was looking for myself. Soul-searching, one could say. I was looking for meaning.

I learned that I couldn't get it from a relationship. Atleast not with George or Bob. They were youngsters. Like me, their hormones are what drove them, gave our relationships substance. Aphrodite was my Goddess. And I was unhappy.

So, I went in search of another God.

My mama's family were members of a church called "Iglesia Ni Christo" (Church of Christ, in Filipino). My sister and I attended the church every Sunday since I was little. They would drive us to the chapel, drop us off at the front door, and drive to the back of the parking lot where they would proceed to read the Sunday paper. Neither my mama or papa were members of the church. My papa was born and raised Catholic, now an agnostic. My mama was excommunicated from INC for marrying my father and, although she holds firmly to some of the church's beliefs, she no longer desires membership in it. It was my tita, my mama's sister, and her husband that pushed me into the church.

I can't put my finger on any one thing that drew me to INC. I was 14 and rebelling from my parents, and INC was the perfect institution to remove myself from my parents. I felt dirty from my thirteenth year. My lips graced four sets of lips in the space of 12 months. When I was 12, all four sets of lips were good friends. Now three won't talk to each other and the fourth isolated himself from all of us by going on a cruise. At the center of all this was me. I wanted to be cleansed. To become chaste. Enter INC, and I thought I found salvation. A convenient chastity belt.

I tossed away the key and dressed in virgin white to be reborn in God. I wanted to be Jesus' bride. Unfortunately, virgin blood stains and it's difficult to get it out.

I met Mark on a weekend all-east coast church function. I spotted him earlier and thought he was absolutely delicious to look at. But he seemed busy with the Virginia delegation. Sneaking glimpses of him throughout Saturday, he seemed really popular. People from all the different delegations greeted him with enthusiasm. I hung my head low. He would never look upon someone like me, a lower class member because my parents weren't members of the church. As the day got later, I no longer could find him amongst the crowds leaving people. I wanted to go home.

"Eileene, do you want to go to the bowling competition?"

"But, tito, I don't bowl."

"That's okay. You can cheer for us."


We drove to the bowling alley and I nestled myself into one of the seats in back of the New Jersey delegation. On one side was the New York delegation and to the other, was the Virginia delegation in their blue polo shirts. I looked at the guy who I sat next to.

It was him.

My heart raced. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I no longer remember exactly how we started talking. But we did. We spent the evening talking our heads off. We talked about everything from Dune to computers to school. We planned to meet the next day for Sunday service. We would be both arriving early to the chapel. His father was a volunteer minister and my uncle and aunt would be singing in the choir.

We met at the church early and attended the service together. Afterwards, we ate lunch together and exchanged personal information. The next time I saw him was in New Jersey.

The relationship was off and on for the next four years. It really only lasted for eleven months. My interest in the church started to wane and my relationship with Mark unlocked my chastity belt. The problem was that he was in Virginia, I was in New Jersey, and I had a terrible itch to scratch.

I could never play the virtuous kind.

cleanse home corrupt