Oct 18, 2009

I pay the gas cashier. She drops change in my palm, ever so careful not to touch me, even with her hand in a surgeon's glove. I get out the door, not wanting to touch the door handle. To my left a lady in a van spots me. "Like to make your marriage better?" she calls out and motions me over.

I keep walking, watching her as though she's a buffalo out the train window. Big dark glasses, tall face, red lipstick, chubby fingers, a bible with the worn-to-yellow leather cover, kids in the back seat.

"Would you like to make your marriage better?" She keeps asking. "Would you? Wouldn't you like it to make it better?"

Okay, I'm thinking: she's on her way to Fort Worth to catch the Get Motivated seminar with George Bush and Rudy Guiliani. I'll contribute to Route 66. I go over.

Five minutes later I know all about her deadbeat alcoholic husband, how he beat her, berated her, belittled her, befuddled her, bitched at her, bamboozled her, baited her, bombed her with abuse, and finally she said, 'that ain't me babe.'

Then she became a JW. And happy being single. 'Okay,' I say. 'That's all good and just listening to your story makes my marriage feel better.'

No, no, but that's not all, she says. She wants to read me something from 2 Timothy and opens her bible. I don't remember a Timothy. Later, I look him up in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Timothy was the son of heathen Greek and a Jewish mother named Eunice. His grandmother was named Lois. Tim became Paul's assistant. Here's a description of how they met.

"On this 2nd visit to Derbe and Lystra, Paul was strongly attracted to Timothy, and seeing his unfeigned faith, and that from a child he had known the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15), and seeing also his Christian character and deportment, and his entire suitability for the work of the ministry, he would have him "to go forth with him" (Acts 16:3). Timothy acquiesced in Paul's desire, and as preliminaries to his work as a Christian missionary, both to Jew and Gentile, two things were done. In order to conciliate the Jewish Christians, who would otherwise have caused trouble, which would have weakened Timothy's position and his work as a preacher of the gospel, Paul took Timothy and circumcised him."

Who writes this stuff, I'm thinking. And is the author suggesting that Tim and Paul were lovers?

"This know also," my van lady teacher begins, in a deep manly voice, "that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves." She reaches out, takes my right forefinger and guides it along the line, following each word. "Covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God...

She stops there and taps my finger on the word, pleasures. "That was my husband," she says. Then she taps my finger on Traitors. "That was my husband." Then, incontinent. "That was my husband."

"Really," I said. "All that and he was incontinent?"

"That was Tim," she says.

"You mean Timothy? Not Timothy..."

"No, no, my husband, Tim."

"Oh," I said. "Well that's terrible. No wonder you left."

She wants to go further, go through each word again and how that describes her husband exactly. Meanwhile, I'm flipping through the most recent Awake, which has stories about "Living With Albinism" and "What if my sibbling has committed suicide?"

"Don't you feel better now?" she asks, as though I've just been exposed to a transformation? "Do you see now how to make your marriage better?"

I walk away repeating to myself, I am not incontinent.

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