But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father with art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6: 6-15
The Prodigal Son has returned.
For a certain man had two sons: one a son and the other a daughter.
And the son was the elder and the daughter was the younger, but the prodigal—the wanderer—was the elder and the faithful was the younger.
And the elder of them said to his father, Fuck you. You can keep that portion of goods that falleth to me. Give it to your daughter, who is faithful to you and doesn’t understand what kind of bastard you are. I’m done here. We’re through.
And the father said to elder, Leave. You have divided unto us our living.
And not many minutes after the elder son gathered all together, he took his journey into a far country, searching for something he could not name.
In the eyes of his father, he wasted his substance with riotous living, for any living outside the Way was riotous. In the eyes of his mother, he wasted his soul on blasphemous doctrine, for any words outside the Word was blasphemous. In the eyes of his sister, he wasted nothing. And in the eyes of God, he did not know.
And he spent all his substance, searching.
And when he had spent all he found he had not spent all, for where there is a will, there is a way, and God helps those who help themselves.
But then there arose a mighty famine in the land, a plague which has no origin except inside the mind, and for a time he was protected against the disease, immune to its grasp.
For the elder son, the prodigal wanderer, fell in love. He arrived in that unknown place and joined himself to a citizen of that country—another prodigal son, whose prodigality was open and accepted by all those who knew him.
Yet not accepted by all the citizens in the country. The famine spread, the plague followed, whispering and hissing like bats in the darkness until some citizens blamed the prodigals for the disease. They stripped them, sent them to the fields, stripped them again, and staked their hearts, leaving the body for swine.
But it happened that the swine that did feed on the bodies of the prodigals became sick and possessed with evil spirits. The people feared that demons roamed the land, vampires risen from the bodies in the fields. Every night, young virgins were found dead, naked and drained of blood.
Alejandro feared for them and would fain have fled to another country, to Egypt, being warned of experience not to remain in the land. His lover was loath to depart and, assured in his faith in people, persuaded Alejandro to remain.
Then there came two angels to Sodom at even and Alejandro sat in the gate of Sodom, and Alejandro seeing them rose up and ran, hiding his face among the throng that pressed around.
And he said to his lover, I pray you arise, and take what we need and flee into Egypt, and be us there until there is word that these storms have passed: for the angels have come, seeking to destroy.
And they made great haste to depart.
But before they could leave, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all people from every quarter:
And they called unto Fernando, and said unto him, Where are you fags? Fuckin cocksuckers where the fuck are you? We know what you do at night, come out on the street and suck me off, fuckin Sodomite. I know you’re in there. Come out on the street, Fernando, and bring your fucktoy with you. The angels’re here—we’ll play nice.
And Alejandro looked at Fernando, mind spinning, trying to find a way of escape.
But Fernando reached out, took his lover’s hand and drew him close in the darkness. He caressed his face, touched his body to memorize the lines of muscle and bone. Fernando kissed his lover softly, desperately, without apology and without regret in the darkness that would have to be their silence, for the crowd outside screamed and jeered, threw stones at their window and slammed against the door.
And Fernando said to Alejandro, I pray you, remember me.
Alejandro kissed him.
And Fernando said to Alejandro, I pray you, remember us.
Banging at the door, holding each other in the darkness. Fernando punched him. Alejandro doubled over. And in those few seconds they were separated, Alejandro realized what his lover would do. He ran.
But he was late.
Fernando went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him.
I pray you, remember me.
I pray you, remember us.
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of the mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
And he had two wives; the name of one was Hanna, and the name of the other as Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hanna had no children.
And this man when up out of his city early to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.
And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
But unto Hanna he gave a worthy portion, for he loved Hanna: but the Lord had made her a man.
And her adversary also provoked her sore, because the Lord had made her a man.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat, and was afraid.
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hanna, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than whatever body thou seekest? I love thee in whatever form thou takest, whether it be man or woman.
So Hanna rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid an answer, why thou didst give unto me this alien body, if thou wilt give unto thine handmaid a sign, an assurance that thou art merciful and seeth all things, knoweth the pain of our souls and the sorrow of our hearts.
If thou wilt give unto thine handmaid an answer, if thou wilt give unto thine handmaid an answer, for all about me are thy people, O Lord, and they mock me, provoke me, they tell Elkanah, they tell me that I am insane, diseased.
Am I not one of thy people, Lord? Was I not created by thee? Wherefore didst thou give me this alien body if thou knowest truly who I am? Wherefore didst thou? Wherefore? Who are thy people, O Lord of hosts, who are thy people?
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me.
Remember those thy people hast denied, the insane and helpless, the poor and confused, the demons and perverts, the alien and unknown.
Remember those that weep in silence.
If thou wilt look on the affliction of these, terrified and silent, and remember us.
Then I will live all the days of my life.
For that is all I can give.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
Now Hanna, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And Eli said unto her, Thou hast no place in the house of the Lord, perversion that thou art. Leave. Thou smellest of drink.
And Hanna did not move, only continued to pray, and said, O Lord of hosts, I have poured out my soul before thee.
Then Eli gathered the people and they took Hanna, threw her from the temple, and stripped her of her raiment, and beat her, leaving her half dead.
And the people answered and said, Never return: and the God of Israel grant us our petition, that thou diest in a field and the carrion of the sky feed upon thy body.
And she prayed, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me.
