Grand Theft Jerusalem

Okay, this is the premise: I am married to the woman I have been in love with since I was nine years old. We have one child. My wife knows my name. Our one child is an egg—a raw egg—we are both 12 years old, and our mission is to keep our child alive for one full week. My older brother says that our child will start to rot and stink before the week is over, my wife was picked at random by our health instructor, and she has never spoken to me before this day. We both kind of hate the egg that represents our child.

My girlfriend is an atheist and I am an agnostic, which means that neither of us believes in God, but when we argue about God’s existence we both think that the other is being intellectually dishonest.

When I get to Jeremy and Alicia’s apartment, Alicia is wearing brown, fake-leather sandals. The nails on her toes are painted blue. Her hair is died an intentionally fake looking shade of black and cut short. She is wearing a t-shirt that says, “boys are mean—throw rocks at them,” and a pair of knee-length, cut off shorts, and when she answers the door she has a gin and tonic, for me, in her hand. She hugs me, takes me by the wrist, and pulls me into the apartment where Jeremy is sitting on the couch playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on their playstation

What I like about GTA: San Andreas, what I like about all the Rockstar titles, is that you can talk to a hooker without sounding like a Junior High School geek who still thinks that Madonna is hot. You can talk with a prostitute—be in control—and if, at the end of the conversation, you don’t like her fake smile, you can pull out a tire-iron and smash her over and over in the head until she stops moving.

The woman sitting across from Jeremy is my date. Her name is Julie, she works with Alicia, she reads science fiction, and she watches Stargate Atlantis. Alicia thinks we are perfect for each other. I imagine that she is an idiot—my blind date, not Alicia—she does, after all, watch Stargate Atlantis, and we sit and talk about Dick and Heinlein and Pournelle and all the other obvious writers that every pre-teen geek in the world knows, and I wish that I was playing video games instead of Jeremy, and I start to imagine in my mind what Julie would look like naked, and I hope that she will sleep with me after the movie, and I hope that we will never see each other again.

Okay, this is the premise: Peter is in the courtyard—in my mind the courtyard is dry and dusty like the central square in Comiso, Sicily where old Italians used to walk drinking dark coffee, talking, and wishing that we American servicemen were far away. In my mind I can see Peter sitting with his back to a stone building, watching the sun rise in the Jerusalem sky. A servant girl walks by, in Grand Theft Auto she would be wearing a short skirt and a blouse so tiny it showed half her stomach. The servant girl asks Peter if he is one of the men with Jesus—if he knows Jesus—and Peter says no. In my mind I can see Peter say no, I watch him as he takes a tire-iron from behind his back, beats the servant girl over the head until she stops moving, and says, “no—I don’t know his name.”

I dated an Italian girl when I was stationed in Sicily. Her name was Lucia and she was beautiful in a way that Alicia never was and never could be. Beautiful is one of those words that is meaningless—that says less than almost any other word. When I say that Lucia was beautiful what I mean is that she was fifteen years old, and Catholic, and that she wore long dresses, no makeup, and plain white bras, and that she never slept with me, and that her ears were not pierced, and that I was twenty-two, and that she laughed at my Italian, and that I could see the veins in her wrist, and that the cross around her neck was made of volcanic rock from Mount Etna, and that her parents did not want me to date their daughter, and that in the summer she made picnics that we took to the beach, and that she went to high school, and that she thought I was a man, and that she believed in God, and that she liked me.

I want to imagine that she is a nun now, but she probably has two kids and is sleeping with some Italian guy.

Okay, this is the reality: we never did the stupid egg experiment when I was in Junior High School. My niece had to do it last year, and she claimed to hate it every bit as much as I would have claimed to hate it. Jeremy and I both knew Alicia, sort of casually, from youth group and school, but they had not yet had the bowling alley moment where they did not realize they fell in love, the moment when Jeremy emptied an entire bottle of ketchup on to the fries that we had bought her so she wouldn’t be bored while we played video games, the moment when she said he was a dork and then kissed him, so seventh grade was the perfect moment for a lame Junior High School assignment, but it never happened.

