Excerpt: 'The Sexual Lives of Missionaries' by Kyle Minor


Mahana no atua (Day of God), Paul Gauguin, 1894

From Guernica:

In Koulèv-Ville, Haiti, spring of 1983, the bachelor missionary Samuel Tillotson stropped his father’s straight razor on the leather he hung from a ring on a nail he’d driven into the cinderblock beside the mirror in his quarters, which were smaller than everyone else’s, but it wasn’t the quarters he minded, it was his growing sense of loneliness, all kinds of loneliness. He finished preparing the razor and he made the lather in the bucket of water he had brought from the kitchen, and as he shaved his face he couldn’t help thinking of the day at age five he walked in on his mother grooming herself with her razor in the bathtub, and she said, If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. But it wasn’t true. There were big ones and small ones and medium-sized ones, blonde and brunette, and even bald ones, ones of various shades of reds and pinks and purples and browns, fat ones and skinny ones, elongated ones and compact ones, ones that tasted this way or that way, smelled this way or that way, responded this or that way to the touch of this or that. He chased ones of every kind, he found one he wanted to settle down with, he lost that one after sneaking off with another one, and then he was seized by the attentions of a higher One, but he didn’t forget about the other ones.

He was also lonely for the friendship of men, and not the thin pleasantness that passed for friendship around the mission, but the kind of bosom friendship he had found with Leslie Ratliff, his roommate at Apalachicola Bible College, whom he was able to see less and less often in the years since he had started his work in Haiti. Once a year or so, he traveled home to perform the exotic missionary patter known to take pockets and turn them inside-out—the hope of God for the hungry and the fleabitten, the long tradition of yellow jungle planes greeted by savages bearing sticks, the trick of wretch-saving grace. Leslie set up the itinerary. Churches and schools, Fellowships of Christian Athletes, Youth for Christ, Young Life, the occasional Rotary or Kiwanis Club if the membership was sufficiently Baptist.

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