BIGJIM367 WARNED ME
You suggest going to the movies which I don’t think is a very good idea because I googled “first date tips” and bigjim367 on Reddit said movie dates were a “no-go,” but I say yes anyways.
You arrive six minutes late but I feign surprise as you greet me; I was too busy typing gibberish in my notes app to notice.
You hold the theater door open for me, I guess chivalry isn’t dead, and I protest a socially acceptable amount when you pay for my ticket.
You walk with me over to the snack bar and now it’s your turn to protest as I pay for your small Diet Pepsi and a measly bag of tepid popcorn that will put me in financial ruin for the foreseeable future.
You will only tell me months later that you can’t eat popcorn because it upsets your stomach but I guess that isn’t a very sexy topic of conversation.
You lead us to our seats as the lights go down and my asshole is working overtime to keep the anxiety shits at bay.
You lean closer to me and our shoulders brush and now I can’t even focus on the movie because I can smell your shampoo and I want to ask if it’s Head and Shoulders but we’re watching a movie and you’re supposed to be quiet and also that would be weird.
You are making me nervous.
You have us sit through the credits because you “like to recognize the unseen heroes of the industry.”
You take me back to your dorm where your roommate is attempting to make pasta.
You humor her and offer up the rest of your Trader Joe’s cacio e pepe sauce as I stand awkwardly in the corner.
You close the door, the clicking of the lock tells me we’re going to have sex.
You ask to kiss me.
You kiss me.
You lay me down on your twin XL and I’m trying to focus on your mouth but your sheets are really soft and I’m making a mental note to thank your mom for financing this high thread count.
You take off my clothes and I take off yours and we both act like we always wear matching lingerie and shave down to a tasteful amount of stubble every morning.
You tell me it’s okay when I can’t come and give me a Tide Pod scented t-shirt.
I tell you I like you.
You tell me you liked the movie.
I AM YOUR POSTULATE
Last night your words etched lines of crimson into my upper thighs. But tonight, your tongue smoothes them over like a spiritual salve. The same hands with pink fingers and white-tipped knuckles that were pressed together in prayer have traded the divine for flesh. You fuck me with conviction. The hard edge of the pew digs into my lower back and the wool plaid of my skirt feels scratchy against my bare thighs and the glassy eyes of mother Mary bore holes into my head and oh… Is that what the Holy Spirit is supposed to feel like? Now I understand why those girls on those tapes you show me say “Oh my God.” Your fingernails dig like thorns into my side. I choke around my words. I chance a touch on the supple skin of your cheek but you wretch away like you’ve been burned. You call me a “dyke.” I let you because I know you’re scared. You adjust your skirt, rolling the waistband back up like I never have the guts to do. The clacking of your Mary Janes sounds final as you leave, but you love to be worshiped. I’ll see you again tomorrow.
We’ve been sitting on this bench for far too long.
The ray of sunlight that stretched across
the other side of the park
is now burning a trail down my back.
I become self-conscious
as I catch my warped reflection
in the pupil of your eye,
my nose jutting out between my sunburnt cheeks.
I turn my attention to the trees above us
and count leaves
as you tell me about the other girl you’re seeing.
You drove down to her house last week.
She has one of those crusty white dogs.
You sent her a letter.
Why didn’t you send me a letter?
She also plays the guitar.
I bet she’s better than me.
You slept with her.
You say you’re confused.
I should’ve picked a bigger tree.
HONEST-TO-GOD JESUS CAMP
I went to Jesus camp. Not oh-my-God-my-parents-are-so-annoying-for-sending-me-here let-me-live-out-my-horny-fantasies Jesus camp, but oh-my-word-I-memorize-bible-verses-and-hate-gay-people Jesus camp. Every year for nine years, my parents’ 2007 Honda Odyssey would be my ark to take me from sinful suburban New Jersey to the promised land of Boswell, Pennsylvania. Squished between a duffel bag and my brother’s stinky feet, we would play the license plate game and ask “what’s an abortion?” when we’d pass by those billboards with full-grown toddlers poorly photoshopped into wombs.
Arriving at camp, we’d immediately be swarmed by fresh-faced counselors gyrating to Christian rap. Sending your child away for two weeks and simultaneously having them indoctrinated with the word of God for only $700 was a dream for most middle-class families. My brother would get dropped off at his cabin and I’d quickly be ushered to the “girls side” of camp because of the strict “no purpling” rule: boys are blue and girls are pink and if you make purple an angel dies… or some bullshit like that.
For the first couple of summers, it was great. I’d swim in the lake in my God-honoring one-piece bathing suit, whisper about the cute boy in cabin 5, and put my hands in the air during the bridge of the hymn when I thought I was supposed to feel something. Chloe and I would make bets on which counselors were secretly in love and who could eat the most cheesy breadsticks at dinner. (It was Tom and Katie and it was 13, she won both times.)
Then, after two weeks of learning about the almighty power of God, I’d return to my hometown emboldened with the attitude of a 40-year veteran Southern Baptist preacher. That would last a couple weeks until the worldly desires of PG-13 movies and full-sugar sodas would lure me back into their clutches. And the cycle would repeat… until I found out that I was gay. I could no longer explain away my obsession with certain counselors as “wanting to love the Lord like her” or blaming my flushed cheeks on the sun when Emily’s fingers grazed the inside of my wrist as she tied our matching friendship bracelets.
My future was fading away. Instead of going to Liberty University as a nursing major, marrying my college sweetheart named Tucker who drives a Ford F-150, and having three children (two boys and one girl) by the time I was 25, I was now resigned to have hairy armpits, major in Women’s Studies at Smith College, and spontaneously develop an affinity for softball. I’d lie awake in my bunk, asking God to make me straight. He didn’t answer. One time I thought I heard the Holy Spirit whispering to me but it was just a mosquito buzzing in my ear.
I didn’t understand why God was doing this. Is it because I rolled my Soffe shorts above my fingertips? Or because I took the Lord’s name in vain when I rolled my ankle during kickball? Was it because I googled “girls kissing” on the family computer?
I went back the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, hoping my pleas would finally be heard. Well, I have news for my younger self–I only have hairy armpits when I forget to buy razors, I’m not a Women’s Studies major, and I’ve never played softball. But I am still very gay.
Liv Campbell is an aspiring screenwriter and current student at New York University. You can find her writing in the “writing” folder on her laptop.