I’ve been waiting a year for this day. I sit at the bar, chew on peanuts, and swill the last of a Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s 2:59 pm. The ceremony is about to begin.
The Steelers just scored a touchdown. The sports bar jumps with cheer. Five bucks says, right about now, she’s thinking about peaking her head out of the bride’s room just to see what all the commotion is about. When she does emerge from that soft shelter, she’ll shield her eyes from the altar. She can’t see me before the ceremony—that would be bad luck.
“I’ll take another,” I say to Jamie, the bartender. He brings me another PBR.
The beer is cold. The Steel City air has a bite, too. It’s early October. If I had actually shown up today, I’d be on the altar right now sweating my balls off. Memphis churches run hot, especially these newfangled non-denominational ones. But really, between you, me, and this blue ribbon lager, I never had any intention of marrying Kaitlyn. I left her at the altar today and I am enjoying every moment of it.
It’s 3:05 pm. My phone peals. I get a text from Micah, the best man. “You OK? Where are you? We’re praying that you’re close. In Him, M.” Yeah, Micah, I’m close alright—close to taking a shit. But yeah, no problem, dufus. I’m only 779 miles away. I’ll be right there.
Micah. What an asshole. He was Kaitlyn’s boyfriend ever since they met in Sunday school back in the 4th grade. Kaitlyn told me that she and Micah almost kissed one night after a school dance. Micah stopped an inch from her lips because he “wanted to put the Lord first.” He wanted to kiss her for the first time at the altar.
I didn’t meet Kaitlyn until a year ago. I didn’t even live in Memphis at the time. I saw her post on Twitter, “I cast my crowns at your feet, O Lord.” How she ended up in my feed in the first place, I’ll never know. I decided to follow her tweets. She posted all kinds of holy-roller shit like, “We are one day closer to seeing our Lord and Savior face to face.” Or, my personal favorite, when she would call upon her “prayer warriors” to pray really hard for something specific to happen a certain way.
Let me tell you about God for a second. Yes, he exists. Yes, he’s a he. And yes, he has a plan. But ain’t no “prayer warrior” gonna change that plan for nothing. The only human being who’s gotten remotely close to figuring out how God works is George Carlin. You know, that crusty dead comedian with the fart jokes and the surprisingly astute observations about human nature. One time he said something like, “even if a thousand people held hands and prayed with all their might, nothing would change, and, if anything, their prayers would probably make matters worse.”
I showed up at Kaitlyn’s church one Sunday. The preacher, Bobby John Smith, asked the congregation, “Is anyone ready to give up their life of sin and walk with Jesus!?” with “Jesus” having that southern jumble of extra vowels—“Jeeaazius!” I walked forward from the back of the room with crocodile tears the size of water balloons streaming down my face. “Help me, Lord! Please, help me!” I shouted, over and over. I faked a good faint right then and there at Bobby John’s feet. Kaitlyn ran from her seat on the front row to my side where she took me in her arms and told me she would pray for me and everything would be alright.
The trick to pulling off a long con like this one is keeping your stories straight. I say stories—plural—because you have to have two. The first, the story about your new life, you write with the victim. This gives her more of a “buy-in” before the bill comes due. The second, the story about your old life, you reveal slowly over the con. She has to know that you ain’t a saint, but also that you are reluctant to share too much because you are ashamed of your old sinful ways. Of course, both stories are complete bullshit, but you have to remember which way the wind is blowing.
“Hey, numb nuts, how ‘bout showing some Steelers pride!” Mel, an aggressive bar goer, yells at me. Poor fool. Ruining my buzz like that. In his defense, I am looking a bit sullen at the moment. But, whatever, bra. And so, in my imagination, I push my fingers into his nostrils and then into his brain where I go “goochie-goochie-goochie-goo!” and fuck with his amygdala. He has a goofy ass look on his face for a second, bleeds from his nose, and then falls face first right into the ledge of the bar.
“Mel’s passed out again, Jamie” a different bar goer says.
“He’s bleeding! Call 911!” Jamie says.
A group carries Mel away to the picnic benches outside to give him some air. The EMTs pick him up and take him to Mt. Zion. I never check on Mel to find out how bad the damage is. Usually, when I do the amygdala thing, the loser suffers irreparable brain damage. But it’s hard to say whether it’s the “goochie-goo” or the face plant that does the trick. Who cares? Mel sucks.
Kaitlyn fell in love with me because she thought she brought me to Jesus. Over that year, we read every fucking page of her King James Bible together, three times. After the first time, she told me how Micah and she agreed not to see each other anymore because “God was calling them to other places.” After the second time, we started holding hands. She told me that she wanted to kiss me, but wouldn’t kiss anyone until her wedding day—that her first kiss would be before God. After the third time, she was a little stand offish because she thought it wasn’t fair that a man of my experience should be deprived of “sexual intercourse” but she had to wait until she was married. I said to her, “Don’t worry, Kaitlyn. This is my new life in Jesus. I am reborn In Him. I want to wait, too.” Then I got down on one knee, pulled an engagement ring from my pocket, and proposed. She said “praise Jesus” over and over. I took that as a yes.
The hardest part of the wedding con ain’t fooling the bride. It’s fleecing the family. Pulling the wool over the whole family’s eyes is the equivalent of an Oscar Night sweep—best actor, best director, best costume, best screenplay, and best sound design—all in one. The trick here is, when the father pulls you aside in the laundry room, hands you a $10,000 check, and tells you to elope, you tear up the check and say no. He’ll want you to elope because of your sob story about having no family and no one at the wedding to celebrate you. You go through with the wedding though because it’s what his little girl wants. And once you have dad, you have mom. Mom really only cares about herself and how she looks—don’t ask me why that is. It’s like mom can’t handle a different woman having the spotlight. Something about matriarchy, I guess. But, at all cost, you gotta watch out for little brothers. They really don’t give a shit. They don’t want to be at a wedding in the first place and will expose you if you let on even the slightest hint of a sham.
“Tad’s down!” Jamie shouts. “What the hell’s the matter with you people! Give him some air!”
Jamie, Jamie. Tad’s had a heart attack. Tad’s been eating cheese fries and drinking Genny Light since the fucking 80s, so it’s a miracle he didn’t keel over sooner. Hold on, Tad. It ain’t your time. In my imagination, I reach inside his chest and give his oversized heart a little squeeze. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. He inhales and grabs his chest. He begins to sob like he did when he was 12 and fell off his skateboard.
“Tad’s OK,” Jamie calls.
Yeah, sometimes I save people. I ain’t good. I ain’t bad. I just am. I ain’t the devil, either. That jerk has been in the White House for the past four years. The devil ain’t too bright. Too much pride, I guess.
And so, right about now, Kaitlyn is in tears, jilted at the age of 25. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Kaitlyn. This was never about revenge or making a holy roller look foolish. I don’t even hate Micah, although the sandals and the white socks have to go. Actually, the reason I did what I did was to bring Kaitlyn and Micah together. After the jilting, Micah and she will leave the church. They’ll think it was all total bullshit (and, spoiler alert, most of it is . . . except the “love” part. That’s all you need). Kaitlyn and Micah belong together, but they won’t make it without this wound. And now they will love each other for the rest of their lives—an ineradicable bond forged from mutual misery. That’s God’s will. That’s the divine plan.