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Dating a Priest

Navigating the complexities of love, loss, and moving on.

Artist’s Statement: The collage depicts a masculine and handsome guardian angel with piercing blue eyes that seem to gaze beyond the physical realm. He is dressed in flowing red and green robes adorned with crucifixes that indicate his divine purpose. His modern gold and red halo hovers above his head, emitting a warm, comforting glow. In one hand, he holds a pen, symbolizing his role as a writer of destiny, while in the other hand, he holds his fingers in the meditation pose, suggesting his spiritual nature. The angel's dark skin is depicted with shimmering shades of blue and gold, contrasting beautifully with his dark hair that flows in masculine locks. The collage is made with paper and watercolor, creating a textured effect that brings the angel to life. The vibrant blues and deep reds blend harmoniously with the soft tans and golden yellows, evoking a sense of serenity and protection. The image of the angel serves as a reminder of the unseen forces that guide and protect us, even in the most challenging times.
Guardian Angel

December 2002


In the beginning, there had been friendship. We met in person, before the days of the internet, on a subway platform at 116th St. We were in the same English literature course, and she recognized me from class. "I'm Laura," she said. "We are taking the Victorian Novel together."


I noticed her sparkling green eyes and her funky plaid skirt. I had never seen her in class before, but it's not unlike me to be oblivious of other people. I shook her hand, and we became friends that day. Three years later, friendship became love; afterwards, we shared ten years of marriage. We did not have children but nurtured and raised many pet animals.


In the end, there was only anger. "We don't seem to be in sync," Laura would complain, often behind tears, holding one of our dogs on her lap. "We don't travel. We used to love to travel. Do you remember Almansa?" I purposely ignored her.


The divorce was finalized on the winter of 2002. After that, we never spoke again.


January 2004


At first, I only knew him by his words and what he wrote. We met online and chatted for hours without knowing each other by either face or name, courtesy of Romance.com. His screen name was "Father M," mine was "NoOneKnows." That's the way of internet dating. Strange screen names that vaguely reflect who we are, and puffed-up statistics (height, weight, and measurements) that create a warped illusion of attractiveness that cannot be matched in reality. I was impressed by Father M's romance ad, so I put a printed copy in my memorabilia box (along with my elementary school report cards, my first communion ribbon, and my first poem). The ad reads as follows:


"My posting of this ad comes right at a time when I am so much in need of intimacy. I have been wishing to meet another masculine and intelligent man, from anywhere, with whom to share my thoughts, my feelings, and my soul. I am an ex-priest, and I loved my religious life and ministry. Anyone I date would have to respect my continuing devotion to God. At this point in my life, I have a need not so much for sex, although that would be fine — but more of the sense of belonging to someone, and the sense of someone belonging to me, in some strange sense. The Lord has lavished upon my life great blessings, and I still pray that I may meet a fellow soul out there who might wish to begin a deep friendship, even from across the miles, and see where it takes us."


From his profile picture, I can tell that Father M is a WASP, with piercing grey eyes and shockingly blond hair, which he colors. And from our online conversations, I've learned peculiar details that make him an unusual character. He had been a faithful and devoted Catholic priest for sixteen years. His parish was in Miami, Florida, where he curried favor with the Hispanic population from whom he learned to speak nearly perfect Spanish. He says he left the Church under a dark cloud regarding his sexuality, but he has not been forthcoming with details about this. I have not pressed him because I don't want to appear pushy before we've even had a date.


Of course, gay men and ex-priests are a dime a dozen. I have a suspicion that the Catholic Church and its monasteries put out more gay men than all other religions combined. Since my divorce, I have dated ex-monks, ex-choir masters, ex-altar boys, and ex-bishops from the holy roman catholic monopoly. They all claim to have loved the Church but have learned to hate it. What makes Father M unusual is that after serving so many years as a priest, attending to the souls, he is now a well-buffed and sexy physical trainer, attending to the bodies. He helps put middle-aged wofmen back into shape, charming them with his good looks. He also works with overweight children and their parents, teaching them the values of proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. But above all, he admits to working out like a fiend and tells me, "I'm on the muscular side." I teasingly call him my muscle boy.


