...or go on a shooting spree. Take your pick.
Sunday, I had a date. Nothing much, just meeting an old girlfriend for coffee and desert, to catch up on things and maybe spend a few hours doing something other than playing Empire Earth (yes, I still play that game. It's still fucking awesome). Earlier in the week I had been nearly done in by an (I assume) illegal alien in a Ford who apparently hasn't learned that Rojo significa detener, pendejo! , who nearly snuffed Your's Truly, but only managed to cause me to fall and sprain my ankle badly. We'll be seeing an orthopaedist this week (like I can afford that?) to find out if I'm going to be crippled for life.
Anywhoo, the radiologist who took my x-rays turned out to be an old girlfriend of mine, Debbie (not her real name). Debbie and I were an item for about....oh, a whole two months..back in the day. The reasons why it ended:
1. Debbie was a drug addict. A functioning drug addict. Who required a steady supply of manufactured drama in order to justify every trip to the medicine cabinet so as to avoid the shame of realizing that she was an addict. As far as she was concerned, if we'd argued about whether the sky was blue or not, this was just enough conflict to justify the eternal My-Life-Sucks-I-need-to-forget- about-it-where's-my-percocet? cycle. Naturally, she would usually start that argument for no reason that I could ever discern, and then tell me to get lost, apparently so I that wouldn't see her taking drugs.
2. I'm not exactly certain that I was a prince among men in those days, either. I think I was still drinking, though not as much as I had been previously -- I may have begun sobering up by that time -- and I'm sure that emotionally I wasn't exactly at my best. I remember being wary of Debbie, and not really trusting her as far as I could throw her. I was pretty much convinced that whatever happened in that relationship, she would almost definitely break my heart (story of my life), so I broke hers, pre-emptively.
But hey, the sex was awesome. And Debbie was a terrific cook. She could turn a dead snake, a thorn bush, and a desert boot into a gourmet meal. But, I digress...
So, there we are, Sunday night, tiramizu and coffee. Debbie looks better than I ever remember her looking. She looks healthy. She was always very pretty, but often sick. She's put on some weight, yes, but then again, she is 45 now (I think. I never really did know how old she was to begin with). She apparently cannot wait to hear my life story, which freaks me the fuck out a little bit. She's become a little intense (as opposed to when she was supremely intense, and not always in a good way), I think you'd call it enthusiasm rather than the manic energy that she used to have, and she smiles a whole lot more. Back then, Debbie only smiled if genuinely amused, and rarely emitted more than a stunted chuckle. Now, you can't stop her from doing both.
It is both a pleasant change, and an indication that something is wrong with this woman. No one who isn't taking something is this happy. Is she still high? It's unnatural. Then again, I'm a cynic and a compulsive worrier, and probably reading far too much into this whole thing.
She's totally immersed in my words, and truth to tell, I'm not even sure what the fuck I'm talking about half the time. It's small talk, mostly, until she asks direct and pointed questions. Because I'm an asshole, she gets direct and pointed answers. She maintains eye contract the entire time, interrupting only to ask a polite question or inject an insight or two. I'm not telling her everything, because that's a sure-fire way to blow any chance of getting laid. That's on page one of the Manual, you see. Have to hold the worst of the bad stuff back, dammit, while still being relatively truthful. Not that I really have anything to hide, anymore.
But there's something...unusual...going on here. I've seen that look, experienced this all-too-cheerful ebullience before...where was it...? My radar is on. If I quickly turn the subject from me to her, I'm sure she'll say something that'll give me a clue. Why is this person so completely different from the one I used to know?
And just as sure as your Muslim next-door neighbor eventually being implicated in a bomb plot, I heard those words that I knew must enter the conversation at some point, and then I knew why Debbie wasn't Debbie anymore.
"Well, first I want you to know that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior...." Where's the fucking door? I'm about to get killed by an avalanche of bullshit and I need to flee right fucking now.
But no. I would like to think that I've mellowed a little bit in my old age, and have finally learned not to judge too quickly, but after enduring two solid hours of Jesus-this-and-Jesus-that, I've come to the conclusion that first-impressions, no matter how fleeting or facile, are probably still the best arbiter of When to Stay and When to Go.
It turns out that I knew the particulars of her story before she even told them; after we parted ways, Debbie took up with a someone we both knew...from a bar we used to frequent...who's only saving graces were that he was an Adonis...and a small-time drug dealer. Otherwise, he was a loser with the intelligence of an ox, and he probably smelled like one, too. They dated for a bit, and then married, with predictable results. When he was finally arrested, and she was being looked at by the cops as an accessory to his stupidity, she'd finally come to that rock-bottom moment that all addicts must have.
