TODAY IS THE feast day of two Catholic saints–Saint Cletus and Saint Marcellinus–so of course I’m reminiscing about a guy I dated who thought he was Jesus. I don’t mean he thought he was Jesus in the enlightened, we-are-all-one sense, in which case he would have thought he was also Buzz Aldrin, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and flowers. He thought he was just Jesus.
Granted, Jesus’s delusion (let’s call him Jesus; he would want it that way) reflects less poorly on him than it does on me. Why, you might ask, would I date a guy who thought he was Jesus, when there are so many guys out there who, you know, don’t think they’re Jesus? Plus, I’m Jewish. But I was twenty years old. Although being twenty isn’t the same thing as having a frontal lobotomy, it is similar. And Jesus was super hot. He had blue eyes and biceps. A piano-key smile. He looked like a jock, but he’d been born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where we were college students, so he wasn’t a jock so much as the son of a yoga instructor.
Before I knew that he thought he was Jesus, before I even knew that he was hot, I met Jesus at a Halloween party where he was dressed as a vampire. Boulderites take Halloween seriously. This was no slapdash vampire costume; not only was Jesus’s face painted a ghoulish purple-white, not only did he sport fangs and convincing dribbles of blood on his chin, not only did he don a floor-length cape, but he had shaved his head and had horns surgically imbedded in his scalp. At least, they looked surgically imbedded. I liked him right away, due to the energy he’d expended on that costume.
We chatted briefly at the party before a girl dressed as a sexy nurse overdosed in the bathroom, convulsed on the floor, and was carted off in an ambulance. (For the record, she survived, and went on to enjoy several more overdoses, and now, I see on Facebook, she’s married and has breast implants, so don’t you worry about her.) Because Jesus was friends with the sexy nurse, he got so upset, he went home to meditate. I was disappointed. We’d been having a great conversation about his family members, whom he referred to as his “pillars.” I would soon learn that, the way Jesus saw it, everyone in his life existed just to prop him up.
A couple of nights after Halloween, Jesus called me and we started dating. He took me to more parties—he consistently knew the best ones—and once, out for Mexican food. We always wound up engrossed in long conversations marked by Jesus doing all the talking. Jesus had lots of theories, mostly about himself. One of his theories was that there was a group of seemingly unconnected people in the world, seven of them, to be precise, who shared a mission. The mission was to love. (This sounded vague to me, Jesus explained, because I couldn’t possibly understand.) Jesus was one of the seven—ironic, I see in retrospect, because he loved himself deeply and exclusively. My roommate, Julie, was also one of the seven, or in the parlance of Jesus, “One Of Them,” as was Jesus’s friend Michael and Jesus’s ex-girlfriend in Atlanta. But was I? No, no, no, not me. Perhaps I had some other life mission, such as to crochet beautiful potholders.
Jesus was exhausting, but I was too young to understand the impenetrable nature of narcissism; I saw his aloofness as a challenge, and thought I could break through and fix him, and then I would have a normal, healthy relationship with my hot boyfriend who didn’t have pesky quirks like pathological self-absorption.
One night, Jesus came over to take Julie and me to a concert—me because we were dating and Julie because she was One Of Them. Before he arrived, I asked Julie, “Do you think Jesus is crazy?” I was sitting on the rim of the bathtub, watching her blow-dry her hair.
“I think he’s schizophrenic,” Julie said.
We were psychology majors. We liked to diagnose our peers. But we saw unmedicated schizophrenia not as grounds for reconsidering a romantic partner, merely as a means of gossiping with nuance.
“Schizophrenic,” I said, nodding. “That makes sense.”
“But he’s really hot,” Julie conceded, finding my eyes in the mirror.
“I know,” I squealed.
Jesus arrived bearing vodka, and the three of us had drinks in the living room, a space furnished in part by a bean bag chair that spewed beans when sat on. Of course, Jesus didn’t debase himself by occupying the bean bag. (I did.) He sat in a straight-backed chair and held forth like his predecessor at the Last Supper. Then he dropped the bomb: “When my mother was pregnant with me,” he said, draining his glass, “she prayed for a Christ child.”
Julie and I glanced at each other, Julie snorted, and then we both silently and swiftly vowed never to look at each other again.
“And,” Jesus said, holding his arms open, “well.” He shrugged.
“What?” I said.
“There’s significant evidence,” he said, “to suggest that her prayers were answered.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Okay!” said Julie.
“Let’s go!” I said, standing.
Julie stood, too. We put on our coats. We looked at Jesus, who crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. He hated to be interrupted.
And still I insisted on dating him.
Not long after Jesus confessed that he was Jesus, we were lying on my bed one evening, talking, by which I mean that Jesus was talking, when he farted. Loudly.
I wondered if this would be our breakthrough, if this fart would bond us. Maybe Jesus would be embarrassed, an emotion I’d never seen him display, and of which I’d assumed him incapable. Then I could tell him it was all right, everyone farted sometimes, and he would see how understanding I was and feel close to me. Or maybe he would laugh. Even the original Jesus probably found humor in a good, booming fart.
I turned to look at Jesus. His face was serene. He farted again. I giggled. But I was getting a little grossed out. This was my bed, after all.
He turned to me and rolled his eyes. “This is why I don’t date younger girls,” he said, shaking his head.
I was mostly confused by the “younger girls” part. I was twenty. Jesus was twenty-one.
“You’re so immature,” he said.
“How so?” I cried.
“Farting is natural,” said Jesus, quoting the New Testament. “Your laughter is childish.”
I’d like to say that I dumped him then. The Suffragettes didn’t march for nothing; a man can’t just fart in a woman’s bed and then accuse her of immaturity. We have rights.
But at twenty, I was undeterred by schizophrenia, flatulence, and manipulation. I think I might have apologized: “I’m sorry I laughed at your fart.”
Twelve years later, these conversation snippets protrude in my memory:
“I’m sorry I laughed at your fart.”
“My mother prayed for a Christ child.”
“I take Ecstasy for spiritual purposes.”
My Jesus never healed the sick, showed kindness to prostitutes, or fasted in the desert. In fact, a far cry from fasting: I once watched him wolf a beef chimichanga and wash it down with six Coronas. If he was a messiah, he wasn’t a terribly ascetic one.
But if he really was Jesus, perhaps I was Mary Magdalene. And perhaps, as the Bible claims, Jesus cured me of “demons.” After all, what’s the point of dating a lunatic, if not to get lunatics out of your system? I’ve never loved another Christ child, and I thank Jesus for that exorcism.
Soon after he farted in my bed, Jesus broke up with me. It had been a good run, he said, but clearly I had “a lot to learn.”
“About what?” I pressed.
But he wouldn’t elaborate. Jesus preferred to spout cryptic wisdom. Only years later would his words sink in and make perfect, inarguable sense.