Before we shared any photos, we exchanged phone numbers and spoke every night for two weeks. I savor the sound of Father M's voice coming through my phone. Firm, crisp, choppy words expressing masculine sensitivity. I like the sound of his tone. It melts away my inhibitions. And anything is possible without having seen pictures, without Father M. knowing what I look like, and without me having experienced his physical beauty.


"Did you enjoy the priesthood?" I ask in one of our conversations.


"I liked aspects of service," he explains. "I was assigned to a predominantly Salvadorian parish."


"I bet they admired you, with your flawless Spanish and good looks," I respond.


"I admired them," he answers. "Most of them had seen extreme violence in their towns and villages. They escaped El Salvador in fear for their lives after witnessing horrors, yet they remained faithful to the existence of a merciful God."


"Still, you're the blond American," I add mockingly. "The gringo who speaks Spanish. They must have been impressed."


Father M continues to speak earnestly, "I learned more from them than they ever learned from me. It was an honor to live among them."


I persist in being an ass. "Well," I say dismissively. "I would have a hard time with the vow of poverty."


"Not quite poverty," he says, and this time I detect a slight annoyance in his voice.


Silence.


"The Church provided everything I needed," he continues. "And my flock was extremely generous. At night, they would surprise me with pupusas filled with pumpkin flowers and cheese. On weekends they would fatten me with salteñas made with a sweet and spicy gravy and boiled eggs. On All Saints Day, they would bring me corn hojuelas dipped in honey, and flowers for the dead. And in the mornings, when I awoke from restless nights, in the earliest hours when there is nothing but silence, they would share their blue maize, red beans, and brown bread with me for breakfast."


We pause the conversation. I reflect on the sweetness of Father M's voice and his flawless Spanish accent.


"It sounds like you enjoyed their food," I answer. "A lot of food." I won't admit that I don't know half of the ingredients he mentions. I'm ignorant of Central American cuisine.


"What I enjoyed was the feeding of souls," he replies.


"Theirs?" I ask.


"Theirs and mine," he answers. "My calling was to attend to their spiritual needs as much as mine. And yes, I was the handsome American in their eyes, but in my eyes, they were the blessed ones."


"Why?"


"Because their faith was so unyielding. Because they had been tested and tempted by misadventure and misfortune, yet they kept their beliefs."


"Is that why you left the Church?" I ask. "Did you lose your faith?"


"Never," he says. "I never lost my faith."


* * *


And then, finally, there were the pictures. We exchanged email addresses and exchanged portraits of each other. I had, of course, seen an image of Father M's handsome, smiling face posted on Romance.com, but I had not seen his flawless body. Slowly, Microsoft Office Pictures opened up a JPEG with his photo, revealing from head to toe an Adonis, a muscular build that I had not imagined he possessed. By contrast, I sent him a mundane photo of me sitting between the two dogs that Laura and I had raised. I'm feeling anxious about having sent him such a stupid picture.


"I received your photos," I write to him by email. "You are very handsome."


He quickly replies, "Thank you."

And then hesitantly, expecting the worst, I ask him again by email. "Did you get to see my pictures?"


"Charming," he replies. "Absolutely charming. I like the dogs."


FlowAs you approach middle age and old age, you keep looking forward. You reminisce about the past, but you realize how much you have learned and how much more is ahead of you. Portrait of a handsome middle-aged man, aging gracefully. His piercing eyes are set off against the wrinkle on his face and his slightly graying hair. The painting represents a struggle for a man to find himself and determine what he wants out of life. It could be a sign of aging, coping with the hardships of life or possibly representing change.
Eyes Forward

* * *


Father M and I agreed to meet in front of Local, a restaurant on the U Street Corridor, for our first date. It's a neighborhood north of Dupont Circle and south of Adams Morgan. It used to be no man's land, where prostitutes and derelicts ruled. Now it's a trendy area that attracts gay men and young professionals. Of course, the prostitutes and beggars are still there, but the near-do-wells outnumber them.


