Written by Myron J. Clifton
Notice from the author: This short series about Jamaal and his struggles with his local family church – which was written last year – was so well received that it remains one of the most popular series on Dear Dean. At the request of numerous readers I have decided to revisit Jamaal and his church friends, preachers, and colorful church members.
Before I continue the story, I am re-running the original story so you may reacquaint yourself with Jamaal and his Church Stories. The new material will immediately follow the conclusion of this original series.
“Now the Young Lady was Beautiful of Face and Form” -Esther 2:7
After Sundays, Friday nights were the biggest and best church nights. More people showed up, more choir members sang, and folk dressed better than Monday – Thursday, but not as good as they would eventually dress on Sunday. Church would last until midnight and then many folk would go to dinner and be out until the early morning. It was like a party, then after party, but just for the church crowd. And Jamaal’s party had already started.
Jamaal was in the parking lot, in Felicia’s car, and they were making out. Her lips were so soft, Jamaal was thinking. And her lipstick, balm, or whatever it was, was sweet smelling and tasting. Jamaal really liked making out with Felicia and he hoped they could stay outside all night.
Felicia was more experienced in kissing than he was, but he was catching on quickly he told himself.
Too quickly, it turns out.
Felicia laughed and said, “I told you I’m gonna pop that cherry, boy. Clean yourself and get in the church,” she said as she laughed her way out of the car.
“Shoot, I did pretty good, I guess,” Jamaal told himself, as he cleaned up and trailed Felicia into church.
Church was rocking. Most of the choir was there and they were singing the song they’d practiced earlier in the week. Felicia went around back and joined the choir right on queue as if nothing was amiss. Of course, everyone in the church saw her enter late – Bishop the choir director gave her a dirty look – and everyone saw that, too. Some members took a break from singing, clapping, and dancing in the aisles to notice that Jamaal had come in right after Felicia.
There were no secrets in church.
The choir was singing and reaching one of those crescendos that seem to be the end of the song, but turns out to just be about mid-way. And they kept singing.
Jamaal, who did not join the choir late, sat way over to the side and ignored the looks and pleas from fellow choir members, Bishop, and a few other members to join the choir. He wasn’t in the mood and no matter what anyone said or did, he’d decided he wouldn’t sing.
Jamaal was a terrible singer anyway and everyone knew. But in church they’d all just say, quoting the Psalmist: Make a Joyful Noise unto The Lord. That was the excuse for bad singers like Jamaal.
Not tonight, though, because Jamaal wasn’t singing. He was watching the loud mouth evangelist who, like Jamaal, had arrived late. He was at church early – Jamaal had seen his car – but he was late coming into the sanctuary. And then Sis Julie walked in late and just after the loud mouth evangelist.
Jamaal wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. All the folk who noticed him come in right after Felicia, noticed the loud mouth evangelist and Sis Julie come in one after another.
The choir sang on for what seemed like thirty minutes because it was thirty more minutes.
Finally, they stopped, and soon after the loud mouth evangelist was up preaching. He was going on and on, again, about promiscuous women and how “Eve caused Adam to sin, thus enslaving all mankind to evil. Through Eve’s original sin, we were all separated from God and only God’s son could reconcile sinners to God. Eve didn’t trust God’s word, so don’t be like Eve. Don’t be loose with the truth or ANYTHING ELSE!! WOMEN NEED TO REPENT AND STOP LEADING MEN TO HELL AND ETERNAL DAMNATION! I AM SPEAKING THE WORD OF GOD! THAT IS WHY JESUS DIDN’T GET MARRIED! HE DIDN’T WANT OR NEED ANY TYPE OF DISTRACTION FROM GOD’S PURPOSE! SO IF YOU ARE MARRIED.. WOMEN, I AM TALKING TO YOU.. THEN YOU NEED TO GET BEHIND YOUR HUSBAND AND OBEY HIM LOVE HIM SUPPORT HIM AND TELL HIM THE TRUTH!!
The older church women were in a frenzy now, while many of the younger ones were, too, but they were also shaking their heads toward their friends and boyfriends which was a way of saying “I don’t agree with that part” without actually having to say that out loud. They’d all talk about it later at the restaurant, Jamaal thought.
Sis Julie just sat and cried though, and Jamaal noticed and wondered why.
Later when counting the money and when he and Sis Julie were alone, Jamaal decided to ask her why she was crying.
“I saw you crying out there,”was Jamaal’s way of asking. Sis Julie just kept counting. Her “private” stash looked like more than one-hundred dollars, but Jamaal thought he’d better not say anything.
She kept counting and Jamaal kept staring at her tight blouse.
“Because he told me I am a whore. That’s why. I hate preachers. And I hate that fucker the most.”
Jamaal didn’t think he had ever heard anyone say the “F” word in church.
“Why he say that?” was all Jamaal could ask.
“He said I shouldn’t have been screwing him. That I needed to get control of my life, close my legs, and seek Jesus.”
Jamaal was quiet because he really didn’t know what to say or even think.
“He said all that after we finished fucking and I asked him if we can be a couple. I know I’m married, but I need attention and my drug addict so-called husband ain’t coming back and I don’t want him back anyway. I like Jesse (Jamaal realized this was the first time he’d ever heard anyone say the name of the loud mouth evangelist. He hated the name Jesse, he decided) and I know he likes me. We’ve been together for a year. Well, every time he comes to town we get together. He never sees his wife because he’s always on the road. We can be a couple.”
“But he calls ME a whore and HE is fucking me and HE is married too!”
Sis Julie put more money into her stack as she seemed to be getting angrier and angrier.
“That might be too much-” Jamaal said and instantly regretted.
“It’s NONE of your business, child. NONE. He doesn’t deserve one PENNY of this church’s money.”
“I agree.” Jamaal said, which seemed to catch Sis Julie off guard.
“Here. You take some, then. You can go buy yourself some condoms because if you are having sex with Felicia, you’d better have some protection.”
Jamaal was sweating. And quiet. And wondering how could she know what happened tonight before church? And we didn’t have sex! Well, she didn’t. Wait, I didn’t either, really.
But he said nothing.
“Look. I saw you in the parking lot because I was in the parking lot. With him. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.” (Actually, she had told a few people already).
“Jamaal, please don’t tell anyone about what I said, okay?” I don’t want any problems for him or me and I sure as hell don’t want any of these nosy church women asking me questions. Or your grandfather.”
“Okay, I won’t,” Jamaal responded. He meant it, too, since he didn’t even know who to tell or what to even say.
Sis Julie slipped what had to be two-hundred or more dollars into her purse, put the rest in an envelope and wrote on top of the envelope: $1845.64 for the motherfucker!
Sis Julie stood up, faced Jamaal and looked at him. “You’re gonna be handsome when you finish growing up,” as she pressed herself into him and kissed him on the lips.
Years later Jamaal would recall only that she smelled good and that her lips were soft, and that after church, at the restaurant, Felicia asked him who he had been kissing on because his lips had lipstick on them and it wasn’t her color. Jamaal learned that night that not all red lipstick is the same, even if they looked the same to him.
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