“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned; it is one week since my last Confession,” I paused, gulped hard as he listened with rapt attention.
“I accuse myself of the following sins; falling in love with a priest and thinking unholy thoughts toward him. I have also sinned against my own flesh”
“The number of times which I have indulged in this is uncountable, and I have laid them hidden for months. I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life, especially homosexuality and unholy thoughts toward the Priest of God.”
There was silence. I waited and waited for him to speak. But none came forth.
“Father?” I whispered, to know if I have knocked him off with my groundbreaking confession. Then he coughed, and I felt uneasy. Had I made a mistake? Have I had the power to turn back time, I would have rewind time immediately and go back as things were a few minutes ago.
My eyes shut in regret as tears ran down freely down my cheek. This was why I had kept my sexuality hidden. No one will ever understand, not even James. Not him!
“Go in peace” He finally said, breaking the silence.
I wished I could see his face, to see his expression about this revelation, but the curtain which demarcated us said no.
“Thank you, Father,” I said, making the Sign of the Cross and walking out from the confessional.
I went back to my pew, knelt, and thanking God for the Sacrament of Penance. But my heart wasn’t at rest. I regretted making this confession. I should have tamed my feelings and remained in the dark. Was I expecting a hug from him? Impossible!
It has been two days since I last saw Father James after the confession. I have claimed to be unhealthy just so I won’t go to church. I can’t bear to look at him now. He must be seeing me as a filthy dirty thing. I keep getting nasty thoughts of him about me. I could hear him in my mind calling me a fag. A flirty being. An abomination. A demon-possessed being.
To drown myself from those ugly voices in my head, I resorted to music. During these slow moody days, I was able to compose a sad love song, one that made me cry while singing it. It reminded me how we can’t always have what we want, and how unfair life has been.
There was a knock on my room as my mother walked in.
“Can I sit?” She asked, with a concerned look that made me worried.
“Yes, mom,” I replied. Unplugging my stereo from the socket and sitting up properly.
My mom sat on the only plastic chair in my room, facing me with an expression that caused my pulse to rise.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?” She asked, and suddenly, I felt my heart shrink.
Had Father James told my mom about my confession? Does she know? I wanted to say something, to say to her that I have always been gay and that Father James is right. Just when my lips were about to spurt, she said.
“You have been moody for the past few days, is it because of your final exam? You are no longer the free-spirited Stephen that I knew. Is there anything I should know?” She asked again, with caring eyes that made me sad.
My mom had always told me that even if I’m a serial killer, it won’t change the love she has for me. What about being gay? Is that one different?
By telling her that I’m gay, she will start looking for where she got it all wrong raising me. She will blame herself, and from doing that, the love which she had will evaporate. She isn’t strong to handle this secret, not yet!
“I’m fine mom. I’m just bored these days,” I had replied, trying to force a smile. She knew I was lying. But she won’t pester me for it, and that is why I love her so much. She believed that when I’m ready, I will open up.
“Okay, if you say so. Always know that I’m here if you want to talk. If you can’t talk to me, talk to our parish priest..” She said with smiles.
She stood up to leave… Then turned abruptly
“Before I forget,” she said,
“Father James asked you to come over.”
My heart skipped for the one-hundredth time that day.
“Okay, mom” I replied as she shut the door behind her.
Why did he want to see me, to talk about my sexuality? To pretend as if nothing happened? Well, the only way to find out was by going to his quarters.
As I look for a fitting jean and polo, I couldn’t help but feel very anxious. Whenever I’m nervous, my joints always grow weak. His quarters is just a ten minutes’ journey by foot, and as I trundle along the path that leads to his domain, my brain never ceased to stop chattering.
“Don’t go, Stephen. He will preach to you about homosexuality being evil. He will talk about hell. And how it is wrong to have those feelings.”
Something stronger within kept me going. It was the countenance of Ester in the Bible, ‘If I perish, I perish.’
I arrived at his quarter, and before I could knock, the door opened before me. I saw him in a way I have never seen him. He was wearing a boxer and a singlet, making his muscular chest very visible. Not only does he have a beautiful face, but a great physique to match. You never know what these priests are hiding under their gigantic robes. He was doing laundry, judging by how soapy his hands were.
He was smiling lavishly at me as I stood transfixed at the door as if struck by lightning.
“Thank God you are here, you will help me cook,” he said, smiling as if there was never a fuss earlier on. Or was I being paranoid?
You probably don’t know, but his quarter is just a two-bedroom apartment, with a kitchen too big for one priest. Standing in that kitchen, cutting the carrots, cabbage and salad, it felt as if I’m the woman of the house. It felt like I belonged there.
Cooking comes naturally to me. It is like therapy, taking my busting mind away from all the unpleasantness in the world.
As I was cooking, James walked into the kitchen, shirtless, with only boxers. I tried my possible best not to look at his bulge, but I failed. I saw it dangling, and I cursed the devil for succeeding.
“I’m almost done” I had told him, taking my eyes off him so he won’t see the lust running through my veins.
He held my shoulder from behind and kissed my neck. My skin tensed at his touch. In a split of a second, my brain starting getting clogged with lots of unprocessed data. Should I turn and embrace the comfort he is offering, or should I pretend it is nothing and continue cooking?
“I have always loved you, Stephen, from the very first day,” he has said,
Was I dreaming? What proof do I have that this event is real and happening? If it were a dream, may I be forever stuck in it.
I turned to face him, to make sure this was happening. His eyes were teary, and I could see him breathing hard.
I touched his cute face, running my hands around as if it is a statue. I never knew I was crying too until I tasted the salty element of my tears. He wiped them away with his palms as I hugged him tightly. I was sobbing in his embrace as he held me even tighter into his body.