I am outside the restaurant, anxious for Father M to show up. It's a chilly night, and I keep buttoning and unbuttoning my overcoat as I get cold from the wind and hot from my nervous sweat. While I wait for him, I fixate on the passersby who walk briskly with a cell phone to their ear. I eavesdrop on their conversations, replete with the telltale signs of Washington lawyers, politicians, and privileged elites. I can see their knotted-up faces, adamantly screaming as they negotiate one more deal before dinner.


An older man with a fat belly, a wrinkled suit, and a leather briefcase (probably a partner at a K street law firm) yells at someone on the other side of his cell, "Did you finish that brief yet!"


A young man in a suit talks furtively into his phone. "Marty? It's John. I'll be late. I have to go back to the office. So don't wait up for me."


An athletic man in shorts running by me exclaims, "Mother fucker, it's cold."


I spot a woman on the street that seems lost. I can tell she's an out-of-towner. She's searching the crowd for a friendly person to give her directions back to her hotel. I'm about to help her, but she walks away from me. I must look threatening to her. She clutches her purse tightly.


* * *


I keep rubbing my hands to warm them up. Waiting outside in this cold weather makes me want to daydream about warmer times. The trips to Mar del Plata that my family would take in the summer holidays when I was a child in Argentina. Walking in the colonial streets of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico last year, shortly after the divorce, enjoying a sense of freedom and opportunity. The vacation that Laura and I took early in our relationship to Almansa in the La Mancha region of Spain. The sun-drenched streets and comfortable warmth of Almansa are totally unlike the cold I'm feeling tonight. I want to share the details of my Almansa trip with Father M. I hear a broken record repeatedly playing in my head: Almansa, La Mancha, Laura. But I must resist the urge to tell Father M about it. No matter how interesting it may be, a tale of a trip with an ex-wife is strictly forbidden on a date with a man. "Do not," I tell myself, "tell a single tidbit of your life experiences involving the ex-wife.”


* * *

After waiting for thirty minutes and feeling the coldness that has seeped into my bones, I'm about to leave when I finally spot Father M coming my way, chatting on his cell phone. He looks different from his picture. He seems older, taller, and more self-absorbed. I can tell he is coming straight from the gym because he is wearing a skin-tight workout tee shirt that reveals every ripple in his abdomen and every muscle of his biceps. By contrast, I'm wearing my usual office garb of Ralph Lauren trousers, Kenneth Cole leather shoes, a crisp white Banana Republic shirt, and a navy blue Tommy Hilfiger jacket. All I would need to complete my outfit are bottle cap eyeglasses, and then he and I would make a perfect cinematographic pair: Father M in the role of Superman and me in the part of Clark Kent.


He notices me as he gets closer, hangs up his cell phone ("We'll talk later"), and flashes me a warm smile. It's the same smile he uses for his online ad on Romance.com. It's a broad smile; the cat that ate the canary smile.


We sniff and check each other out like dogs. It's a quick glance up and down to determine height and weight and a furtive glance at the box. Father M looks satisfied; he seems pleased.


"So, is this ok?" I ask. It's gay code to let him know I like what I see, and I want to know if the feeling is reciprocal.


"Of course!" he says graciously.


I've passed the test and am officially on a date with a muscle boy (slash, ex-priest).


* * *

Father M and I walk single file into the restaurant, with me leading the way. If this had been a boy-girl date, I would have held the door open for him, but as we are both men in our forties, neither holds the door for the other. From the outside, the restaurant looks like a stuffy Victorian house. Inside, it proudly displays all the emblems of a chic Washingtonian hangout. Dark wood floors, brightly painted tables, heavily shellacked bar tops, and outsized furniture in odd shapes with figure eight backs that resemble wind sales. An oversized staircase abuts close to the front door, leading to a balcony and upstairs bathrooms.


