We met in a chat room, then followed up with a date in the city. I wore a black dress to ward off expectations. He wore a grey undertaker’s suit. We had a nice seafood dinner in a waterfront restaurant. He was an accountant, but I didn’t hold that against him. The liquor drowned out all sense and I went home with him. That might have been the end of the story but instead of sex he asked me to pray with him. I refused. It seemed too intimate and too weird. Besides I hadn’t prayed for years, and prayer was a private thing. I got furious with him, as though he’d tried to take advantage or something. I felt deceived. He phoned a taxi. As his doorway silhouette slid away, I sighed and thought, a mercy.
I closed down that chat room pretty sharp. Unfortunately, we’d emailed once to arrange our date and so he sent me an email to apologize. It was one of those epic, too-polite apologies near-strangers specialize in. It was a miniature gospel to the unconverted. He said at the very end, just as I suspected he would, that he’d like a second chance with me. Some chance, I thought, shutting down to take my shower and head to work. But I didn’t press delete. It had reached the stage in my life where even the interest of a complete loser was better than nothing at all. I had my cats, my apartment, my friends, but there was a definite gap in my life. Man-sized. That evening I wrote back saying that’s fine, whatever. That kind of don’t-care vibe. We started off again, “taking it easy” this time, meeting for coffee in very public Main Street joints, chatting a little and leaving it at that. He had a familiar story—lonely widower, too-busy career guy, no social life. The religion stuff was still freaky to me—I hate that shit in anyone. He was born again, yadda, yadda. My mind closed when he talked about it. I’d press a mental switch re-starting the conversation. As it was in the beginning.
We went out for a time. Kevin. That was his name. I didn’t give the prayer stuff the time of day and I could see he was torn between what we had and what he thought he should be saying to me as a matter of duty. These born-again folks have this endless compulsion to convert. He ached with it all the time we spent together. I could see that desire roiling in his eyes like demon vortexes, but I was always extremely firm about where I stood. “No politics or religion, Kevin, or it’ll spoil everything. This is a multi-denominational relationship.” We moved in. I let him get on with his thing and I got on with my old life—then sometimes we met in the middle. One day I came home and found him praying with another woman. They were kneeling opposite each other like angels guarding a doorway. I wasn’t exactly surprised. It had always been in him to do this kind of thing with other people. They both stood up, looking flustered. The woman reddened and did up the buttons of her cardigan. I acted out, I must admit. I felt betrayed. I was a fire storm, an Old Testament desert prophet. I declaimed. I threw them out into the apartment corridor. Kevin kept knocking on the door like a Bible salesman. I could hear the woman crying. For a while I sat against the door wondering if I wanted to let everything that lay on the other side back into my life. Not to mention whether a shared prayer was an intimacy that might be classed as a betrayal. I wasn’t sure, and so I went into my bedroom to lie down. The clouds were passing across my window same as usual, making their own insubstantial countries out of vapor. I lay there for a long time and watched them. Amen.