You can't avoid that rock-bottom moment. It's set out at the end of your path for you the moment you begin your descent into stupidity. The lucky ones survive the rock-bottom moment and the unfortunate ones don't. The really lucky ones are those around the moron who happen to avoid being taken down with them.
The Church 'saved' her. Now, I've known quite a few lowlifes in my time, and it never ceases to amaze me how many of them have found their way into some religious douchebaggery as a means of salvaging their lives. I'm of two minds on this phenomenon; the first is that finding Jesus is easier than a 12-step program, and cheaper than a psychiatrist, and also requires the least amount of thought or effort. All you need to do is believe, in effect, surrendering your ability to think and learn for the comfort (possibly false comfort) that Life is something which is outside of your ability to control; rather than continue to fight, rationally, for mastery of your own out-of-your-hands-anyway Life, why not just give up now, and put your trust in something Invisible and All-powerful that loves you so much that He/She/It apparently was not even willing to make any effort whatsoever to keep you from smoking crack, drinking yourself into oblivion, or attempting to kill yourself? Yep, makes perfect sense to me; God only helps when you decide that blind and unquestioning obedience to Him/Her/It is the only option left open to you. Now if that ain't Love, then just what the fuck is? I think I saw that on a Hallmark Card, once.
But then again, it seems to work for many folks. I must admit that I gave it a try once or twice, and then finally figured out why it works:
People who would take to drinking, shooting heroin, destroying their careers, bodies and families, people who would take the lowest road to Perdition that you can imagine, are preternaturally stupid and cowardly. If they had any brains or innate courage, they probably wouldn't have gotten to that low point in the first place.
I took an informal count of all the Born Again Christians I know, approximately 30 of them, and discovered what I thought I would: before they were washed in the Blood, they were probably the most despicable people you'd ever hope to meet. A good number were people who were simply 'lost'; they never seemed to fit in anywhere, and had no sense of 'belonging'. Most had unhappy childhoods and family lives, and whatever crap they had gotten into was both a means of escape and an entryway into some kind of camaraderie.with others. Whatever. I know I drank because I was a miserable bastard who was under the mistaken impression that Life Owed Him Everything and it Was All Fucking Unfair, so who am I, really, to criticize?
So, there she was, arrested, her child taken from her because she was an addict married to a dimwit who made his living pushing poison and outside the law. She was released after a day or two, and then went right home to clean out that medicine cabinet. No more percocets, no more halcyon, the stash of pot the cops never found went right down the toilet. She filed for divorce, she started Narcotics Anonymous, she wanted her daughter back, and then she wanted some measure of normalcy. She finally passed that radiology certification exam that she had studied for like 10 years to take, and had failed twice before.
She got the kid, she got the house, and Dimwit died in the can, lucky her.
She still prays for him, though.
The rest of the evening went something like this:
Boy, you're not the same person I remember. Do you think I've changed much?
Yes, I would say you're a completely different person now. I rather like it.
Weird, you know?
Well, we all have to grow up at some point, right? We hope to, anyway. Neither one of us was really mature, or ready for some kind of commitment, back then.
That is sooooo right. You know, that reminds me of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians where....
Excuse me! I don't know what's come over me. I'm not really tired but somehow can't stop yawning. So, you think the Yankees will win 100 games this year?
The conversation, such as it was, repeated this most-annoying cycle; she would throw out an inanity, try to correlate it with whatever verse of Scripture that inanity 'reminded her of', and then I'd quickly try to change the subject. Despite my best efforts, I still got an earful of Jonah, Moses, Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Benedict.
Roman Catholicism hasn't changed much since I gave it up. I can see why: it doesn't need to. The world is still full of assholes who will swallow it all whole.
And then she told me I that was "a good listener...a lot more patient than you used to be...I've really enjoyed seeing you again. Would you like to do this again? Maybe I'll cook something...?"
She just couldn't stay out late on a Saturday night, she tells me, because she is expected to be at Church bright and early, cleaning and polishing the place within an inch of it fucking life before services. It calmed her, she said, gave her a feeling of peace and purpose.
Good for you.
I told her that I'll be busy for the next couple of weeks, and want to get off these miserable crutches, but that I will call her soon. As if.
Then again, her boobs seem to have gotten bigger, so who knows? Maybe if you can steer her away from the Beast of Revelations it might be possible to talk about the Beast With Two Backs?
Yes, I'm terrible. Spare me the e-mail, please, ladies?