The women at the restaurant promptly take note of Father M when we walk in. The hostess, the waitress, and the after-work crowd of successful female attorneys stare at him as if he were a movie star. The men seem to stare as well. The Mexican busboy winks, the bartender waves at him, and the chatty queens sitting at a round table blink their eyes when they spot him. Father M cuts an elegant shape, and they greet him as if he were an old friend of the family.


"Well, hello there, sir!" says one of the waiters.


"Welcome to our restaurant. Nice to see you here, sir!" says the hostess.


"Will you take me to the back room and bed me, sir?" says the thoughts I read in everyone's mind.


No one takes notice of the muscle boy's companion, a/k/a "me." I'm the shorter man with unruly hair. My wavy curls are too tightly knotted to be considered fashionable, and my office attire is too predictable and dull to be anything other than boring. I feel both grotesque and invisible standing next to Father M.


The hostess seats us at a small table in the middle of the restaurant. I had hoped for something quiet and intimate, hidden in a faraway corner. But the girl who seats us doesn't perceive us as a pair of potential lovers. She only sees a handsome stud and his dopy sidekick. She doesn't realize how much hope and romantic expectations I have placed on this date.


We each unfold our napkins and fiddle with the silverware. I comment on his sharp-looking shirt. He tries explaining the difference between a slinky body shirt and a gym trainer top. One is designed to mold your muscles, and the other is designed to develop your chest or something like that. I don't know which of the two types of shirts he is wearing this evening. They all look skin-tight and delicious to me. I clear my throat; he fidgets with the butter knife. Like Trappist nuns in a cloister, neither one of us says anything. I'm vividly aware of every second that passes between us in silence. We don't have the same easy bantering that accentuated our online chats. Our first date seems forced, and I'm feeling nauseously nervous.


After a while of excruciating silence, a waitress brings us menus. She's a painted blonde with large red lips and unusually thick legs.


"My name is Kasha," she announces. Her voice gurgles with a Central-European accent. "I'll be your server tonight." Her eyes are transfixed on Father M.


He smiles and says, "What a beautiful name. What country are you from?"


"You have to guess," says the blonde, smiling and flirting with my muscle boy date.


I don't particularly appreciate being left out of the conversation, so I jump in with a timid guess. "Are you from Russia, Kasha?"


Kasha does not turn towards me. All I see is her square back and her plump round ass. Then, while still facing Father M, she tells me, "Only a very ignorant person would think that I am from Russia."


I turn red.


"But you, of course, you are not an ignorant man," she adds, still looking only at Father M. I wonder if her remark is intended for him or me.


Father M is studying Kasha's face like a child trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. He looks at her from head to toe, inspects her lips, and comments on the unusual paleness of her eyes. He even reaches out to touch her hair (only to feel the texture he assures her). She smiles and caresses his hands playfully. This fondling between Kasha and Father M is becoming very uncomfortable. This ex-priest turned muscle boy is practically having sex with a waitress before my eyes.


Kasha giggles when Father M strokes her skin, and she seems to sigh in ecstasy with short little breaths. I think she is either experiencing an orgasm or is suffering from asthma.


"So," I finally bark loudly, staring at Father M. "Tell us your guess as to where Kasha is from."


My outburst breaks the spell. Kasha and Father M unlock their eyes, and he pronounces conclusively and assuredly that, "Kasha is from Poland."


"Very good," chirps the blonde, recapturing her breath. I think Kasha fixed the contest; she would have admitted to any nationality that muscle boy could guess. Tanzanian, Alaskan, or Mayan Indian. Are you a Filipino, dear Kasha? Sure, Mr. Muscle, I'm a blonde Filipino from way back.


Father M. winks at Kasha and gives her a warm "aren't you a sweet Catholic girl" smile. If this were a bad movie, one of them would light a cigarette now.


I'm getting tired of Kasha horning in on my date. There's room for only one muscle-chaser at this table tonight, and I'm it. "A drink would be nice," I remind Kasha. After all, she did say she was our server for the night.


