Take it on Faith (7)
Am I smiling too little? Too much? Can anyone see my nerves? I hoped not, at least not beyond some socially acceptable awkwardness. Hoping that I wasn’t drawing any unwanted attention to myself, I made my way to my seat and looked at my program. We would open with communion, listen to a brief speech from our Lord Protectorate, and then have dinner.
As I turned the page to look at the menu, three very similarly dressed blonde White women joined me at my table. They introduced themselves as Hannah, Mary and Rachel, and told me about how my devotions helped them through the most difficult times of their lives. I was glad that I was able to help them. They seemed nice enough, but I still had to keep my guard up.
Several caterers came and gave us each a communion wafer with the New Wine logo embossed on the front and a splash, almost a proper serving, of red wine in a glass. As much as I wanted to make the most of this opportunity, I knew that alcohol would cause me to lower my guard. Besides, there was a chance that this was grape juice, or maybe cran-grape, judging by the vibrant red color. Either way, by taking a sip, I was drinking to my own damnation.
When the time came to eat and drink, I let the wafer melt under my tongue along with everyone else. It vanished in an instant as if it had never been there at all. As I took a sip, I tasted tannin, but no alcohol. This was definitely cran-grape juice. After draining the rest of my glass, I started talking with Rachel some more. She told me she felt immense pressure to conform in the world, which was rather true.
After the communion elements were collected, I tried to get settled. As our Lord Protectorate made his way onstage, the whole room snapped to attention like a marching band. I didn’t know if anyone else felt this way, but a feeling of discomfort crept over me as he spoke.
He told us that his goal was to make the Liberty Empire a queer-free nation within five years and that we should be proud of our work. My unease turned into rage as if something flipped a switch in my brain. The Lord Protectorate incited genocide and everyone applauded. I looked around to see the women at my table standing and applauding. He went on to say how eliminating queers would keep the children of the Empire safe. Bile rose in my throat as I thought about what could happen to Lance and Meifeng. I knew our politicians didn’t give a shit about children. Every single one of them would shoot a queer child point-blank on live TV if it meant protecting the Empire’s image.
Right as the speech ended, waiters gave us salads and cucumber water. Being rather thirsty, I found myself downing a full glass in less than a minute. After taking a few awkward bites of salad, we all gave our dinner orders to the waiters coming around. I chose chicken marsala for my dinner and a boxed cookie sampler as my dessert. That way, I could take some cookies home for the girls.
Despite my nerves, I was rather hungry. I cleaned my plate in a matter of minutes and ate one of the cookies. I didn’t really know what it tasted like though, since my mind was everywhere else but the present moment. After stowing the remaining cookies in my purse, I made a beeline for the door. When one of the security people questioned me, I said that one of my kids wasn’t doing well and that I needed to be home as soon as possible.
Aside from the usual hum of traffic, some horns, and a couple of gunshots, the drive home was pretty quiet. Even if I was safe for now, however, I knew that violence always followed incitements of state-sanctioned hatred. That wasn’t a matter of if, but when. All I could do at this point was wait for the light to turn green and hope that I could live to see the next day.