I could never truly love in that way, to live a life of traumatizing intimacy, and not only damning myself to being unhappy, but damning the poor lady I was with, too. That honestly breaks my heart and I cannot see how someone could think such things about another and still have the audacity to call them a ‘friend’.
Love has always been one of my biggest beliefs, the thing I know to stand at my very core. So to be shunned, patronized, reprimanded for my expression of it, hurts.
For a long time I isolated myself from the ‘other side’. I couldn’t handle them, their beliefs, the thoughts that shimmered behind their eyes when they landed on me. They tried to ‘save’ me, show me the light, fix me. But all that loving care dissipated when they watched me be dragged into the holy man’s office every day after school for eight years. They’d save me from myself, save me from my sin, but they’d never save me from him.
I asked him once, the man who held me captive in his blessed gaze, if god was real.
Hands trailing through my hair before taking a fist of it,
his wicked smile burned into my soul.
“If he were, he would have saved you from me already.”
I couldn’t fathom, and I still can’t, how the mind of the religious works. But I suppose I love the pain because I keep befriending them. The world needs less of ‘us’ against ‘them’, we are all human. I know this and believe it in my veins. So I’m trying to live by that, to see the commonalities and not only the differences. But when an image pulls into focus in my mind of my future wedding day, the empty chairs, the solemn air, the enviable betrayal that will drip into my blood, it gets hard. Echos of chants that spiked the anxiety in my heart ring in my mind as I think on the wedding of another, one that I attended despite every fiber of my core resenting the service around it, one I went to because my dearest friend invited me to share in his special day. I wonder if he knew how maddening it was for me, to willingly sit in a church once again, if he noticed my eyes on the ground, if he cared that I came all those hours just to be there for him despite all else.
Despite the day he broke my heart and called me an evil sinner.
I do wonder, I can’t help but wonder.
He and I had similar upbringings, we both spent a lot of time on our knees. But when he was on his, he was praying, and when I was on mine, well, it’s hard to pray when you’re being suffocated. His vision was clear upon the cross that hung from the wall behind the priest, my vision was blurry with tears. I wonder, I have to wonder, what it would take. All the while he wondered how to bring me into the light, I tried to conjure a way to bring him into the night. I only wanted someone to gaze at the stars with. I realized with great agony that it didn’t matter, his relationship with his god meant more than his friendship with me ever would. How one can put something we don’t know if it exists or not over a human being who loves them eternally, I never want to understand.
Not wanting to believe it, I kept at his side. That was, until he stooped to a level I never would. Tragedy struck, swept me from my feet, destroyed me. I came to him, my closest human, my best friend, when I had nowhere else to turn. I needed a friend, I needed an extended hand, but what I got was the seed that has blossomed into the belladonna of my anger.
At my lowest point, despite everything he knew about my beliefs, he tried to indoctrinate me. Never, even in my most livid of states, would I ever do something so lowly toward him. I needed him, not his god, to help me through my disaster. There have been countless other instances of the inhumanity displayed toward me through the lens of a god, but that one hurt the most, because unlike the passing woman yelling a slur at me, that young man knew me, and he knew me well. He knew that went against everything that I was, and he still took a shot at my core when my world fell apart.
I’m older now, far less hopeful for those in the light, no longer wishing one will join me in the night. It’s lonely here on the other side. So maybe that’s why I’m trying to uncross the stars, even though I may get burned again. Maybe somewhere through the cloud of incense that chokes me, beyond the roar of prayers that hurt my ears, past the ever present shadow cast by a tall building christened with rainbow glass, I can extend my hand and maybe, just maybe, someone will take it and gaze at the stars from the twilight with me.
Anger doesn’t make for good company.