Kasha, smart girl that she is, gets the hint. "What would you like to drink, sir?" she asks Father M.


He debates whether to have seltzer water or a diet soda and finally settles for a "wee-bitty cup" of coffee.


There's nothing funny or sexy about a grown man using baby talk, but Kasha thinks the "wee-bitty cup" is endearing. Her ample breasts gently jiggle as she giggles, repeating, "wee-bitty cup."


Kasha rushes off to place Father M's coffee order, but halfway to the bar, she realizes she has forgotten about me. So she turns around like a mad dog and barks from the other side of the room, "Curly boy, what are you drinking?" I use my hands to mimic a very tall glass and fake a slur as I ask her to bring "the biggest glass of white wine you can find back there, pronto." She doesn't crack a smile.


Father M finally focuses his bright eyes on me. My stomach tickles. His jawline has a perfect Germanic cut, his nose is slight but masculine, and his face is hairless, which contrasts nicely with my heavy five o'clock shadow. We are stereotypical opposites, the WASP blond, and the dark Mediterranean. He winks at me, but I avoid his flirting. Instead, I turn my face to read the menu.


"Tell me something about your day," he asks me.


I can't give him a simple answer as I need help explaining what I do all day at the office. I'm a lawyer, and sometimes it feels that everyone hates us. I've been repeatedly told that a shark won't eat a lawyer "out of professional courtesy," so I struggle with this image. How can I expect an ex-priest (turned gym trainer) to understand what I do? Rather than bore him with the details, I give him a broad brush summary of my "very successful" career path.

I don't tell him the hellish details. I won't recount, for example, how I had the urge to pee at a 2 a.m. meeting with my boss and six other people working around the clock on a testosterone-laden megabucks deal last year. I excused myself from the conference room and went to the bathroom to relieve myself from the twelve cups of coffee I had been drinking all night to stay awake. After the much-needed relief, I returned to the meeting as if nothing had happened. My boss went ballistic, "Good God, man! Where the devil have you been? I need you to stay here and take notes!" I apologized profusely to the angry bastard, like a mouse to a lion, and assured him that it would never happen again.


"I've worked on some outstanding transactions," I tell Father M. in a pompous tone. "I was lucky to get trained by some top-notch lawyers. In many ways, they made me what I am today."


I listen to my words. Even I am bored with what I'm saying. Father M keeps smiling, gently nodding as if he were interested, but anyone can tell he's on the verge of falling asleep.


* * *


There is a lot of white space in our back-and-forth bantering. A conversation should be like the waters of the Potomac River at Great Falls, where it flows forcefully and uninterrupted, rhythmically and flawlessly.


Instead, ours is stagnant and stuck like the waters in a clogged pipe.


"Did you have a Catholic wedding?" he asks. "As a good Latin American boy, I assume you grew up Catholic."


"I'm sorry, but Laura is an atheist," I explain. "We had a civil ceremony."


"I don't understand atheists," he says carelessly. "It seems like they purposely ignore the spiritual side of life."


"Laura has more social awareness and compassion than the average Catholic," I retort. "And I find her more spiritual than most men of the cloth."


There's a brief silence. I take another sip of my wine.


"And what about you?" I ask. "Do you still pray and attend church?"


"The Church and I have divorced and parted ways," he replies. "And in my opinion, when you decide to leave a relationship, you should keep things separate.”


More silence. More sips of wine.


Father M tries to get the conversation flowing again, but I keep holding it back with choppy one-word answers. I hesitate to provide him with more than monosyllables because I don't trust myself. I keep feeling the urge to tell him the story stuck in my head (Almansa, La Mancha, Laura), but I don't want to share it. It will make me look stupid.


"How long have you been practicing law?" asks Father M after several minutes of silence.


"Twenty years," I reply, sipping more wine, hoping he will change the subject.


"And you were married for a long time?" he asks.


"Yes," I reply. "Pass the salt, please?


