(or, The Immaculate Rejection: How I faked a conversion to Christianity and still managed not to get laid.)
Disclaimer: LOOK, THIS WAS WRITTEN A VERY LONG TIME AGO. I WAS STILL A KID. OKAY? I'M NOT LIKE THIS ANYMORE.
VERSE I. "Spare Forty Pieces Of Silver?"
I used to occasionally go on a date with my guitar, just go out on the town to see how much trouble a boy and a guitar can get into. I find the guitar is a potent magical instrument. It makes things happen.
So I had gone out, and had a pretty uneventful night. I was on my way home, must've been 1, 1:30 in the morning, and was waiting for the 91 Owl at 3rd & Market. This pretty black girl walks up to the stop and sits down, real cute girl, maybe a couple of years younger than me. So, what I did, this is my routine, is I pulled out the guitar, and played for a few minutes. Didn't say anything, didn't sing, Just played it for a few minutes, then put it away.
Aspiring guitarists take note, the guitar has never actually gotten me laid, it hasn't brought it home for me, BUT if you play quietly for a few minutes when there's a girl around, nothing but play, and then mind your own business, and you're pretty good, later on she WILL try to talk to you if she gets the chance. Never fails. It's a foot in the door.
Well, she sat down a few seats in front of me on the bus. The ride home was quiet. My stop went by. I didn't get up. The next stop went by. And the next. Then I did something I absolutely never do. I got up, walked over, sat down next to her, and said, "Hi. My stop passed two stops ago, but I just had to meet you."
She flashed a pretty smile and said, "People say that to me a lot. It's the Holy Spirit."
WELL. That was not the answer I was expecting.
VERSE II. "Meet me in the garden, honey, I'll kiss you on both cheeks."
Now, fortunately, I happen to be somewhat moderately read about Christianity. Not a lot for a Christian, say, but a lot for a Jewish kid from Long Island. I have a fascination with Christian thought. Hey, some people like to slow down to look at car wrecks, what can I say. "The Screwtape Letters" is one of my favorite books and C. S. Lewis is the historical figure I'd most like to have dinner with. Gives me stuff I can talk to those guys about for a while. And, being on the west coast, my prominent Jewish nose often goes unrecognized for what it is.
The long and short of it is, I managed, without committing one way or the other, to hold up my end of an animated discussion about Christianity and keep this girl's attention for the hour or so it takes for the 91 Owl to circle alllllllll the way around to SF State University, on the other side of the city, where she said, "Well, this is when I get off." And I just said,"Oh, I'll come over to your place" and got off right behind her (did I mention I was moderately intoxicated?). She didn't seem to mind at all. We made pleasant chat all the way back to her dorm.
They've got a security desk, in the dorm lobby, and I leave them my driver's license on the way in so I can go upstairs. Then into the elevator up to her floor, and as soon as the door closes, she stands directly across from me, looks at me with big doe eyes and says in a way that just drips syrup, "Mike, what do you think about Jesus? It's reEEEEEALLy imPORRRRRtant." It had this incredible combination of innocence and suggestiveness that is impossible for me to convey in print. (Hey, look, my very own Madonna/Whore complex!) I fumbled the ball, mumbled "I dunno... I guess he's alright...", but she didn't seem to mind.
We got up to her room. Her roommate was away for the weekend. We sat on her bed and chatted for a while. For a religious type - and not to imply it usually went like this night seemed to be, but I've spend a private hour here and there with a few of them in my life - she was a pretty well rounded person. Cute girl too, just adorable, and it was nice to find out she had a head on her shoulders. We talked about rap music for a while, other stuff. She was in touch with the world, not closed off from it. Things were going well, whatever it was that kept her from being put off in the least when a drunk guy approached her on the bus at 1:30 am, or followed her off it to her dorm in the middle of the night, seemed to be continuing to work its magic. (Must be the guitar. Toldja.) Finally, of course, the conversation returned to religion. So, she asked me if I had been born again. I said no, and she asked me if I would like to be. If it wasn't made obvious by the comment in the elevator that this was the only key even remotely likely to unlock this particular door, it sure was now. I didn't fumble the ball this time. I said, "Sure."
