by Juan Fernando Villagomez

I never went to church before my first week in Catholic school. The student body attended mass every Friday, and before the first service that year, Sister Juanita talked to us at length about the miracle of transubstantiation. “You are literally about to ingest the physical body of Jesus Christ. Think about the importance of that,” she said. “Think about the privilege you have in taking part of the most beautiful miracle in the history of the world.” On the way to mass, she pulled me from the back of the single-file line to remind me that, since I hadn’t yet had my first communion, it would be a sin for me to accept the Eucharist.

I remained seated while everyone else went up—the boys jabbing each other on their arms while the girls fretted over the positioning of their skirts as they stood. But a teacher saw me seated and chastised me for not going to the altar, saying that I should at least receive a blessing from the priest. I got up, confused—was the priest supposed to differentiate me from those taking communion? My arms at my side, hands in my pockets, I told Father Bill I’d never had communion. Without looking down at me, he slurred, “Uh, yeah. Put your hands out.” I cupped my hands, and he set the communion wafer in my palm and half nudged, half pushed me to the side with his limp arm.

I studied the wafer.

Surely, God would be upset with me for refusing his son. But it was a sin for me to eat the wafer. I knew that if I told the nun, I’d get two weeks of after-school kneeling for accepting it.

I shoved Jesus into my pocket and sat with him for the rest of the mass, occasionally slipping my hand in and fingering around for the wafer, trying to get a sense of what was happening. My hands were sweaty; the Jesus wafer started slowly eroding.

Mass ended and we went back to class. Mr. Villagomez started one of his social studies lessons which, of course, turned into a lecture about institutionalized racism in the United States. I continued to sit, hopefully showing no outward signs of panic, half listening to a Chicano separatist monologue and wrestling with the notion of a decomposing carcass in my pocket. By lunchtime, the wafer was fine dust mixed with strands of lint and shreds of an old magazine clipping of a German Shepherd. Jesus died once because of my sins, and I was killing him again.

By the end of the day, I knew he was dead. And I had solidified in my mind a new self-identity—one where I existed in comparability to Pontius Pilate and the Jews who wanted Christs’ head. There was nothing to do except begin to understand myself from the new perspective of deicidal second grader. I raised my hand to go to the restroom. I emptied my pocket into the urinal and watched the scraps of trash, communion wafer, and German Shepherd float a bit. I flushed them down. At the sink, I took a few pulls of the strawberry-scented hand soap and watched the white ceramic turn pink as the water washed over my hands. I got back to class in time for math and managed to memorize my sixes.

About the Author:


Juan Fernando Villagómez is a student of creative writing at the University of Houston. He enjoys writing stories, singing songs, and cooking plants. He currently lives in Houston’s historic East End with his little dog, Abba, and his sweet kitten, Brick.