There are three problems with this story—because what is a story if not an equation to be solved—the first is the inherent misogyny, the second is the pre-occupation with girls several years younger than me, and the third is Alicia. Another way of looking at this story is that there is only one problem—Alicia.

About the same time that Alicia presses another gin and tonic into my hand, I throw Murakami at Julie. She comes back with Wild Sheep Chase, and there is a shift in the conversation. She knows Murakami and Calvino and Saramago. She has seen Silent Star, Crash of the Moons, and Howl’s Moving Castle. We both went, alone, to the first showing of the newly restored Phantom of The Opera at the Universal Amphitheater and were overwhelmed by the full orchestra, live, playing the score. She knows that Ray Harryhousen killed two baby ducks and used their soft downy skins to create the two-headed, baby Roc in The Seven Voyages of Sinbad. She was sad when Joel left Mystery Science Theater 3000. She understands how bad the acting in the first Star Wars movie was. When she was fourteen she stole a package of pop rocks from Safeway and she still wishes she could take it back. She used to sneak looks at the copies of Penthouse that her brother had hidden under his bed, but she didn’t have sex until she was 23. She feels guilty that she no longer believes in God. She tells people that she was in love with Parker Stevenson when she was twelve, but she was really in love with Shaun Cassidy. She turns out not to be just another Buffy, X-Files, Stargate clone. Stories where writers drop the names of other writers, to show how much they read, suck—so, I won’t do it any more than I already have, but Julie reads a lot. By the time Alicia puts the third gin and tonic into my hand the movie we had planned to see at the Laemmele is already half over and we decide to walk across the street to Marco’s and have vegetarian lasagna and red wine instead. I still want to sleep with Julie, but the reason I never want to see her again is entirely different.

There is only one unforgivable sin. Peter can deny that he knows the name of Christ from now until the end of time and Jesus will still forgive him. Peter can drive through Jerusalem with a shotgun on the seat next to him, he can shoot police, prostitutes, old women, and good Samaritans. He can crash his car through the front window of a jewelry store, stab the man behind the counter, and steal candy from little children. He can return library books three days after they were due, download movies from the internet, and vote for a democrat. And, Jesus will still forgive him.

There is only one sin that Jesus will not forgive.
. . . it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
–Hebrews 6.4-7

Jeremy and Alicia are not dating when we get married. Alicia does not know who Jeremy is, and she thinks video games are for geeks, and she has never used a computer, and she wears hiking boots to school, and she does not understand that 1024 and 1000 are not the same thing, and I never asked her to dance at a Saint Gregory’s youth group dance, and her brother would kick my ass if he knew I masturbated while picturing her in my mind, and at our first communion I cannot taste her lip-gloss on the rim of the chalice when I drink the blood of Jesus after her, and she never wears a bikini when she swims at the gravel pit, and when Jeremy and I talk about her we both pretend that we think she is weird and that we don’t like to imagine what she would look like naked, and she plays volleyball, has muscles in her arms, and her short hair makes her look like a boy.

When the health instructor joins us in holy matrimony, Alicia looks at me and says, “You’re that kid from youth group, right? Your uncle owns a gas station?”

I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation—the only point of conversation in fiction is to give insight into character, and all I am trying to show is that Alicia was polite and that our conversations at 12 were painful. You really learned everything you need to know about Alicia when I told you she wore hiking boots, had short hair, and played volleyball—none of that is true, but it describes other things about Alicia that are true.

If you have never played Grand Theft Auto on a 100 inch screen, then you have never really played Grand Theft Auto. It is a full body, totally immersive experience. It is kind of like those lame holo deck episodes on The Next Generation, but without aging androids, bad acting, Bragga and Berman, or a twenty-fourth-century-moral at the end.