After a few more questions from him and one-word answers from me, Father M finally gives up on trying to converse and focuses on eating his dinner instead. He dissects his prime rib in careful strokes, like a butcher inspecting his meat. Finally realizing that the waters of this conversation have become mud, I try to reignite it with one of my war stories from work.


"Among lawyers," I say, "New York law firms have the reputation of being sweatshops, and I have the dubious honor of having worked at one of the worst ones. As a young man fresh out of law school, I was the perfect target for billing-hungry partners. I can't tell you how many hours I spent at my desk, how many overnighters I pulled, and how many social engagements I canceled because some senior partner told me I was "needed at the office.' That was my life in New York."


I give Father M. a sad look, expecting sympathy for my work misery, but my war story didn't have the impact I expected. Father M looks bored, and he is yawing.


"I'm sorry," he says. "I'm drained tonight. Please go on; I'm listening."


I don't believe him. I go back to drinking. "Waiter, another bottle of wine, please." I drink and ponder as Father M continues chewing his meal, slowly but surely. I have lost Father M, so I turn my attention instead to the restaurant crowd and eavesdrop on the conversations going on at other tables.


The woman in pink, at the table by the window: "That bitch, who does she think she is telling me what to do. I'll quit before I ever work for her again."


The bald man sitting with another bald man, "How's your pasta? Mine is overcooked. I think this place is overrated."


Everyone in my imagination: "What the hell is that muscle hottie doing here with that curly-haired guy?"


The chatter from the other tables only holds my interest for so long. My mind is playing that record again. It's stuck on that story. Almansa, La Mancha, Laura.


"Don't tell that story," I say to myself. So I focus on Father M chewing instead.


I start chewing on my lips, biting the inside of my cheeks, but after a while, I cannot restrain myself anymore. "I like to travel," I blurt out sheepishly, like a child who can't keep a secret. "Nothing fascinates me more than traveling on roads that never end, lost in places strange and unpredictable."


"What?" he says, noticing the abrupt transition in my mood.


"Some time ago," I tell him, "Laura and I decided to tour Spain by car and by foot . . . ."


* * *

"The days were purposely unstructured. . .".


We would travel a few hours by car, then stop at any town or village, buy the local cheese, sample a new variety of olives, drink red wine, enjoy jamón serrano (cured ham), and delight in rustic bread. In Almansa, a small town in the Castilla-La Mancha region, we hopped from shop to shop buying queso manchego and well-made glazed pottery. We ate and walked. Streets without cars, houses all painted white.


Like all proper tourists, we sought souvenirs that would remind us of Almansa when we were back home. But home was nothing like Almansa. Home was dark canyons amongst the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Home was having Laura say, "you don't listen to me anymore."


Towards early afternoon in Almansa, we had meandered to the town center—a plaza with palm trees and a large crowd of adults mulling around. We imagined everyone was waiting for a parade or perhaps a folkloric dance. We sat among the crowd and ate bread and cheese without knowing what to expect. Like everyone else, we stared at a white building at the plaza's edge. I assumed it was a church or a civic building.


At three o'clock, bells rang, and the doors of the building in the plaza swung open in silence. I hadn't realized that this was a school. Children of all ages walked or ran out of the building, wearing uniforms that looked like white lab coats. First, only two children came out of the building, hand in hand. Then a child by himself, followed by three walking calmly; then seven children chatting; then a multitude. The students mingled into the crowd as if they were dancers. They said goodbye to each other. Some continued talking in intimate small huddles, like lovers, clasping hands as they walked away from the school or ran towards their parents. Within thirty minutes, the plaza was empty, except for Laura and me. We were mesmerized by the beauty and unexpected simplicity of this letting out of school.


After watching the tenderness displayed between parents and children, we headed to a local artisan shop to buy more glazed jars with happy rabbits and deer jumping. Many of the glazed jars broke on the trip back home to Manhattan. Over the years, more and more of the precious Almansa jars chipped, cracked, or disappeared. We would wrap the jars carefully in newspaper and towels each time we moved, but everything is inevitably damaged when transitioning from one stage of life to another.


