Sorry for being late. I’ve been really busy with grinding partypokers fast-forward player pools lately (also managed my time like a total moron). I’ll be better in the future.
Today’s story comes from the past but for once I remember it really clearly; partly because the stronger the emotions the bigger the trail it leaves in your memory, and partly because for once alcohol had no major part (I swear to God) in the story.
I got in. The apartment was dimly lit with tens of candles.
“So lovely to have you here”, my girlfriend’s parents said to me.
“Yeah, it’s a pleasure” I lied. Meeting your girlfriend’s parents when you’re 18 is never a pleasure. Some other things were said, nothing unpleasant– just unmemorable, as we sat down at the dinner table.
This was around the time that I had lost half a million in a time period of six months. Now, losing a lot of money affects everyone someway, but when you’re 18 it’s going to hit you a bit harder – or that was at least what I was telling myself back then. There was some mild commentating on my poker “hobby” as they called it. Calling poker “a hobby” annoyed me more than I can describe but I thought that resistance in this one is futile. “Pick your battles” – and this one seemed to have nothing for me, so I gritted my teeth and ate in silence as the Father and the Wife exchanged some looks.
What are they planning?
After the dinner we moved on to a sofa. There had been something lingering in the conversation throughout the entire dinner. Something that they wanted to say to me. The father looked to the wife; the wife nodded.
In the background there was a carol singing about Jesus. I only noticed it now. I must’ve made a face, because the father stopped middle of his sentence, gave me a glance and continued:
“Yes, this is a fantastic song. It tells about the greatness of Jesus.”
He looked at me again.
Is he trying to get a read on me?
I had no response. I shrugged.
“So, we’ve been thinking…
he gave a look to his wife, the wife smiled again as an encouragement,
…that you should forget about poker and accept Jesus into your heart.”
(Post note: Like mentioned this was a point in my life that I had just lost a huge amount of money, had a severe gambling addiction and held poker nearly above all. To me, this advice was not just insulting violation of my privacy – it was more like asking to cut off one of my limbs.)
I’ve noticed that time seems to slow down the bigger the bullshit I face. Now, it stood still.
I try to find my girlfriend’s eyes; she’s looking at her mother. Clearly avoiding eye-contact with me. Still sitting on the same sofa though, just a few steps away from me. I look at the father. He seems peaceful. Clearly believing he’s doing something good here.
This was not a dinner. This was an ambush. I feel the rage building inside of me.
There’s small silence in the room as I zone out. To this day I still remember the moment like I’m watching it from above. Christmas lights on the window, candles flickering, and that gospel music playing in the background as the father sitting right beside me.
“So, what do you think?” the father asks and touches my arm.
What do I think? I think that I have just lost fifteen years’ worth of your salary and your solution for it is to believe in a magic Santa Claus for adults? WHAT DO I THINK OF THAT YOU SAY? I think that billions of people have died because of religion, and I think that it’s worrisome that you need a two-thousand-year-old book to tell you right from wrong. I believe that if you make a claim you must be able to verify it through a trial and observation. Otherwise I can just say that I believe you fucked a paraplegic-girl last night, and if you try to deny it, I just say that it’s a matter of faith. That’s what I believe in.
“Well, I’m not really that much into any religion” I reply.
“Really? How so?“
“Well, I’ve always thought that they bring way more harm than good in the world. And I really believe in scientific approach, so I can’t really believe in a book that denies evolution for example.”
“Evolution is only a theory actually”, the mother hops in.
IS IT NOW. FUCK THIS – NO GIRL IS WORTH THIS.
No, calm down. Breathe.
“Yes, much like gravity”, I reply as wryly as I can.
The father gives the wife a look that says: “stop serving him easy points” – it makes me feel a bit better.
“So, you don’t really believe in anything?” Father asks again.
If I’m truly debating evolution with creationists today, it’s not going to be a nice chat for them either.
“Well, if I had to pick a religion (putting an extra weight on the word pick) I think I’d go for something like Buddhism. They seem to have a pretty funky thing going on. I don’t think billions of people have died because of it either so that’s certainly a plus.”
I’m happy with myself. After the initial shock I’ve put myself together and just served my opponents a nice little portion of “fuck you very much”, disguised as a sentence. If they go for Buddhism, I demonstrate how there’s no difference in religions for me, and even if I was forced to pick one – it wouldn’t be yours. “Funky thing” devalues the whole subject. Billions of dead is just a nice touch in the end. Not needed on any level – but brings me great satisfaction.
The father’s body language changes as he pulls back and starts leaning in the opposite direction of me. I adjust my position so I’m sitting up straight. My girlfriend has buried her face between her knees. The father is looking at me like I’m the antichrist himself and the Wife is just staring at me with her mouth open. There’s extreme tension in the air as I stare them down. I could cut it, but I’m not going to – all three of them are squirming under it now, and I love it.
“Buddhism?” The wife stutters out.
It’s like I had a loaded gun pointed at them, and the Wife just asked me to pull the trigger. Instantly I start a rant about how there’s no difference in any religions and how it’s weird how people just seem to be born in the “right” religion. As my rant grows longer my girlfriend dives ever deeper into her own knees, and the Father’s eyes fills with rage. I look straight at him while I’m questioning whether he thinks he would believe in his lord savior if he were born to a hindi family.
You started it
Another silence falls. Their every bodily movement tells me of extreme discomfort. The Father is shaking and the Wife seems to have forgotten how to have arms. I can’t see my girlfriend’s face but she’s shaking a bit – I think she might be crying. I’m not reacting – if they want war, that’s what they’re going to get. They don’t get to see any emotion from me whatsoever. This unwanted conversion will end with you feeling bad for it or denying your own faith.
Finally, the Wife accidentally almost screams with a shaking voice: “Well, these matters of faith are always very personal”
I’m wondering if I should take this peace offering or not. One part of me wants to go on another rant – this time highlighting how rude and wrong it is trying to manipulate those with perceived lesser power in the room – maybe dropping a not so subtle hint that what they’re doing is horrible and then drive the point on how they’re clearly good people but religion is the only tool to make good people do bad things?
I notice that my girlfriend is definitely crying – probably best not to.
“Sure” I reply, accepting the olive branch.
“You want some wine?” she asks.
The tension in the room is breaking down.
The wife signals the father, still shocked and clearly angry, who gets up, grabs my wine glass and goes into the kitchen to fill it up. The conversion is over.
Rest of the evening wasn’t as tense but even more absurd. The Wife shared a story about how she had seen angels’ wings and another one about a house where an actual ghost lived. I had no response to these – and I still don’t. As the evening grew older, I got a feeling that I may have won a battle – but lost the war.
In the night, as I walked away from the house, a poker saying came to my mind:
“My girlfriend once asked me; is it me or poker?
-I never saw her again. But I did flop quad queens the next Saturday.”