Anyone with a jig-saw, $100, and a free weekend can have a 100 inch television. Pick up one of those old high-school overhead projectors and a used LCD screen on eBay, rip the back off the screen and attach it to the overhead projector, mount 80 mm fans, offset, on either side, and enclose the whole thing in a box made out of particle board painted black. Aim it at a white wall and you can watch full size porn, a bootleg copy of the original Star Wars, where Han Solo still shoots first, or a kick-ass game of GTA: San Andreas, and it is all larger than life.

The next time they came for Peter, Jesus was already bound and in chains. If Mel Gibson were writing this story then Jesus would have been dressed in leather, bound with handcuffs, have a spiked cock ring from The Pleasure Chest around his dick, and be down on his knees in front of the entire Jewish nation–but Mel Gibson is one crazy, anti-semitic fuck. All the Gospel according to John tells us is that Jesus was sent, bound, to Caiaphas.

The crowd gathers around Peter and starts pushing. They ask him if he is one of the disciples, and when he says that he is not I can tell that they don’t believe him. I can tell that they don’t care. I can tell that they hate him.

I watch as Peter pulls an AK-47 out of his robes, puts it to Caiaphas’s head, and pulls the trigger. I watch the blood explode from the other side of the high-priest’s skull, and I see Peter whirl faster than any eye can follow and empty the AK-47 into the gathering mob.

My girlfriend is Jewish, which means that her mom and my mom both think we have turned our backs on the truth, for exactly the same reasons.

I met Lucia when she was fourteen, but we did not start dating until she was fifteen, and, as I wrote earlier, we never slept together. We dated for over a year, but I don’t know what kind of movies she watched, and I don’t know what kind of music she listened to. I don’t know what she read, or what she believed, or what she thought. We drove all over Sicily in my 1978 Lancia. She smiled at me and looked pretty in photographs. We walked among the ruins at Agrigento and I actually touched the columns of a temple that was over 600 years old on the day that Christ was born.

I built a 100 inch television for Jeremy and Alicia before Episode II came out, so we could have a retro-Star Wars movie night at their apartment on the day of the premiere. We had already seen all the good Clone battle scenes via bit-torrent downloads, and had determined that the rest of the movie was not worth watching—I still haven’t seen it.

Alicia made margaritas, Jeremy made pizza, and I rented a VHS copy of the original movie from vidiots and copied it to DVD so we would not have to watch the Jurassic Park version. We sat on their couch, the three of us sat on their couch, and watched all three movies from start to finish. We saw the epic battle between darkness and light, we saw Luke kiss his sister and try to kill his father, we saw the lame dancing teddy bears at the end of Jedi, and we saw Han Solo kill Greedo the bounty hunter.

When the movies were over I walked back to my apartment and Alicia and Jeremy had sex while Jeremy pictured Princess Leia, chained to Jabba the Hut, in his mind.

The egg-child that I claimed to father at the start of the story is very much like the baby Jesus in that it was conceived not through the physical act of sex, but through the miracle of divine intervention. Metaphors in fiction are really a stand-in for serious thought, and as such are useless, but if I push this metaphor further, that kind of makes me into Joseph, the only man in the history of the world to be cuckold by God himself—and it kind of makes Alicia into Mary. But, if I push the metaphor further that also makes my health teacher into God, which causes problems when you realize that he was asked to leave the school after having sex with the star forward of the girls soccer team.

The third time they came for Peter they had witnesses. When Peter was in the garden of Gesthsemene, with Jesus, and the soldiers came, Peter was carrying a knife. While the soldiers were dragging Jesus away, Peter slashed out wildly with his switch blade, and he cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. When they came for Peter the third time they had witnesses. There was a slave who was cousin to the man with the missing ear, and the slave told them that Peter was a follower of Jesus.

When they came for Peter the third time Peter said, “no, I never knew him,” and the crowd believed Peter, and they walked away, and Peter didn’t know why they listened to his lie. He came to realize, in later years, after he became the unshakable rock upon which the church was founded, that Jesus was with him on that day, and that Jesus meant for him to lie, but Peter never wrote about the moment, so if you want to believe that the crowds were just ignorant hicks who would believe anything that Peter told them, that is okay too.

