Part One: Ordination
Here's a funny thought: the man adores me. He is more attentive than the professed acolytes who sleep through my sermons.
On nights like this I feel I've put on the robe just for his eyes.
My cheeks burn. The words slur.
I'm a hack actor playing for an audience of one. He is a theater critic under whose baleful eye my performance falters…words catch in my throat…no one notices. The best religions are rote, anyway. It's what's between the lines that count (I want to tell him).
What can it be about me that fascinates him so? Is it my mouth, my sweat-dampened brow, the backs of my hands?
He narrows his eyes, tilts his head to one side, and burrows in with a concentration that vibrates. Sometimes the tip of his tongue slips out the corner of his loose, full lips, and stays there for the length of the service.
Of which I am fairly certain he hears not a word.
"We humbly beseech You, almighty God," I recite, "to grant that those whom You refresh with Your sacraments, may serve you worthily by a life well pleasing to You. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen."
... but I am thinking:
He wants to swallow me. He wants to lick me. The savage wants to eat the missionary raw, alive, robes and beads and all.
Tonight, after the service, he stays behind to help me blow out the candles and put away the trinkets. I shoo away the guard, who is bored, and Catholic, and forgets that priests and nuns and choirboys are often the first ones subjected to man's inhumanity to man, if it should come up. The guard, who has no head for revisionist history, leaves me alone with the prisoner, believing that I am safe.
Adebisi asks me how long I've been a priest.
"Sixteen years," I tell him. "Sixteen years since seminary. Half of them here in Oz."
His jaw drops in mocking disbelief, and I appreciate his playful expression- a welcome contrast to Simon's usual impenetrable scowling mask.
"Sixteen years ago, you married Jesus. You were a baby bride." His voice is sweetly accented, and I laugh, then catch myself.
We are both thinking about well-meaning missionaries trading smallpox for an inviolate collective conscience. I want to apologize for the ruin they wreaked with their good intentions, but after all, if not for conversion and its by-product, colonization, the noble heathens and we would not be unified beneath a single, naked, tortured deity.
Adebisi walks past me and kneels in front of the life-sized icon of our lord. In his torn tee-shirt and loose cotton knickers, he is a dark and brooding contrast to Jesus's luminously white and muscular suffering under the candle-lit florescence of the chapel.
I move next to the statue, and to steady myself, place my hand upon the top most bound ankle.
"Simon", I say, "you know perfectly well that a man enters the priesthood as God's acolyte. He doesn't marry Jesus. Either you've forgotten your parochial education or you're playing with me."
Adebisi looks at me, a smile tugging at the edges of his scowl, but the look in his eyes doesn't change.
"That is right, isn't it? In Nigeria, you went to a Catholic school."
"For a little while," Simon admits, then bows his head and leans forward until his lips are pressed against the toes of the statue's uppermost foot.
There's not much time. I am trembling, and the robes feel heavy, as if drenched. They root me to this narrow place between the altar and the statue. Anyway, it is more efficient if I simply stand here, and let Adebisi do the work.
I look down at my feet, where Adebisi now kneels. He has grasped both my ankles in his hands, and tugs roughly at the cuffs of my pants. I wince as the waistband is forced past the hard obstruction of my hip bones. I want to help yet find strange comfort in my own lack of complicity.
Probably he thinks I am lazy and passive.
Or bewildered and ashamed.
I am sorry. I am truly sorry. And I want to beg him to forgive me when the time is right. Not now, as he bends me at the waist, pushes me onto the floor where we are no longer visible to anyone who might casually glance into the chapel.
I am lying on my back, and he is on top of me. Jesus looks down on us, eyes full of sorrow. I turn my face away.
Except for my pants, there isn't time to undress. He has what he needs. We'll work out the details later. Next time, longer, harder, deeper, but for now...
Adebisi's touch, his kisses, levitate me and hold me down at the same time.
He slips my cock into his mouth and lets it harden there, effortlessly pressing his face into my groin, sucking with such a voracious vacuum that my balls disappear into his mouth, and I swear I can feel his muscular tongue grasp me like a fist. The pressure barely lets up. He is breathing loudly through his nose. The heated, forceful exhalations of breath against my belly in concert with the wet suction of his mouth make me feel like I am being fucked twice.
I don't deserve to be fucked even once, so I think about missionaries, and laugh. He tightens his lips around the base of my cock, a warning.
The missionaries traitorously plowed the hearts of their converts, doing God's work. Sooner or later they must have realized that what the primitive novitiates were receiving in exchange for eternal salvation was ruin on earth.
Was there ever a missionary who faltered in his belief that his purpose was divine, regardless the outcome? Did he stop himself? Could he stop himself?
Stealers of souls.
Adebisi lifts me onto my knees, and I am pushed face down onto Jesus's wounded feet. I kiss them, and am kissed in return, all over, sweet and tender. But I don't think the kisses will always be this gentle.
Sooner or later Adebisi is going to remember all that was lost, and how it was taken.
For what it's worth, and because I have memorized so many, I say a prayer for us both.