Foremost, a Man
The Reverend Gregory Thompson was awake. As he did every night, the Reverend stared into the blackness while oblivious to its presence around him. He gazed through the darkness with a tunnel-like vision, peering beyond it, and into a singular memory which played for him in technicolor on its other side, a memory that shone beacon-like, carrying him back forty years, back to the day when it became obvious to him that his wants and desires must be stashed away in the deepest depths of his mind lest they derail it all; his future, his mission, his eternity. He had kept those wants and desires hidden away now for much the better part of his life it should be noted, but for that one April afternoon, that one indelible Sunday in Miami when some force of nature, be it in the name of good or evil, had allowed him to realize them.
Like it was yesterday the Reverend recalled how his clerical collar scratched at the razor burn on his neck as he roasted hatless beneath a tropical sun. He recalled how the women and children in swimsuits and flip-flops gave him a wide berth, as though he were begging for money, rather than trying to help them... to save them even. He remembered the colorful, frozen cocktails the women carried down the boardwalk even though it was only one o’clock in the afternoon, and how those women averted their eyes as they passed him by. His cheeks burned as he recalled the way the more muscular men silently warned him away before he had even spoken to them. And then there were those others, the ones who politely accepted a prayer card only to drop it to the sun bleached boards once safely past the “crazy preacher-man.”
But then he saw her there before him once again, slicing quickly and easily through the tourist throngs, just as she had done on that day, just as she did every night since, her smile for him alone, the buttons of her blouse straining as though she were overripe. Her skin was toasted brown, her eyes and hair dark, as a latin woman’s are. “Jou are too hot, mi predicador. Come conmigo... I cool jou.”
She had taken his hand in hers. He had followed her pretty, bare feet into a dark cantina where she sat across from him at a table for two. An old man with compassionate eyes poured iced sangria into a tall glass. A ceiling fan creaked above, blowing soft air against his wet skin. Her plump, red lips cooed words he could not understand. He slouched in his seat, the sun having drained him of energy. He drank the sweet wine she held to his mouth, and he bit into orange and lemon slices offered to him by delicate fingers, slices sweeter even than the wine, slices that burst with tangy syrups when punctured by his teeth. He sat patiently for her ministrations, leaning in while her quick fingers wiped the stray juices from the corners of his mouth and lingered there after, as though tempted to enter.
He could still recall most every moment; the way her eyes never left his, the wooden banana crates stacked haphazardly against the back wall and ready to tumble, the smell of frying tortillas, and the sound of happy laughter from the sidwalk. He remembered the feelings of desire, and guilt, and drunkeness. He remembered how his heart raced in a way it never had before, leaving his head light, and his groin heavy. He remembered the desperate urge to get away, and the even stronger urge to stay... and he remembered the bare foot and toes that found their way up to his lap under the table, kneeding him, massaging away any remaining resolve.
He remembered more wine, and then a dark, narrow staircase with loose, creaking steps. He remembered rounded, swaying hips barely concealed by a light summer skirt. He remembered her face as she turned to look at him with eager eyes, their excitement feeding his. He remembered a dimly lit room with dust hanging in the valance. He remembered soft lips, and a probing tongue. He remembered pressing his own lips tight to keep the tongue out, but it had pried, and probed before slithering serpent-like inside. He recalled dueling with it before succumbing, whipping and lashing it with heavy breaths.
The Reverend remembered the way her bare skin felt against his, cool and soft... how the darkness of it contrasted with the pale of his, and how he had absorbed the smells of her perspiration and her woman’s cassolette, exhaling them reluctantly. He remembered her nipples carressing his thighs, and his chest, and he recalled bursting directly before he died.
He woke from death on a beach, where he laid bathed in a tangerine twilight, shoeless, walletless, even his clerical collar gone, but those things were of little matter. There were people walking the beach; lovers holding hands, taking him in, but not approaching; curious people, maybe even concerned people. He remembered walking into the water to wash away the smells, and the feels, and the sins, but he found that sand and saltwater could not scrub some things away.
Forty years later those things still lingered in the dark of night, those sins, and sensations. Forty years later her nipples still carressed his skin, and her tongue still probed, looking for a way inside. She might have been a devil, that woman, but he would have sworn she was an angel, his angel, who showed him what it was to be a man. He remembered her lessons well, every night of his life. It was a feeling he hoped never to forget... not ever, and so he worked to remember.
Even when called home, the Reverend Thompson was certain that he would remember. He had faith that he would remember, just as he had faith in his God, and in a life after death. The Reverend Thompson needed to believe that love was forever, both when he was a man, and when he was not, and so he prayed to his loving God every night before invoking the memory of a sinful, earthly love.