So, she got out her bible. She knew all the prayers. We read various passages, and then, before I knew it, it was done. She had let me in the club. She said her final, uh, whatever the last thing the person reads you before you become infused with Divine Light, and I was In. She looked at me expectantly. I sat there for a few seconds, until I realized I was supposed to have some sort of reaction, and, in one of the few truly deceptive things I've ever done - hey, I'm a very ethical guy, ordinarily - I said, "Thank you, Jesus, for what you have shown me." I still cringe to think about it. Magic is a delicate art, my friends, requiring great poise, and I did something I knew was wrong. (I'm not even sure the honest retelling of this story is a great idea.) It's inexcusable, and while I can't say for sure that it caused what happened next, it's only sensible that this moment of weakness, of knowing misdeed, befouled the wholehearted purity of my sleazy purpose up until that point.
She asked me if I felt any different now, and I forget what I said, "I don't know" or something equally noncommittal. But, it didn't dim her enthusiasm, because I had been Born Again In Christ, and that, my friends, was good enough for her! I could do no wrong now.
And she said, "Let's see what Jesus says about this. Open the Bible to a random page." So I stuck my finger into the pages of the closed Bible and plopped it down on a random verse. And she said, "Here, I'll read it aloud."
And I handed it off to her with my finger where it had parted the pages, and she opened it. And her face fell.
VERSE III. "Last Call in The Place Of The Skull"
She just sunk. Physically. She said, "I'm not reading this aloud."
The spark had completely went out of her, the sunshine vibe she had radiated as soon as I sat down next to her on the bus, through walking to the dorm, and in the elevator, and in the room all the way through my "conversion". "Why?" I said.
"Here, read it," she said glumly, handing me the book. And the passage was, I shit you not, the passage was Jesus preaching about the sin of false conversion. I'll try and look it up online before I post this and get the exact verse. Let me tell you, all the laughing gas suddenly got sucked out of that room, leaving only air.
Well, I dunno, we talked some more, she was still as friendly as before, but the jig was up. She said I could sleep in her roommate's bed, and I did.
VERSE IV. "Whatd'ja see when they rolled away the stone?"
I don't recall how the morning started, but we probably chatted briefly some more. I was hurting, had slept in my clothes - unfortunately - and wanted to get home in that "morning after" sort of way. She was as friendly as ever. Really nice girl. I picked up my guitar, and shambled out into the hall, where kids were doing general dormitory-in-the-morning stuff, walking to and from the showers with towels on their heads and so forth. And she jumped out of her room, and gave me a great big hug and kiss, and a piece of paper with her phone number and name on it. Kellie Belle.
As I walked down the hall, I was amused to think how that brief scene must have looked to her dorm-mates. Here's this girl who had to be known as a Christian, and here was me in full view of everybody, ambling out of her room at 9 in the morning wearing clothes I'd obviously put on to go out the night before, hung over, hair unkempt, carrying a guitar fer chrissakes, and her sending me off with a big bright squeeze and her phone number, right in front of everybody. Funny.
I get down to the front door and ask for my driver's license at the security desk. The day shift girl gets out the box of index cards and asks, "Who were you visiting?" I said "Kellie... Kellie Belle." And she says, "Last name?"
Uhhhhhhh.... I looked lost.
The girl rolls her eyes at me, asks my name and finds the my license in the box. As she gives it to me, she says, "Next time... get her last name." I grinned inwardly at the irony of the whole situation. I'm thinking, in the space of three minutes I have either ruined this girl's reputation around here, or saved it.
As I walked away from the dorm, Kellie Belle leaned out her window, waved and yelled, "Don't forget to talk to God, Michael!" I yelled back, with as much sunshine as I could muster, "You too!"
I held onto her phone number for a while. She was a pretty cool person, interesting to talk to about both Christianity and more prosaic, everyday stuff. She was good company, and I decided I was going to call her, but admit straight off, "First of all, my interest in religion isn't heartfelt. Second of all, I'm Jewish. If that's not an obstacle, do you want to be friends?"