Bitch-slapping my way to hell

by Lou Godbold

“So I wasted my time taking you to that interview at Safeway's because you weren't serious about getting a job!”

I throw my bag in the back of the car, irritation overwhelming me like primeval slime, sucking me back to an older, primitive self.

“What do you mean not serious?” she says from the front seat.

“You never went back on Wednesday like they said.” I put the keys in the ignition and turn to her. “What, do I have to take you everywhere?”

“That's not fair! Anyway, you said you wanted to come; that you wanted to check it out for yourself.”

It's true, I gritted my teeth to explore the world of ‘front end management' and ‘courtesy clerks' just as my mother had when my father was ‘farting around' trying to get a movie made. Grim bravado in the face of Fate and lack of funds, and not a little interest in martyrdom.

“You can't pay fifty-five dollars to get your phone fixed,” (she had said with an air of tragedy that things were “a little tight”) “but you won't go out and get a job!”

“You have no idea what my life is like. You make judgments but you have no idea!

“So tell me then. What is your life like?”

At this moment there's very little that I have not heard about her life, her crazy husband, her uncooperative kids, the child services court case that I had importuned a lawyer friend of mine to take on for free, growing up with a schizophrenic mother, her snake-like siblings… I have heard it all, over and over, in these last few months.

“I don't have to defend myself to you! Why should I have to explain things to you?”

“Because I care about you, because I want to understand, and because I don't want things to blow up in your face — but they will if you don't go out and get a fucking job!”

So much for Christian love. In the summer I willingly slipped my shoulder under this load, believing that God had a purpose for her life and convincing her of that too. Or did I? Did I convince her? I'm not even sure why she's coming to church with me this evening. Is it just the red wine and bohemians associating her with a life she always believed could be hers — a belief she still clings to in her thrift store glamour and riding in my car?

“I'm very busy; you have no idea how busy my life is.”

Oh yeah, I think, sweeping the yard and moving the piles of junk from one place to another. But oops! I've actually said it.

“You're so judgmental! I don't have to explain myself to you. I feel like I'm under interrogation.”

“That's a circular argument. You can't give me any good reasons, can you? How do you expect people to help you when you won't do anything for yourself?” I think of my friend giving up paying clients, the temptation that had briefly, wearily floated across my mind to pay the cost of getting her phone fixed.

“Well, don't help me! I never asked you to.” She slams the door and walks towards the warehouse building that is our church. I get out, arrange my scarf and as she shouts something at me, get back in the car and lock the door. I drive away aware that I've handled this all wrong, that I gave in to my anger and frustration and that I'm about the worst Christian on the planet. To confirm that, I'm going home to drink neat whisky. She can find another chauffeur tonight.