Each new home became a place for further arguments. Home was having Laura ask me, "Why don't we don't we do fun things anymore?" Home was having Laura accuse me, "Where are you all the time? I don't feel you are here with me." Home was Laura, questioning why we didn't have sex anymore. I did not know what to say to her because I loved her and yet could not love her.


In the end, when Laura and I divorced, we had only two Almansa jars left. We each kept one. She uses hers as a flower pot. It is muddy, with most of the glazed finish chipped off. She has planted it with flowering sedums.


"I have kept the other Almansa jar in my living room for many years, well-polished and prominently placed over my mantelpiece."


* * *

I have lost track of how long I've been babbling. I had not meant to tell that story.


Father M puts down his silverware. "I like your story," he tells me slowly as if he's thinking of something.


I don't believe him. I don't trust him. I take another sip of wine.


"It says a lot about you and Laura," he says.


"I don't know why Almansa came to mind," I tell him. "Maybe remembering the bright Spanish sun is warming me up tonight. I caught a lot of cold wind while waiting for you outside."


He looks at me with those mysterious grey eyes and that permanently fixed smile. He stretches out his hand to hold my hand, but as he does so, he clumsily knocks over a glass of water. It spills towards me, drenching my pants.


The waitress comes running to the table. "Sir, are you wet?" she asks Father M. She doesn't take notice of my trousers, so wet that they cling to my legs.


"I'm alright," says muscle boy, "but my poor companion is as wet as a baptized baby."


Kasha is lost. She's wondering, "what companion?" Oh yes, the one with the curls. "Do you need a towel," she asks me begrudgingly.


"I'm fine," I answer. "The water didn't even touch me." Water drops are falling from my side of the table to my chair and unto the floor. We all pretend not to notice. Always the martyr.


* * *


We are outside. It's that awkward moment that awaits all first dates, the moment in which we must decide if the date continues or ends, if we'll see each other again, whether we'll kiss goodbye, passionately, sexually.


"I'll walk you to your car," he says.


Someone seems to have eaten Father M's tongue, so I take charge of the conversation. "The flirts in the restaurant were all over you," I tell him. "It was almost as if I were not even there. I suppose this will be something I have to get used to," I conclude.


"If you want me to, I'll try to hunch over to look smaller next time, and I'll contort my face into a horrible shape. Do you truly think those girls didn't realize I'm gay?"


"Well," I offer, "perhaps they were attracted to your shirt."


Father M touches his body to feel what it is he's wearing. "You know," he says. "I didn't even remember I had this on. It's as if it were my second skin."


Our walk is over, and we are standing in front of my car. I make a mental note that next time (if there is a next time), I have to park further away.


"Do you want me to give you a ride home?" I ask sheepishly. What I want to ask is, should we share our bodies? Should I give my entire self over to you?"


He pats me on the back and gives me a big hug. There is no kissing, no passion.


"Good night, my friend," says Father M. "I was intrigued by your story. Maybe we should see each other again?"


I open my car, sit behind the wheel, and look in my rear glass mirror. I can see him as he walks back home. He slowly strides as if he's thinking about something. Maybe Almansa, La Mancha, or Laura are on his mind. I look in the rearview mirror again. This time I see my eyes. I wonder if Father M knows that I also have grey eyes.


May 2004


No further contact. Neither with him nor with Laura.


This piece explores a man's struggle to reach perfection and his inner self. These are images of men reaching for the heavens in poses that invoke classical and heroic images. They each have a strong muscular body, and often a bold expression on their face in an effort to be taken seriously. Many are standing or sitting with hands on their hips and legs spread apart. This is generally a pose of confidence, control, resolve and power. The collage is made out of paper and watercolor. We might not reach perfection, but this art piece might help spiritual men to get closer. Adorn your home, office or man cave with the beautiful work of a man in his prime; reminders of beauty, athleticism, and spirituality.
Reaching for the Heavens

Ernesto Beckford

March 26, 2023

© Ernesto Beckford 2023


Links to the Collages Used in this Blog (Click on the Picture):

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