After Morgan Parker
The day I join my boyfriend’s church, they assign me to a small group. This is where I meet Jessica. Jessica is either a few years older, or a few years younger. Jessica is my age. Jessica is welcoming. Jessica is nice. Every week, Jessica’s parents open their house to us—a nice, middle-class apartment, well-furnished, warm-lighting. Drinks served, circle sat, Jessica leads small group sessions from the contents of a small, black notebook given to her by the church. Her mom has one too, but Mrs. Lim leads one of the adult cell groups. The session starts with an ice-breaker—a game called Chubby Bunny. The object is to shove as many marshmallows into your mouth as possible. Ten seconds and I am become Thumper. Jessica only looks half as stupid as I do. Maybe Jessica lets me win. Like I said, she’s nice. Ice freshly broken, she jumps in. Asks the difficulties we’ve been facing lately, waits for answers with encouraging smiles, quotes scripture, tells us we can overcome, prays with us, prays for us. Jessica always asks what we’ve been struggling with. We always share. School work, juggling church and life, little conflicts. Sometimes a story about temptation, already half-overcome in the telling. Often, Jessica shares something too. Some secondary school romance, unequally yoked. “Friends” who kept pressing her to go to that new nightclub. Prioritizing school work over bible study. But Jesus prevails—oh, how great is our God. Once a month, Jessica organizes something bigger. After small group, we bake chocolate cupcakes. Jessica loves baking. Jessica takes photos of us, of the cupcakes, of us holding the cupcakes, and puts them up on Instagram. #churchfriendsforeternity #trinitariansunite #asmallgroupthatbakestogetherstaystogether. The official church account reposts it. Last week, they posted a clip speaking against “same-sex attraction.” A snippet: Do you know why the pride flag has six colors? Because pride is of the devil. And Satan’s number is 666. Mrs. Lim said it was a good message, that Jessica should repost it, but Jessica thought better of it. Jessica has decided she isn’t political. If you ask her opinion, she will tell you that she has gay friends. But they aren’t “gay,” they are attracted to people of the same sex. Gay is an identity, an agenda. But we can be more than our sexual preferences. See? Not political. Anyway, Jessica loves her gay friends. Love the sinner, hate the sin. That’s what Reverend Senior Pastor John says. Pastor John drives a Jaguar. Jessica thinks it was gifted him. A blessing. His eldest daughter studies Theater down south. A blessed family. One weekend, Jessica and Jessica and I take a trip down south together with our boyfriends. We pray for a safe flight. We pray over the foreign room. We pray before partaking of the foreign food. Three girls to a room, three boys to a room in a foreign country. No one sneaks anywhere. We have conversations no one remembers. Some months later, I break up with my boyfriend. I stop going to small group. I never hear from Jessica or Jessica or Jessica again.