Her name is Jamie and she's all over me the way you'd expect a puppy
to be. Eyes and all. That long dark hair on my gut, between my chin and neck, finding its way into elbows and joints. Yeah, you could probably say it's one of those cliché set-ups: If this was a movie, you'd be groaning at the music right about now. The way it goes is I guess she thinks I'm in love with her. I don't know what she thinks.
"You're in love with me," she says. "I know you are." (She'll say these things at random, using me for a pillow on the carpet, looking backward at me so I'm upside-down in her eyes.)
"Fuck you," I say.
"Hey!" she says, slapping backward toward my face and missing. "I'm serious."
"Yeah, well so am I. If I was in love with you, I'd be trying to get into your pants all the time."
"You are trying to get into my pants all the time."
"Yeah?" I say, "So what's that got to do with love?"
This is where she takes her time recovering from my assault of logic. She turns over, supports her chin in her palms, elbows on the ground (the way a kid will watch TV, right up next to the screen, if you let her). "You know..." she says.
"You wouldn't know what to do, anyway."
"If..." she says, smiling.
"If I started taking off my clothes," she says. The way her eyes are, I figure her parents let her sit too close to the TV when she was a kid.
And for some reason, my throat goes dry.
I got a refrigerator like a fucking steam engine. Old is what I mean. Cold is what I mean. What I mean is it makes me think of those old AirStream campers, with all the reflective steel, with the weight and texture right so you gotta call it a "machine," instead of an "appliance." None of that pansy plastic you touch wrong and it shatters. You shut the door on this mother, people in Idaho hear the latch. And there's this coil inside, in the back, covered in frost; I keep a big pitcher of water right up in front of it (except I should maybe call the water ice, because it's always got this layer of ice on top you've gotta break with the back of a butter-knife).
"How can you drink that?" says Jamie, covering her mouth with her hand.
"Want some?" I ask.
She shows me a finger.
Somehow, I don't think she's serious.
"I'm serious," she says, a little later.
"Shit," I say, "you are serious."
"Shit," I say, "now I know you'll never sleep with me."
She looks at me funny.
"Don't look at me funny," I say. "You seriously want to know if I'm...spiritual?"
"Yeah," she says, cuddling back up on my stomach.
"Shit," I say.
Look, I'm not trying to give the impression I'm shallow. (Now that I'm thinking about it, nobody tries to give the impression they're shallow--except the super-attractive chicks you never quite meet in real life.) I'm not trying to give the impression I got anything against the religious types or the Buddhist types or the Starbucks types. The thing is, I've got a long memory, and the last time I hit on religion with Jamie did not turn out to be what I'd call a friendly scene:
Just picture the two of us standing outside this old historic art-house theater, The Fargo. Marquee, art-deco, et cetera. Imagine Steve Buschemi and Winona Ryder, if the image helps (she'd have to be Winona, since she's got the tits; just keep in mind that Jamie, unlike Ms. Ryder, does have a personality to go with the looks). And imagine this old dude, all white hair and tan windbreaker, handing me this green piece of cardboard and smiling at me.
And I bet you can guess what's on the card.
Yeah, a little cross on one side, sorta crudely drawn. A few words on the other, something out of Romans or Leviticus or something. Fuck if
I kept it past the first trash hole I passed.
"Oh," I say to the old dude, "You know Jesus?"
At this he blinks.
"What I mean to say," I say, "is do you really know Jesus? I know it's not an easy thing to accept him completely."
"I know Jesus, boy," he says.
I nod. "Well, all-right. Tell me, how did you come to terms with the fact that he was a faggot?" You've really gotta know where to hit these people. "I never could handle him prancing around Galilee with all those willing men. I mean some guys I could understand, but God, he could have had any--"
And it's about then that he hits me.
And you know the one about how the girl tends to her man's wounds and it goes all erotic, Desperado-style? In real life, the girl just doesn't say anything to you the rest of the night. In real life, you go home, you don't even feel up to doing the job yourself.
"Fine," I say, "Okay, yeah, yes, I'm not spiritual. The way I see it, the word was invented by a bunch of New Agers who didn't have the stomach to call themselves 'religious.'"
"Uh-huh," she says, "you don't think it means anything."
"Okay, yeah, it means you, what, get all into candles and Enya?"
This is where she punches me, playful-like, in the gut. "Fuck you," she says.
"That's right," I say.
(I still don't think she's serious.)
She shakes her head and smiles. "I'm being serious," she says.
"Fine," I say, "yeah, serious. Here, let me guess: You're all for Jesus but you don't like all the gay-bashing abortion-clinic-bombing bullshit."
"Okay," she says.
"How about fucking?" I say.
"You for fucking?"
"Honey," she says, "I'm all for fucking."
"Okay, how about heaven?"
"I'm all for heaven, too."
"And you probably got issues with the social structure in church, the two-faced old ladies--"
"Hey," she says, "didn't you used to tell me you were a nice guy?"
"Fine, yeah, I don't know."
"You're kind of an asshole sometimes."
"Okay," I say.
She looks me in the eyes like I'm supposed to say something more.
"Okay, I'm sorry. I'm trying to say what I think you're meaning. Or I'm trying to get it out in my words, I guess. Look, yes, I know you're trying to get around this wordplay bullshit, okay, and talk about what you mean by the words."
Eyes like fucking gun barrels. I do not exaggerate.
"You and your big fucking eyes," I say.
"You realize," I say, "I could probably put words together the right way if it wasn't for those."
"Yes," I say, "the truth is I do care about these questions--the big God question--so yeah, fine, yes."
"Good," she says.
"Good? Yeah, good. You turn me into a whiny New Ager, I'm going to--why the hell is that good, anyway?"
She looks at me funny again. "Because," she says, "I couldn't see myself sleeping with somebody who wasn't spiritual."