It was taboo, to open an umbrella in Seattle. It drizzled constantly, so to open an umbrella was like fanning the smoke in a bowling alley. To complain about the rain, by opening an umbrella. To acknowledge something ordinary. To be health conscious in a bar, worried about second-hand smoke. To go swimming, and not want to get wet. I opened an umbrella, anyway. I didn’t care about culture; I just did what I wanted to do. Women were always trying to bring me back into society, with helpful criticisms. “Your beard needs to be trimmed. Your hair is too long. Your jeans went out of style two years ago.”

I looked at Cass, waiting for her to criticize. She didn’t. Maybe, a woman earns more points, by the things she doesn’t do. It could be the same for a man. If two people stay silent, and just walk next to each other, occasionally staring into each other’s eyes, the great mystery becomes more mysterious.

“It’s Sunday tomorrow,” Cass said.

“Yes, I know.”

“Why don’t you come to church with me?”

“Oh, I don’t know if I believe in that. There might be a god.”

“There are several,” she said. “But that’s not the point.”

“I think you just said a heresy. You attend church?”

“With my family. Do you know Maple Valley?”

“Sure, I do. It’s ten miles away from where I grew up.”

“Well, it’s the church with the white pagoda, over by the Cedar River, near the Testy Chef Cafe.”

“I know the one,” I said.

“Church is at 10 o’clock. You can meet my father.” She must’ve read me, like a fortune teller. “That is, if you want to meet him?”

“Oh, of course, of course. I want to meet him,” I said.

When I was getting dressed Sunday morning, I cursed myself, for not asking her about the dress code. I thought it was safer than using the Lord’s name in vain, considering, I was entering His house in less than an hour. My clothing options were limited, as I hated to shop, and did so, sporadically. I usually had a shirt that looked good, but pants that were obscene. Making an outfit work became more complicated as I got older. I was expected to dress for specific occasions, which meant my wardrobe repertoire needed to adapt to all the different events I didn’t want to go to. That also meant, I had to buy clothes for places I didn’t want to go. All for a girl? I have heard women laugh when recounting when their man bought a new shirt to impress them. It’s never just a shirt. And if you have a sedentary job that causes you to gain weight, then you have to determine what size you’ll be on the day of the date. Living is more complicated as an adult, if you want to exist in society. I was always on the fringes, being pulled in, and intentionally stepping out. I always felt better about myself, outside of society, where I belonged. Now, I was trying to impress her father, and I started to pray. It was Sunday, after all. “Dear Lord, please have it be a hick church, where no one has a sense of style. Make it be, a church of football fans, who wear the jersey. I can take their conversations. And if they invite me over, I’ll eat their nachos, and pretend I’m enjoying the game.” Maybe my prayer wasn’t at the top of God’s list. Strange though, I find myself praying more often in society. I’m more of a philosopher, when I go on hikes in the mountains. I pretend I’m Nietzsche. I’m insane because I contracted syphilis, but I’m also a tortured genius who will be remembered for all time.

To be continued…

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