After work I head in the direction of downtown. It's a familiar walk, so I'm half paying attention. It was a hell of a day and I'm just trying not to explode.
Mark honks to break me out of my reverie. He's in his always-shiny cabriolet. I open the passenger door and hop in. It's just four blocks to the bar, but I don't mind his company.
"Hey man, you doing OK? Looking kinda tired, or something," he says as we peel off down the street, at a whopping twenty mph.
"Long day at work," I lie. Mark nods along, he knows the grind. He knew the grind. I look around. "New upholstery?"
"Yeah," he says, dejected. "I left the fucking roof open!"
"In fucking Seattle."
We chit-chat about nothing in particular, park in the underground lot, take the elevator up.
The place is our usual hang. They've got something like 160 taps, so everyone has options, there's always something for all of us.
Yerin and Jonathan are already at our usual booth. We climb in and accept the gentle abuse for running late. I blame Mark, explain that he had to make love to his car first (whilst I took pictures), everyone laughs and it's good.
Two hours later and they're pleasantly buzzed. I've been nursing a dark stout - "it's heavy, I'm taking my time, it's a sipping beer!" - and picking at a shared appetizer, explain that I'm not hungry. I slip a twenty to Mark and make as if to go to the bathroom, then head out of the bar when I'm out of sight of the table.
Mark catches up to me and asks if everything's alright.
"I need to go to Church," I reply, quietly. Mark's eyes go wide. I shrug. "Shit happens. Cover for me?" He nods. We go our separate ways.
I take a bus into West Seattle. It drops me off under a flickering bulb. Old, possibly original buildings hem in the road on either side. I walk the six remaining blocks in blissful solitude. It's 9pm, but no one is out.
The Church is in the basement of a great big neon building. The Sun, they call it, and I can see why. Need sunglasses just to be on the same block, and it's night!
I walk down dry, covered steps. Security stands at the bottom and the top of the staircase, unseen. You can't see them, unless you know that they're there, and you're actively looking for them.
A woman exits, I hold the door for her, then slip inside, into the darkness. The foyer is marble and lit up by night-light LEDs. It smells thickly of wax and I think that a single spark will blaze this whole place.
The hostess leads me to a large hall on the side the foyer, to a seat to one side of the center meridian. A single leather chair, a table on its side, everything facing forward, toward the center. I sit down, pick up a menu, glance minutely at the blind-folded messiah on the cross. He hangs in front of all of us.
Ulrich, the nice but dull-witted waiter, walks up. He wears a leather mask over his face and a leather thong.
I order a local microbrew, egg rolls, Special #3, and Ulrich leaves.
Once in a while someone will walk out of the door, the one behind us. Then someone will get up and walk in. We're all in the waiting room. No one stares, but everyone listens. Red LED numbers, just at the feet of the messiah, tick upwards slowly, at the rate of one every two or three minutes.
Amy calls. I let the phone buzz three times, almost four, before picking up. "Hey hon! Yeah, out with the guys. Oh, they're sloshed, it's great. Uh huh, cool. Tell Alice I said 'hi'. Yeah. Yeah. See you at home. Night!"
I hang up the phone. I'm looking at it as Ulrich shows up with the drink. "Food's on the way." I nod.
I stare daggers at the phone, then pick up the beer and take a long swig.
Ulrich brings the egg rolls and the bill.
I blanche when I see what they're charging for a #3 these days. That's almost my whole week. But it's for Amy. It's for us. I put down my personal card, the one she doesn't know about.
Ulrich comes over, does the whole swiping thing at my table, gives me a number, then leaves. I'm a dozen digits away. I eat the egg-rolls, drink the beer, watch the blind-folded Jesus up there on the cross.
I listen and think I can make out a murmur. "Bless me, Father..." I don't dwell on it, start humming a familiar tune, 'Kashmir', to block out the sounds.
And my number is up. I wait for the previous visitor - a man, by the sound of his walk - to clear out before I go back there. I move through the shadows into another dark room. This one is lit up with red neon.
I sit down in the chair in the center. Father stands behind me.
"Bless me, Father... I know my wife is having an affair. Please, let me unsee that."
Father places his hands on my head.