Disclaimer: I was expelled from St Clement’s Catholic School in the eighth grade so I’m not Lucifer, but I’m close.
On May 20, 1979, I took my last drink, pill and snort forever and commenced to worry about my liver, my kidneys and my salvation, in that order. Fearing I had inflicted irrevocable damage to all three, I proceeded to make amends.
In short order, I became a track star, a health nut and I was of course, “born again.” I read the Old Testament, ( scared the shit out of me) the New Testament and started sending every cent I made to every televangelist that popped up on my screen every Sunday morning.
I had soon created my own personalized version of hell and became adept at finding spiritual loopholes for all my earthly desires.
Self pleasure and Satan were always lurking. It was a lonely and confusing existence for a not half bad looking single white male. But sex was only for procreation, remember?
When all the christian scandals erupted in the eighties, I saw my escape route and took it. Life was getting good again. I was guilt free and stopped waiting for the rapture. I started making up for lost time until Magic Johnson got A.I.D.S. If he could get it, I had to have had it. Remember the making up for lost time thing?
I still had enough sense not to go back to that other thing where Satan and Jesus were locked in deadly conflict over my soul.
In 1990, I took a sales position in Arizona for thirteen years and for the most part, I was alone. Except for the occasional living nightmares that would enter my existence until Susan came to the rescue. When you are in your mid-forties, single and travel extensively, a quick hit and run in a Best Western in Carlsbad N.M. is about all you can expect.
Sometimes you have married customers who just can’t stand the thoughts of you running around the south west unsupervised. This is where the “how bad do I need this account?” question comes into play.
Your choices in a companion at this stage of life range somewhere between the school yard and the nursing home and most of the goods have been tampered with. Hey, I’m damaged goods too, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
Enter Theresa, a 6’4″ ball of spiritual neurosis that was looking to settle down in a hurry. She was also good friends with a dangerous gas bag customer that would take enormous pleasure in further destroying my unrecoverable and soiled reputation as a scoundrel and Lothario. One hospital administrator told me I wasn’t allowed to speak to any females in the building. Aw, that was so cute, I thought.
My first date with Theresa was a brunch. I had learned to use daylight or the harsh lighting at Dunkin’ Donuts as a first pass on any further encounters. She proceeds to tell me, (did I mention, first date?) that she hopes I will stick around because all the other guys she has dated just suddenly upped and left town. Without a trace.
She has no idea why. She says with all her conditions and being in her mid 30’s she will most likely not be able to walk, she is blind in one eye and the other is in doubt.
Theresa’s main objective at this point is to get married and have a bunch of kids before all that happens. Now, I am desperately looking for a fire alarm that is conveniently located on the way to the men’s room. I have worse stories for sure but when she orders her second platter of Eggs Benedict complete with beans, burritos and quacamole my heart rate doubles.
Soon, she is tipping this enormous platter on it’s side and rubbing it furiously with a taco shell to get all the egg off the dish. I think I know where those other guys went. They’re not in the United States.
I’m thinking, just make a run for it. Make up a story. Everyone in Arizona knows how fucked up I am. They’ll forgive me. Someday. Maybe. Theresa says there’s a 4:00 mass at the church where she goes and she would like to have me go with her. Ah, a test. Been here before.
At this point, anything is better than sitting here drawing bewildered stares from customers and wait staff so I agree. When we stand up, it hits me not only how tall she is, but how much bigger than me she is in every way. Her hands were twice my size. I remember staring right up her nostril pipes. I feel a compelling need to exact my revenge on someone for this. He’s a customer, so poison might have to be an option.
So, we end up at some Catholic church in Mesa, in the balcony, and the place is packed. I don’t remember the ceremony because I was too focused on the stand up sit down thing. When the “Peace be with you” part came and she grabbed my hand, I realized how physically damaged I could end up if things went off the tracks at this stage.
Once all the ceremonial stuff was over, a rather handsome, well spoken, late thirties looking priest takes the stage. He is good. He has the presence of mind to stay silent until all the fidgeting, coughs and the usual audience restlessness subsides. Now, you can hear a pin drop. That takes practice.
Then he proceeds, with a straight face, to insult the intelligence of every form of life on the planet. My breathing becomes more shallow. My eyes start darting all over the sculptured ceiling. I scan the audience for some crack in the veneer of one of these hapless participants. I could get very specific about what he said, but not a word of what that man uttered is worthy of a key stroke from me.
He goes to a flip chart and starts drawing out the battle field where Michael the Arc Angel and Lucifer will duke it out. (Michael’s gonna win because good always prevails, but it will be close.) I think the fight is fixed.
He tells us how many cubits our houses in heaven will be. He tells us how Mary is trying desperately to intercede on our behalf to a jealous God who would like nothing better that to use us for his own special weenie roast.
He continues. He was amazing. Still, he’s not getting any laughs which confuses me. He prowls the stage from left to right and back again to see if he has lost anyone. He needn’t have worried, he had ’em, hook, line and holy water.
It was a beautiful December afternoon. 1998. Prime time in Arizona. I remember the relief I felt as the sun hit my face and we moved silently toward Southern Ave., a main road in Mesa to get to my car parked on the other side.
Southern Ave is a big thoroughfare, totaling six lanes in both directions. This has been a rough go all day and I’m feeling the worse for wear. Six lanes gave me enough time to compose an inquiry on Theresa’s feelings on what we had just witnessed.
Once we got in the car, I waited a beat or two for some response from her. Nothing. When I asked her if she believed all that stuff about the Garden of Eden, Hell, the Snake, Lucifer, Purgatory etc. She said, “yeah, I guess.” what do you mean you guess? I pressed. You believe everything that guy just said? She said, “If that’s what they tell us to believe, then I believe it.” By now, I am actually contemplating oncoming traffic.
She called my house for months after that. She worked my network to the nub. She got some of my customers to make me feel guilty but to no avail. Another circus had left town.
I met my beautiful wife less than a year later. My nine year nightmare ended on August 9, 1999. (About time, honey) Maybe there is a God after all. Him and his pet snake.