Chapter 14

   Being a Christian means you don’t have to be a good person. You can be a piece of shit. Thelma knew that, just like she knew she was a piece of shit, but she also knew someone paid her debt off. That’s what being a Christian means.

   “Someone paid my debt for me, died for it, and then rose again. I can be a sinner, I can be a drinker, and I can be born this way and that way. I can be the person who never changes, because someone has saved me.”

   After they met, Steve began praying that Telly and he would meet some more. He got a with-it haircut and got his monobrow waxed. He became a more handsome man. Some people think he looks like Al Pacino while others think he looks like Eric Roberts. Telly thinks he looks like the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

   Every time they went out, she wrapped up whatever last date it was that night thinking it was the last time. After three months of give and take she had a party at her house, and he came to it. It wasn’t her house, not exactly, it was Craig’s house, her ex-boyfriend’s, but by then he had moved out and she was still living there, alone.

   All her friends came over and everyone stayed the night because they were drinking long and hard. They all left in the morning, except Steve. He didn’t leave, but Thelma left after breakfast. She had an appointment at Bay Presbyterian with her minister that morning.

   She told her minister about who she had met and what was happening.

   “I’m fucked,” she thought.

   “Red flags should be going up,” he said.

   “They are!” she said. “They are going up all over!”

   They prayed and her minister made a list with a good side on the right and a bad side on the left. She started checking them off, drug addict, Mob ties, can’t always remember my name, until her minister finally stopped her.

   “He’s mostly on the bad side of the list,” Telly pointed out.

   “Do you believe God can move mountains,” he asked.

   “Of course, I do,” she said.

   “What makes you think you can’t change Steve?”

   “That’s a good question.”

   “You could stay away from him, but that’s not what Christianity is about.”

   “You’re right,” she said. “Jesus hung out with prostitutes and shitty people.”

   Steve and Thelma were both abused when they were young. He went to drugs and alcohol. She went to the Lord. When Telly got back home to Craig’s house, she told Steve what her minister had said.

   “He didn’t tell you I was a piece of crap and you should leave me?” he asked. Steve was brought up a Catholic. He looked on the doom and gloom side of things.

   “No,” she said. “But he did say you should change your ways and follow Christ. He said if you would stop drinking for a year then you have his permission to further your relationship with me.”

   “I’ll never drink again,” Steve said.

   “Get out of my house, get out, and don’t come back!” Thelma exploded.

   He just gaped at her.

   “You can’t make those kinds of promises. What is the point if you don’t tell the truth? Nobody can help you if you don’t tell the truth. I’m all about the truth. Call me if you ever sober up.” He looked and looked at her. “What?” she asked.

   “I’m sorry,” he said. “But you have to give me a ride.”

   He didn’t own a car. Telly drove him back to Little Italy.

   He called her the next morning. “I’m still sober,” he said. “I’m never going to drink again. You’re my life and I’m going to marry you.”

   “Don’t say shit like that,” she said.

   They got married on St. Patrick’s Day. Steve has been dead sober for fourteen years and they have been married for thirteen years. St Patrick is the saint who said, “Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise.” He’s the patron saint of unworthy sinners.

   Steve found Christ, but the one thing he did not do was he didn’t stop smoking weed. Telly was OK with it, except it bothered her when he was getting high in the car while they were on their way to church.

   “I don’t care what the fuck you do,” she finally told him,” but don’t go to church high. I’m not going to harp on it, it’s just something I can’t stand.”

   Thelma swears like a truck driver. Steve is OK with it. She grew up with the word ‘fuck’ flying up and down the dinner table every night. She thought for many years her mother invented and patented the word. At least she made it her own, like Telly now. “I say it every day in front of my minister. There’s no fakeness. I’m very real. If that is how I’m going to talk then that is how I’m going to talk.”

   The weed was where she drew the line with Steve, although when you get everything on your go-to list answered the way you want it, down to his eye color, you don’t throw it back in God’s face saying, no thanks. But she had to draw a line in the sand.

   “You’re not going to go to church anymore if you’re going to get high on the way,” she said.

   He got down on his hands and knees and asked the Lord to take the yoke from his neck and get rid of the addiction. He wanted to get clean, and it was in his heart. He hasn’t smoked for almost ten years.

   She had a dream one night that he went back to the bottle.

   “That’ll never happen,” he said. “Did I have fun then? Do I miss those days, Sure, I had a blast, it was a great time, but I was lonely and I was by myself and was sad, on top of it all. I love my life now.”

   He was a drunk then. He didn’t know a lot about sobriety, only a lot about drinking. He never had just one beer. Whenever he bought a six-pack, he drank a six-pack. He used to make her so mad when he drank like a fish.

   “I’m going to punch you in the fucking throat!” she would yell when she saw him boozing.

   He doesn’t smoke or drink anymore. He’s the first one to tell everyone that Christ is real and alive and working in all our lives every day. They still go to bars, but he just watches Telly drink. It only takes a couple and she loose as a goose.

   They don’t have to not go to bars because of Steve or leave five minutes after they’ve gotten there, either. He can go to a bar and not drink. He’s made that happen. He started getting it through his head that it was about the people he was with, especially since ace in the hole he was with her.

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