At Happy Hour

Jessica, Jessica Allen (new to me, Jess’s friend from church), and I sat drinking $3 margaritas at a bar by the Sound—by a marina, a forest of white masts. There were rows of white hulls, more like fleets of bobbing seagulls than anything else. Expensive seagulls. I ate a bucket of apetizer shrimp and Jess and Jessica both had nachos.

Church. Jesus and church. Every other group discussion I have these days is about those two. Pastor Ellen is trying to take alcohol out of the downtown Seattle Presbyterian community. No more ladies’ club nights or happy hours before Bible study. Ellen is from Texas.

And you know, I can see it. The reason brought to session: some people are alcoholics, and the church should be a safe place to socialize. Social events shouldn’t make this THING harder than it already is.

But there’s this other thing too—a goal of purity, discipline, starvation to perfection. Order. Control, at least of yourself, and, in Ellen’s case, those whom you can influence.

Jessica told me that her cigarette-smoking ponytailed Italian (as in from Italy) fling alerted her to the primary definition of the word decadence: rot.

Decadence, decadence. What is it? Only a clear movement toward death or, preferably, non-humanity.

And Jesus turned whole jugs of water into wine when the partiers were already drunk. And we wine drinkers love him for it. First miracle! Bring out beer and cosmopolitans at night and Bloody Maries with our eggs for breakfast. Mimosas come a little later and keep coming while we tan our thighs and lower backs out in the sunshine. We lay on the ground.

The cryptic Jesus. Nomadic. Who, in my mind, has a gift for skipping stones. Gonna love you all seven days a week and not be cute about it. His blood is wine, for Christ’s sake... over the limit, under arrest.

... or preferably, non-humanity. As Fausto II and III [...] became more inanimate they moved closer to the time when like any dead leaf or fragment of metal they’d be finally subject to the laws of physics.

When Jesus arose from the dead did he have any blood left? Or between the Supper and the flogging was it dispersed in a flood of drunkenness? That culture conservatives would like to keep out of church events.

Jesus on Sundays—when the girls wear soft skirts and sandals that wrap around their ankles. Jesus in the desert not eating. Starved to perfection. Thin ankles.

I left our table two margaritas in and followed a maze of white corridors to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror over the automatic soap dispenser. I had a red glow in my face. A short woman with dark hair looked at me too.

“You are beautiful,” she said. “If my son weren’t so far away, I’d have him meet you.”

And All the time pretending it was a great struggle between the laws of man and the laws of God.

Italics: from V. by Thomas Pynchon

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