Two Stories - Missionaries and Realism

Gloria Mesa

© Copyright 2023 by Gloria Mesa


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto: at Pexels.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto: at Pexels.

A group of missionaries arrives, looking to run a “revival” in our little middle-of-nowhere town. They play music in the park and give gifts away to the children. The kids are all happy. Not much happens here.

After all, we’re miles away from much of anything. There are no grocery stores here, no malls. There aren’t even any bookstores or libraries that are ever open. All anyone ever does is party - drinking bootlegged alcohol, or maybe Presidente.

I hang around the center of town - town “square” - the oddly painted “park,” that’s just benches and a pavilion, and I watch.

There’s a man with them who looks out of place with the rest. These others are Dominicans, though not the same sort that they’re preaching to. They are “Capitaleños,” who only come out to the country for a few days to do their missions, and then leave. They don’t live in these shabby conditions with us.

The one who’s out of place is an Asian man. We don’t see those often here. I talk to him, he speaks English. Ahhh, he’s a Canadian. His parents are missionaries here, in the capital.

I feel like the missionaries are just dipping their toes in our world without really getting wet. They come for a visit, preach and put on a concert in the park, and then leave. Did they really get to understand the people at all, talk to them directly, or did they just broadcast their gifts and theology the same way they broadcasted their music over loudspeakers to us all?

It seems like everyone in town came. Even the cute boy wearing makeup I sometimes see around. I don’t know his name, and call him “guyliner,” but I watch him today, in the crowd of unfamiliar faces.

A day later, or is it the same day? Was it in the morning? I can’t remember when.

I walk past the crowd of missionaries on my way home, they’re pouring out of and standing outside the only restaurant in town, like an ebbing pool of bodies, self-absorbed. Chattering. Chattering.

I’m 14.

An old man, old enough to be my grandfather, walks up and grabs me by the wrist. My heart skips in a slight panic as he tries to pull me after him, going…somewhere. I pull myself free. Rush away, speed walking. “Fortunately,” he’s drunk. “Fortunately.”

30 or so missionaries, and not one of them says anything, does anything - tries to help me.

Didn’t they come to try to “help” us?

What kind of a change are they making I wonder. 


Some things seem too good to be true. Or at least, too crazy.

When I was about 14 years old, I made myself up an imaginary friend.

Sad, I know, and I think most people would consider 14 too old to be making imaginary friends, but I was a lonely kid, living in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and making friends just seemed too difficult to be plausible.

It wasn’t like I sat down and decided to create a friend for myself, and it’s not like I pretended she was real, the same way you might when you’re very small.
Instead, I dreamed up a friend I’d like to have in the future and imagined all the sorts of things I would do with her and the interactions we would have someday. If I tell it that way I sound a little more normal.

The girl's name was Michelle, at least, that was the first thing that came to my mind, but I thought it was a little boring, so I changed it to “Michella,” because I was a creative genius.

She was part Filipina, don’t ask me why, and a bottle blonde, who wore a lot of makeup.

I daydreamed up quite a few interactions between myself and this imaginary friend, but of course, things always go much more perfectly in your imagination than they do in real life.

I don’t know when or why I stopped thinking about her. I think I got distracted thinking about celebrities and watching music videos and whatnot.

One day I found myself in a livestream chat awaiting the debut of a new album by a group of pop artists of whom I was a die-hard supporter (a.k.a. fangirl).

Somehow I ended up talking with a German soccer player, who felt out of place being the only boy, (at least vocally) part of that boy band’s fandom. I tried to calm his fears assuring him that I’d met a man from France there only a little while ago, and we chatted, until out of the blue, our conversation drew a curious stranger's attention.

Before I knew it I was chatting with her, talking about her life, and the fire that was in the process of raging outside her house as we spoke. I asked her if we could exchange contacts so we could talk out her anxiety about the fire if she liked, without worrying the other people in the chat.

It wasn’t long before I got to talking with her nearly every day, learning about her and her family, an ethnic melting pot of Hispanic, Japanese, and Filipino.

But it was a moment before I realized the connection.

It was weird, I didn’t know her name, because we were all going by usernames on the internet, but when I saw a picture of her it dawned on me for the first time- she was a bottle blonde with a rather heavy hand in the makeup department.

I couldn’t help voicing the coincidence to her out loud, though the backstory took some explaining.

This is weird, but a while ago I had imagined-up a person who was a lot like you. A bottle-blonde mixed Filipina. Only I thought her name was something like “Michella.”

If anyone believes in magic or destiny they would have felt vindicated at the moment when she replied to me: “That’s kind of like my middle name, it’s Mishell.”

My Name is Gloria Mesa. I am a Black-Hispanic author and poet from Maryland, USA. I’ve been published twice before for essays in a women’s magazine but never for poetry or creative writing.

Contact Gloria
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Another story by Gloria

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher