“I was supposed to be a priest,” Marcus tells me as we remain in our pew while the last of the evening church crowd filters out, “but the chicks wanted me too badly.” He says this with laugh. I thought he was kidding, since most of his other stories tonight at the bar seemed equally hard to believe. He is serious. I don’t know what to believe anymore. So for now, I believe.
Marcus grins at every exiting elderly nun type and the occasional naughty Catholic girl. It seems his libido knows no age or boundaries. “Probably here out of guilt,” he remarks.
“Which one?” I ask.
“All of them. Only the guilt-ridden Catholics go to church each day.”
There’s a pause. Marcus already knows what I’m thinking. (This can be a very dangerous talent between any two people who are not married). Before I can interject anything, he adds, “Other than me. And my mom. I come to church for a different reason. I’m only here to count my blessings.”
Must be nice to have blessings to count. I count only one these days, and she’s starting to slowly wake from her nap. I better start thinking about taking her back to her crib. The one at her mother’s place. But I’m still thinking about that gemstone in the collection plate.
I never get a chance to bring up the gemstone. Every time that I tried, Marcus wouldn’t stop talking about what he wants to talk about. He holds up both ends of any conversation, but never bores himself even when he’s talks in endless circles like tonight. Three more times tonight, he will have reminded me that he’s had sex with college cheerleaders, South Beach supermodels, and European flight attendants. He dresses like a young drug dealer, so I imagine he just drugs all their drinks. Only way that’s for real.
I pray to God that ZoElizabeth isn’t old enough to understand these words. If she ever repeats one of those naughty words around her mother and somehow remembers that she first heard them as a baby inside a church from a drunk priest-wannabe, then I may lose all future visitation rights. I realize that wouldn’t really happen, however, there’s no underestimating how sensitive I am when it involves my future with my estranged wife.
We will be a family again. If only I can succeed again. Valerie can love a failure. She can’t seem to love a disappointment. Why is a disappointment worse than a failure? Think about it. Failures result from things that happen to you…things that might be out of your control. They are usually only personal to you.
A disappointment is felt by those closest to you. Disappointment is not something that you can ignore or bury. I made a choice. A wrong choice. Worse yet, I made a wrong choice when I fully believed that I was making the right choice. As the protector of my own family, it’s never reassuring to your loved ones to display such poor judgment. Valerie needs that reassurance from me. I need that reassurance from me even more, ever since that fatal collapse of Rockmount and the even more tragic collapse of my marriage.
I would probably sell my soul to protect my family. To lose my family, it cost me a lot less—to the tune of $1.6M from my own money invested in Rockmount dealings. I thought that would be worth maintaining my honesty. But in this horrible economy, honesty ain’t credibility. And honesty and ignorance can’t pay the mortgage.
To this day, that decision not to help Ernesto stall long enough to divert our assets—perhaps out of righteousness, perhaps out of spite—may prove to be my biggest sin.
The church is now empty. A hungry ZoElizabeth begins to fidget and cry. Her wailing reverberates off the marble. I get up to take her outside. Marcus stands, perhaps too quickly. Head rush. He stumbles out of the pew. Like a turtle on its back, he can’t seem to get up. I hope I don’t have to carry him to the curb. I can handle only one child right now.
I wait for him by the front entrance. He waves me off and grumbles, “Give me a minute, and I’ll spring for the cab.”
I’m so broke that cab fare outweighs a clean getaway.
Before turning my back on him, I notice him stopping at the hundreds of un-lit votive candles beneath the feet of a Jesus statue. The very same candles where you typically donate $1 to light one, and say a silent prayer. I can’t help but wonder if Marcus will whip out another un-cut gemstone in order to light every last one of them.
Marcus hollers out over ZoElizabeth’s crying.
“Did you know that my father wanted me to be a priest?,” repeating himself from before. With no remorse, he adds, “Yeah, then he died, and then I stopped wanting what he wanted.”
“Sorry” is all I can think of saying in that moment. I should have walked out the door five seconds earlier and avoided the remaining awkward silence. I could have avoided channeling my Inner Mentor.
“My father deserved to die. I may have even killed him.” Marcus kneels before the votive candles, murmuring as he fidgets with his rosary beads, “God rest his soul.” This was the most sobering comment Marcus would make that whole night. The next day, when he was sober, he wouldn’t remember confessing that to me.
I could tell Marcus wanted to say more. You can always tell when someone wants to tell you something that they’ve never told anyone else before. This would become one of the hallmarks of my relationship with Marcus. Just not at that moment. Marcus was prone to swearing when he got too emotional talking about his father.
But at least Marcus waited until we were no longer inside church to use that filthy language. He is capable of that sort of language when he talks about his father, the babes he’s fucked, and the businessmen who also fuck him by paying him no respect. A man in business (or a boy in life) like this can be capable of great restraint—only if he’s inside a church.
Eventually, I would pray that the whole world was a Catholic church when I was in Marcus’ company. Especially when the situation involved business and my credibility.
Marcus might be God-fearing. To this day, I am only Marcus-fearing!