Non-geeks never understand the significance of Han Solo shooting the bounty hunter first. In the original movie, the bounty hunter, Greedo, came for Han, threatened him, and threatened to bring him to Jabba the Hut, dead. While they talked Han, quietly, underneath the table, pulled out his blaster. He aimed it at the bounty hunter, and he pulled the trigger.
Han Solo, the original Han Solo, would rock at Grand Theft Auto.

The unofficial motto at Comiso Air Station, Sicily was “Glick-em till they glow, and then shoot ’em in the dark.” Glick-em is how we pronounced GLCM, which is short for Ground Launched Cruise Missile. A Ground Launched Cruise Missile is a huge cock shaped nuclear weapon mounted on a trailer and pulled by a big truck. We had a lot of them at Comiso. We didn’t have any airplanes, but we had a lot of Ground Launched Cruise Missiles. We could, however, neither confirm nor deny that they were atomic weapons designed to kill millions of people.

Every three months or so we had military exercises. We pretended that we were at war with the Soviet Union. We got into our trucks and drove to all corners of the island. We pretended to fire our Ground Launched Cruise Missiles at vast cities filled with millions of pretend citizens going about their pretend lives. We lived in the dust or the mud, depending on the season, we ate MREs, and we talked about how we would get drunk at the NCO club when the exercise was over, and maybe visit one of the prostitutes at the third bridge in Ragusa. You don’t really need me to describe any of the military scenes—if you have seen even one war movie just picture the received image in your head. It was pretty much like that but without the fake bullets.

Lucia did not live in Vittoria, which was designated a non-nuclear zone by its communist mayor, and which we had to drive around whenever we had the exercises where we pretended that the U.S. was at war with the U.S.S.R and we had to get our contribution to the destruction of the world into the air before we were incinerated along with the rest of the island upon which we lived.

Lucia did not live in Vittoria, and her parents were not communists.

According to tradition the Gospel according to John was written by the unnamed disciple known only as “the one whom Jesus loved.” We know that Peter was not the disciple whom Jesus loved, because in John 21.7 the disciple whom Jesus loved tells Peter that the man on the shore, the man they can see from their boat, the man who told them where to set their nets—the man that Peter did not recognize—was Jesus. After the disciple whom Jesus loved told Peter that the man on the shore was Jesus, Peter, who had been fishing naked, put on clothes, jumped in the water, and swam to shore.

But, we also know that Peter was not the writer of the Gospel according to John because Peter was crucified, upside down, on Vatican hill in Rome long before the Gospel according to John was ever written. And, we know that Peter was crucified on Vatican hill because he would not deny that he knew Jesus’ name because that is what tradition tells us.

After the priest joins us in holy matrimony I ask Alicia if she wants to have a Coke with me and Jeremy after school and she tells me that she has homework and I tell her that it sucks that she has homework and she agrees that it does suck and I take the egg home for the first night because I don’t think she will take care of it and I want her to get an A on the assignment and my brother tells me that the egg will rot before the end of the week and I watch Battlestar Galactica on television and my little sister tells me that Alicia kissed one of the Ethan brothers at the haunted barn on Halloween night and my dad drinks a six pack of Rainer and my mom asks if I have done my homework and Starbuck and Apollo shoot cold metal Cylons out of the sky and I go up to my bedroom and imagine that I have Dirk Benedict hair and that Cassiopia is giving me a blowjob and when I masturbate I don’t think of Alicia.

I never went to the third bridge in Ragusa. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know how. I wrote about it once—I wrote about the third bridge once. In a story called Waking Up in Sicily I wrote that the women lived in flat, gray, concrete buildings, and that they were middle-aged. I wrote that they pretended they could not speak English, and I tried to make it sound as if the men who visited them were sad and pathetic married men who did not love their wives.

But, in that story Alicia did not exist, and Jeremy and I were both stationed in Sicily.

