Pope Mohammed and the Support Group

“All you have to do is ask Gollah,” says Pope Mohammed while turning a styrofoam cup between his fingers tips. Inside the cup, black liquid with a crescent of dark brown foam rocks as slow as syrup.

A sign on the door reads, “Colon Cancer.” Inside the room, there is a bulletin board with crayon drawings of spaceships and moon landings. Across the top, stenciled letters read, “Let’s explore space!”

Pope Mohammed is sitting in a blue plastic chair that stands 12″ inches off the ground. Pope Mohammed’s knees are near his chest. Around him are nine men and women sitting in adult-sized metal, fold-up chairs. Some have hair. Some don’t. Some are pale, gaunt, eyes sunken.

Pope Mohammed takes a sip of coffee, clears his throat and says, “All you have to do is ask Gollah, and He will give you anything you want … anything you need.”

The hum of a furnace can be heard somewhere above the group. The murmur of other support groups can be heard echoing down the hall.

Pope Mohammed says, “The word of Gollah is clear. If you pray for his healing power, you will receive it right then and there.”

The hand of a woman across from Pope Mohammed inches up. She is wearing a hat over a bald head. Her cheeks are sunken. A button on her blouse reads, “Survivor, 2.5 years”.

Pope Mohammed nods as if to recognize her hand.

She says, “Hello, Mr. Mohammed. Um. I have prayed.” She pauses. She looks at the faces of her fellow cancer victims. “I’ve prayed to Gollah for healing. I’ve prayed to him to relieve me of the hell of chemo, of daily hospital visits, of endless poking and prodding … of sickness that is mentally and physically debilitating to no end … and you tell me “ask and I will receive healing?”

“You have not been healed,” Pope Mohammed says. “Because you are a woman who is not allowed to speak in public.”

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