September 6th 2010 Blasphemy
At night, Astoria is lousy with kids. Kids aren’t afraid to fuck with you to get your attention. I suppose I was like that when I was in high school, too. When alcohol isn’t readily available, saying stupid things to passersby—whether those things are spiteful or just weird—is your primary source of amusement. I was walking home late Saturday night when I passed a group of high school students sitting out in front of an apartment building. One of the little troublemakers said, “Bro, she thinks you’re cute.” A quick assessment showed that all of them were below my age threshold, so I ignored this comment. As the group disappeared into the night, the kid quipped, “Dude, he looks like Jesus.”
This is truer than I’d like to admit, and reminded me of my days at William & Mary, when someone else mistook me for the Messiah. I had missed my bus home; since the buses in Williamsburg ran only once an hour, I had time to kill, so I took a walk along the footpaths that meandered through the centuries-old campus. I came across a paunchy man dressed in black slacks and a white shirt. Approaching his starboard side, I assumed, from the way he repelled students, that he was a campus security officer. As I nodded and mumbled a hello, I saw the distinctive name badge on his left breast. Recognition dawned on me: he wasn’t an officer of Jefferson’s alma mater, but an officer of God—a Mormon proselytizer.
Despite my central Pennsylvania upbringing, I am a fearless nonbeliever. In high school, though, I was interested in religion, and once spent a lunch break talking to a couple of Mormons. The legacy of this encounter is a dusty copy of the Book of Mormon on my bookshelf and an earnest belief that Mormons are fairly nuts. It had been an educational encounter, but one I didn’t wish to repeat.
My fate was sealed, as I’d already made eye contact. I hoped he’d let me pass unmolested, but my hope was in vain. “Hey,” he said, “do you mind if I ask you a question?”
What could I say? I was a fly, he a Dionaea muscipula, and I was trapped in his ciliated maw. “Go ahead.”
He pawed at the short stubble that passes for hair among Mormon evangelists. “How long did it take you to grow hair that long?”
My long locks swished against my shoulders. Maybe I’d get off easy after all. “Oh…about a year and a half, I’d say.”
“That’s really something. I’ve never had hair that long, so I thought I’d ask. You have a pretty thick beard, too. Say, do you know who else had long hair and a beard?”
Here it was, the coup de grâce. “Hm, let me guess,” I said, giving him my best interpretation of a sly look. “Jesus?”
His face lit up. This hippy had heard The Word! “That’s right! Would you mind talking to me more about the Church of Latter-Day Saints?
I politely declined and left him to find another victim. His hook reeked of a desperation akin to the bad pickup lines that young women endure at dive bars and frat parties, and I’m too classy for that sort of proposition. Besides, I bet he says that to all the guys who look like Jesus.