|Two Stories - Missionaries and Realism
Copyright 2023 by Gloria Mesa
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto: at Pexels.
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
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.
hang around the center of town - town “square” - the
oddly painted “park,” that’s just benches and a
pavilion, and I watch.
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.
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.
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?
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
day later, or is it the same day? Was it in the morning? I can’t
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.
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.
or so missionaries, and not one of them says anything, does anything
- tries to help me.
they come to try to “help” us?
kind of a change are they making I wonder.
things seem too good to be true. Or at least, too crazy.
I was about 14 years old, I made myself up an imaginary friend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
was part Filipina, don’t ask me why, and a bottle blonde, who
wore a lot of makeup.
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.
don’t know when or why I stopped thinking about her. I think I
got distracted thinking about celebrities and watching music videos
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
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
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.
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.
it was a moment before I realized the connection.
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.
couldn’t help voicing the coincidence to her out loud, though
the backstory took some explaining.
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.”
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.”
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.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Gloria
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