We know from the Gospel according to Matthew that Peter was the rock upon which the Christian church was founded. We know because Jesus told Peter, “Blessed are you Simon son of Johan! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” We know that Peter was the rock upon which the church was founded because all we can really know about the life of Jesus comes from the gospels and everything else is the work of man. Sola Scriptura. We know that Peter was the rock upon which the church was founded because Jesus himself said so, but Jesus also said that he was the son of God, and that he died for our sins.

Of course, I do see Julie again. She is the Jewish, atheist woman who drinks mimosa and coffee with Jeremy, Alicia, and me at Hugo’s on Sunday mornings while my mother is in church. She is the woman who plays Halo 2 with me for hours on xBox live, and who kicks ass on Unreal Two. She is the woman who doesn’t mind walking two miles down Fairfax Avenue to spend the afternoon in the Japanese pavilion at LACMA. She is the woman who went to the King Tut exhibition with me and agrees that it sucked. She is the woman who doesn’t mind that I have the dialog from every episode of Danger Mouse ever made memorized, and that I quote it at inappropriate times. She plays Bridge with Alicia, Jeremy, and me on Saturday nights, and keeps my houseplants alive. She knows how to count cards and thinks that people who gamble in Vegas are idiots. She is learning to speak Yiddish because she was raised in a non-religious house, and she wants to know more about her heritage.

When she finally moves in to my apartment we have to build bookcases because she owns more books than I do and neither of us is willing to give up our own personal copy of The Violent Bear it Away.

Alicia says that we are perfect for each other.

This is the first story I have written in a long time where Jeremy has not played a major role in the surface story, and I am not sure I understand why. The surface of a story, of course, is unimportant, but I still don’t understand. Alicia thinks I love Jeremy like a brother, and Julie thinks I love Jeremy like Jesus loved the unnamed disciple, and they both think that I should start to write about something else. When I showed an early draft of this story to Julie, she asked why I called her Julie in the story, and then she said that she loved my Jeremy stories, but she was glad I was moving on to write about something else, and I asked her what she was talking about.

When I showed Julie the preceding paragraph she asked me what I wanted her to say, and I asked her what she meant, and she told me that she loved me, and I said that I just wanted her opinion on the story, and she said that she believed me, and then we talked about how much it sucked that Farscape was canceled.

When I was fifteen, Jeremy, Alicia, and I went to a Billy Graham rally at the King Dome in Seattle. We walked up to the stage and asked Jesus to come in to our lives. We knelt on the floor of the King Dome and prayed that God would use us to do his will. We sang songs and lifted our arms into the air; we praised Jesus, and told each other that we could feel the holy spirit entering our bodies.

When I was fifteen, I went to the King Dome and Billy Graham gave me a copy of the Gospel according to Saint John and I read it over and over until the pages fell apart. And, I believed that Jesus was the son of God.

In the George Lucas remake of Star Wars, Han Solo waits for Greedo to shoot at him before he kills him. Han sits three feet away from Greedo, he aims his blaster at the bounty hunter, and then he waits for the bounty hunter to kill him. After Greedo misses, Han Solo shoots him down and walks out of the Cantina.

When all the disciples made it to shore they saw that Jesus had built a fire, and he asked them for the fish they had caught and for some bread. After he made a dozen fish sandwiches he gave them to the disciples and said, “take, eat, this is the fish of the new covenant which is grilled for you and for many. Whenever you eat it, do so in the remembrance of me.”

It was the third time that Jesus had appeared to the disciples after his death, and, after they had eaten their fish sandwiches, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, and each time Peter answered that he did.

When I said, before, that I never slept with Lucia, I lied. On the night that she turned sixteen I took her to the NCO club on base, and we danced, and my friends thought she was pretty, and we talked, and we laughed, and I bought her a glass of wine that she didn’t drink, and she came back to my room, and we had sex. She didn’t want to and I didn’t want to, but we did it anyway. When it was over she put her head on my chest and told me that she loved me, and I told her the same thing.