Pose: Episode Four

Pray Tell wakes up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat. He changes the sheets and his clothes, and falls asleep again, only to wake up not long after, once again drenched in sweat. He changes his sheets and clothes again, and grazes his finger over a raised bump on his shoulder. The next day, he is at the hospital with Blanca, where Judy is bandaging up his shoulder. She tells him that he has swollen lymph nodes, which is common for those with AIDs. The doctor comes in and is direct when he tells Pray Tell that he has AIDs related lymphoma and doesn’t have any options for treatment that will save him, and only has six months to live. Judy refuses to believe what this doctor says and that they need a second opinion, because she’s seen a lot of AIDs patients in this same situation. Pray says that he knew that he was on borrowed time, but now he KNOWS knows and needs to tell people that he loves them and needs to forgive those from his past.

He takes a bus to Pittsburgh, and then a cab to his mother’s house. He apparently hasn’t been there in twenty or so years, but his mother is still very happy to see him. His two aunts are there as well, and he joins them at the kitchen table. He tells them that he has something to tell them, and one of his aunts, Latrice, doesn’t want him talking about his sexuality again. He dismisses that and tells them that he has AIDs and that he’s dying. All three women react differently, and his mother leaves the room as Pray continuously apologizes to her, even though he should NOT be having to apologize for that at all. Aunt Latrice, who is very faithful, equates this to him being a sinner and that is why he has this deadly disease. His other aunt, Jada, reacts in an opposite manner, which is that of being super supportive and condemning her sister from using the church as an excuse. Aunt Jada then goes to check on Pray’s mother, and Aunt Latrice decides to go to church and tells Pray that he should come with her, especially since the new pastor is someone he knows—Vernon Jackson.

Pray sits in a back pew as his aunt directs two choir singers practicing. He’s moved by their voices and the lyrics of the song they’re singing. Pastor Vernon comes in and sits in the pew behind Pray. They begin talking and Pray finds out that he is married and has three kids with Pray’s old best friend. Pray is astounded by this, and Vernon says he found salvation in the church (aka he was conditioned into thinking that he had to hide his homosexuality and was forced into a traditional marriage). Pray tells him how he sees hundreds of kids flock to the city each year because the church, among others, throws them away because they cannot accept who they are. The Pastor believes he can bring Pray into salvation as well, but Pray tells him that he’s dying from the thing that’s “killing all of us,” to which the Pastor responds, “Us?” He then invites Pray Tell over for dinner, but Pray walks away, knowing that could be a full on disaster.

Pray returns to his mother’s house, where she is sitting in the living room, highlighting bible verses. He tells her that he’s going to Pastor Vernon’s for dinner, and she responds by telling him not to mess with anything because he has been good for the town and has pulled her out of dark times. They get into a little argument, in which Pray claims that all she cares about is “what everyone at the church thinks of you.” He blames her for not coming to his aid when his dad abused him. She tells him to move on and let the past stay in the past. He walks out on her, unable to continue the conversation.

We see a little flashback of a young Pray Tell and Vernon singing in choir, and collecting books from the pews. When they go to drop off the books, Vernon compliments Pray, and they kiss, but get caught by Aunt Latrice. Then, back to the present, Pray is at dinner with Vernon and his family. Vernon is testing his kids on bible verses, and they recite them word by word. The dinner is interrupted, though, when Vernon is called away to do last summons for someone who is about to pass away. Later in the kitchen, Vernon’s wife Ebony and Pray are doing dishes, reminiscing about the old days. Pray asks her how she could be with him when he’s a gay man, but she believes in marriage and believes that he’s a good man, and essentially compartmentalizes that he could not be attracted in that manner. Her excuse is that “the more we hurt, the closer we are to God,” which doesn’t sound right at all. 

Vernon arrives home after dinner to find Pray Tell waiting outside. He asks him on a walk, and they walk to a park that they once frequented as kids. Vernon admits that he still loves Pray Tell and kisses him. He doesn’t care that Pray doesn’t have much longer, he wants to be with him. Pray is unsure about this sudden change of heart, because “My past is not going to change my future.” Nevertheless, he tells Vernon that he is leaving Sunday and his bus leaves at 5pm. Vernon tells him that he’ll be there and they kiss again.

Pray returns back home and finds his mother in her room watching television. She asks him how many times he would take the Greyhound to NYC and he tells her that he would go every other week. She tells him that she would sit waiting for him to come home, and then one time he didn’t. Pray tells her off, saying that they all had their own secrets that they thought others didn’t know, and he wants her to admit those, and admit that she didn’t help him and did wrong by him. She responds, saying how she was scared that she would lose everything she had ever known. She then tells Pray that nothing was ever wrong with him and asks for his forgivingness, to which he accepts. She tells him that she loves him and embraces him. As he’s in her arms, she asks him if he believes in salvation and in God. He tells her that he doesn’t believe the God she does, but in a God. She asks him what his god is like, and he tells her that “He is kind, he is loving, he is forgiving. That is the God that is inside me.” She asks him to visit church with him one more time to give them peace, and if he wouldn’t go for that, then to go for the music.

Pray Tell and his mother arrive to church as service is starting and the choir is singing. As they finish, Pray’s Aunt Latrice asks for Pray Tell to come up to sing. He reluctantly goes up there and begins to sing a song that moves everyone. The entire parish is standing up, one with the music. As he finishes the song in tears, he whispers “Thank you God.”

Pray then goes to eat with Aunt Jada at a diner, telling her that he forgives his mother. Aunt Jada asks for his forgiveness as well for not being there like she should have, and he accepts it. She tells him that she will be with him in his final days and also gives him documents for power of attorney, that if he signs, she will make sure he gets everything he wants. His desire is to die peacefully at home and then be cremated, and have a bit of his ashes in heart lockets for everyone so they always carry a bit of him with them wherever they go.

Later in the day, Pray is waiting at the bus stop, looking in the distance to see if Vernon is coming with him. But, what was expected, is that he doesn’t come, so Pray gets on the bus back to NYC. Then, back in NYC, Pray is at Blanca’s with her, Elektra, Angel and Papi having dinner. They say grace, and dig in to to the food in front of them.

Isabel Maina

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