We stood like that, for ages. It was as if time stopped.
“Can you perceive it?” James whispered to my ear.
“Perceive what?” I murmured while in his embrace.
“Our food is burning.” He said. I pushed him away immediately to turn off the gas. He began to laugh mischievously, and it was so beautiful.
Prior to this event, many church members saw us as inseparable. But now, I wonder the word which will be used. James felt the same way I feel about him. He loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Despite my optimism, I knew I was building castles on sand. Little did I know that James was preparing to come out to the whole church as gay.
“Stephen, if you really love me, you will have to be strong for what is to come. We need to fight, and it will cost us everything.” He has told me one evening.
I never had a full idea of what he was talking about, but I assured him that I could cross mountains for him.
Things took another turn one Sunday evening, after mass. About eight priests visited my Dad in which father James was among.
I met them in the hallway and greeted them, but what I got in return was a heavy spit on the floor. James’ expression was unreadable. He only gave me a reassuring smile as he walked passed me.
I hurriedly went into my room but left the door ajar so I would be able to hear all the conversations.
“My fathers, I greet you all in the name of Jesus” My father had greeted as they reply in unison.
“Piece unto this household.”
The atmosphere was dramatic, and I knew within me that something is wrong. I began to prepare myself emotionally for the worse.
“Sir, Hilary” An aged priest called. Although I have never seen him in my life, I was sure he is Igbo judging by his strong accent.
“I am sure you are wondering what brought us to your home this evening. My people said that the frog does not run in the day, without something pursuing it.” He added as other priests nodded in approval. I began to wonder if these were priests or perhaps, a traditionalist. But my ears were stationed to know the situation.
“When the white men came,” he continued,
“They brought a lot of things to us. They brought schools, companies, and above all, they brought Christ. What they never brought was homosexuality.”
This was the moment when the cord connecting my heart to other parts of my body shut down. I could no longer breath; this was the keyword of doom. The keyword of exposure. What had James done? My soul began to cry for a savior. I need no soothsayer to tell me that I am about to face my worst nightmare.
“Father James and your son have been indulging in a sodomic sin of the flesh, a sin that attracts nothing but death and everlasting damnation in hell.” The aged Priest continued.
“I beg to disagree, father,” James cut in, interrupting the old Priest. The whole room was quiet, and I could hear my pulse. Then my room opened as my mom walk in.
“You should have told me, Stephen. You should have!”
She said, disappointed as tears flowed down her cheek. If only I were brave enough to tell her. I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if she was ready. I never knew how she would handle it.
“I’m so sorry, mom. I wanted to, but I was scared! I couldn’t.”
I was still trying to talk when she hugged me, and we both burst in tears. I have never in my life cried so freely, but this was short-lived as someone barged into the room – my Dad.
“Where is that serpent? You are leaving my house this very moment, this very minute and I never want to ever see your abominable face ever again in this house. You are not my son!”
“Papa Stephen!” my mom flared up, but my Dad gave her a thunderous slap that landed her on my bed. He looked at me again.
“If I come back to this room and still meet you here, you will leave this house as a corpse.”
He said with so much terror that frightened me. My mom was still lying on the bed. She wasn’t moving, I touched her, but she didn’t move.
Someone came into the room, and it was James.
“Stephen, we have to go now!”
James shouted at me.
I lay on the floor, indifferent to what he had said. What has my life become? And where do I go from here?
“We have to go now,” James told me again.
And yet no response.
He walked closer to me and reached for my wrist. I brushed his hands off me, and he held onto it again. I tried to resist his grip but his firm hands were no match for me.
“James, what have you done?” I rested my head on his shoulder and cried. But he never cared to answer. He just bent down and carried me like a log of wood. I tried to break free, but I was so weak
That was how I lost almost everything. I lost my father, my mother, and everything I cared for. According to my father, I am an abomination before God. I will never find forgiveness, nor would I ever make heaven. As long as the Bible is concerned, my lot lies in the burning lake of fire.
James was stripped off of his fatherhood, excommunicated, and banned from the house of God. In the eyes of the Roman Catholic church, he has been deceived by the devil himself. Though I lost my family, I found a new family in James.
Despite the maltreatment from the church, our faith in God never weakened. James and I still studied our Bible. We discovered that we were created perfectly and with love. God doesn’t hate us for loving ourselves; he only hates when we defy our body outside the context of holy matrimony.
James and I started a church in eastern Nigeria, the Rainbow Church. But due to the hostility of the people and the adverse media reports, we attracted lots of foreign LGBTQ+ organizations who supported us in various ways. James and I were able to save a lot of money to leave Nigeria to Singapore.
Within a few months of this happening, we were serving as an inspiration to every soul on the planet, and our net worth blossomed. I was able to bring my mom down to Singapore for she doesn’t deserve to live with a man whose mind cannot be freed. It is a miracle that she survived this far in his hands.
Instead of opening a church, we opened an LGBTQ+ organization that aims at helping community members in intolerant countries. We were creating a family that will one day abolish hate and restore love on earth.
I still love my father, but I doubt if he feels the same for me. Perhaps he does. Maybe blood is indeed thicker than water. But he has never sought for me since the day he disowned me. Doing that will mean compromising with the devil. He is dogmatic in his beliefs and anything contrary is shunned off.
I was happy, living blissfully with the most handsome Priest on earth. My mother was always around, offering support, and loving me irrespective of who I am. If my earthly mother could love me for who I am, what about a loving God, a God who is synonymous to love? It dawns on me that man has been acting as God.