And she lay in the field, and by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
And a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where she was: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
But Elkanah her husband was searching for her, and as night fell he came to where she was: and when he saw her, he almost despaired.
And Elkanah went to her, and bound up her wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set her on his own breast, and brought her home, and took care of her.
And on the morrow when he had needs depart, for certain business required him to be in Bethlehem, he woke at dawn, took her hands and kissed them. He laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
After that he poured water into a basin, and began to wash Hanna, kissing her wounds, weeping her tears.
And he whispered to her, Hanna, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? do I not love thee in whatever body thou takest? do I not love thee in whatever form the Lord hast given thee?
Hanna, why weepest thou? and why is thy heart grieved? is love not enough to carry us through?
And he took an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious, and he brake the box, and poured it on her head.
And the Lord remembered them.
Then the angels of Sodom said, Behold, the prodigal went out into the night. Search the city, let not one stone be left unturned. Bring forth the prodigals that are hid as termites in the city, bring forth the transvestites living in the catacombs. Bring them and we will take them to the river Jordan. Dip them in the water seven times and if the leprosy remains, mark their foreheads and burn them.
But Hanna had brought Alejandro up to the roof of the house, and hid him in the attic among her dildos and dollhouses. And the mob pursued after ghosts the way to Jordan unto the fords, and when she saw that they were gone out of the city, she brought Alejandro food to eat and water to drink, but he did not touch the meal.
Hanna said unto Alejandro, I know not what vow you have made unto the Lord, but I know your terror. For I have seen how the Lord may dry up rivers of hope, and I have tasted your desperation, and I see in your eyes a prayer I uttered long ago.
And as soon as I saw these things, my heart did freeze, and became inflamed with fear. For you will no longer stand in sound, but breathe in silence, and it will strangle you if you forget to speak.
But Alejandro heard not these words as he stared out the window where the fields were burning. He became a pillar of salt, the whites of his eyes turning yellow at the sight.
Hanna drew him away from the window lest the mob return and discover Alejandro, but Alejandro stood, hearing nothing but the blaring of trumpets and the smashing of pitchers as the mob cried, The sword of the Lord! The armor of the Ephesians!
And they dragged men and women out of the crevices of the city, men and women taken in prodigality, and set them in their midst.
They said unto themselves, The law commands us that such should be stoned, so they cast stones at the prodigals,
For there was none to answer them by stooping down to write on the ground, none to say unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.
There was none to speak the word and write it on the ground, so instead the word was spoken in stones breaking bones tearing flesh, salt blinding sight killing men.
Hanna drew him away from the window, saying, The Lord your God sent not these angels, for he seeth all things and heareth your prayers in secret. Remember this, I pray you, and swear unto me that you will save alive yourself, and those you hold dear, and deliver yourself from death.
And Alejandro turned away, saying, There are none I hold dear, for they have killed Fernando, and all around the people search for me. We are the plague of the world, we spread disease in darkness and fear in light, and shall never walk in the paths of righteousness.
We are the multitudes unseen in the waters, and when we open our mouths, we scream out, saying,
Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the city that leads into temptation and the winding paths of plague.
Blessed are the fucked in heart, for their bodies shall water the earth, shall float bloated in the river Jordan down to the namelessness of the sea.
Blessed are the queer, for they shall mourn, and be sodomized by the rod and staff meant to comfort the sheep.
Blessed are the freaks, for they shall be bitter.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for their throats shall burn and their stomachs fill with gas in a mockery of satiation.
Blessed are we, when men revile us, and persecute us and slam our heads against cement, break our ribs with steel toed boots and crush our windpipes with brass knuckles.
And Hanna answered, saying unto him,
Blessed are we, who have no prayers or place, no literature or language, to define our identity and speak of our faith, who are voiceless in the song of worship, but offer prayers in secret.
Blessed are we, who choose soullessness over suicide and live outside the holy city in leper colonies, because our time on earth is the only Heaven we’re allowed, and that memory may sustain us in whatever hereafter that follows.
The Lord your God sent not these mobs, these avenging angels, for he seeth all things and heareth our prayers in secret. Promise you that you will remember, and promise me you will remember without fear.
And Alejandro answered, saying, There is nothing to remember.
And Hanna drew Alejandro into the darkness, saying, Remember this day, and remember who you are. Remember the sound of your voice and the cadence of his name. Remember all this, and remember it without fear, for without memory we are nothing, and without fear we are immortal. Breathe not in silence, and walk in the sound.
Then she kissed him, held him, and let him down by a cord through the window, for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
And she said unto him, Get you to the mountain, lest the angels meet you, hide yourself there three days and afterward may you go your way. Look not back upon the city, for you are a pillar of the salt of the earth, and if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men.
And Alejandro gripped her hand, climbed down from her window and the wall, and disappeared into the night.
He walked for many days back to the house of his father, and in the noonday sun, the prodigal on returned.
Shaking, coughing, choking with silence, he returned to the house of his father, walking up the lane, memories of fires layered over fields, standing in the searing heat of the noonday sun, ready to scream into the sky to keep himself from running.
He walked up, expecting the face of his father.
But his sister met him instead.
His sister, watching down the land, saw him when he was yet a great way off, and loved him, and ran, and fell on his neck, saying his name.
Saying his name in the noonday sun.
“Thank God. Thank God you’re home. Alejandro, thank God you’re home.”
He did not.