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You ever notice how life is full of coincidence? I do. Strange little things happen to me all the time, events that must surely be random but don’t feel random. Like this morning Gloria and I were late leaving for church, and for reasons that escape me she will not walk into mass even one minute late. In normal traffic on a Sunday morning the drive would consume at least fifteen minutes, perhaps even twenty if the weather were nice. The church is six miles away. There are three main cross streets and a total of seven traffic lights. If you were to leave my house nine minutes before mass was scheduled to begin, as Gloria and I did this morning, a bookie in Vegas would give you no better than 10-1 odds to arrive on time. Probably more like 20-1.

To be honest I was sort of hoping we wouldn’t make it. I forgot to set my fantasy football lineup again, and every time I do that I end up starting a quarterback who was benched last week and a running back with turf toe and a wide receiver who tore his ACL in practice on Thursday. Whereas when I remember to set my lineup, I invariably manage to bench a player who that week scores four touchdowns for the first and only time of his career. This is what I mean about coincidence.

Another reason I like to skip mass is because I prefer to watch football live. TiVo is great for some things, but every time I watch the Cowboys play on delay I get a call from one of my friends about a touchdown or a bad officiating call that hasn’t happened in my version of the game yet. So reality gets all fouled up and I fast forward to the present time anyway, and that’s why I try not to time-shift football games.

But the main reason I didn’t want to sit through mass this morning is because I’m exhausted. Last night Gloria and I went to a Halloween party put on by some of her work friends. I spent the night drinking too much rum and Coke and looking for Jack, and the drunker I got, the more convinced I became he was hiding from me. There was no reason he shouldn’t have been there. He’s Gloria’s boss.

When the party was over we were both pretty drunk, and I probably shouldn’t have been driving. I shouldn’t have been thinking, either. I think too much when I drink. I asked Gloria why Jack wasn’t at the party and she didn’t like it and we got into a fight. She told me I was being obsessive again, which upset me even more because I hardly ever bring up Jack.

So we got home and kept arguing, and finally Gloria got out of bed and went into the spare bedroom. I sat there staring at the wall. I was very drunk. One thing I only noticed recently is how the room doesn’t spin the way it used to. After I’ve tied one on, I mean. In college I could make the room spin on a six pack of Natty Light, but these days it seems my tolerance is a lot higher. Naturally, this made me wonder if I drink too much. Whenever you’re very drunk or hungover you always think you should cut back on your drinking, but last night was different somehow. More intense. I got out of bed and walked to the spare bedroom and saw the door was closed. As drunk as I was, that turned my blood cold. Gloria has never shut a door against me, not ever.

I opened the door slowly and called to her. She didn’t answer. The room was dark and colorless, moonlight and shadows. I could make out the vague shape of her body under the covers of the guest bed. I was quiet for a long time and eventually heard her whispering something, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. I walked over to the bed and crawled under the covers. She was facing away from me, and her body jerked when I touched her, which turned my blood even colder. I cherish Gloria more than anything. We are kindred spirits, she and I. Years ago we found love against insurmountable odds, and I don’t understand how we sometimes end up in these terrible places, but it has to stop.

I folded my arms around her and she stiffened against me and started to pull away. But I held her tightly and kissed the back of her neck and told her I was sorry. She struggled against me, still trying to get away, but I held tight, kissing her again and again until she finally relaxed. I told her I loved her. When she didn’t respond I told her a second time. I worried that she wasn’t going to answer me, that she wouldn’t say it back because she couldn’t. But finally she curled her hand around mine and pulled it close to her heart. She began to cry again. “I love you, too, baby,” she said. “But we can’t go on like this. We can’t. You have to let it go. You have to let Jack go.”

And even then I could feel it, the resentment. As drunk as I was, having only just won her back, I was still gripped by irrational fear, still worried about Jack and how he would someday take Gloria away from me. But I held my tongue and said, simply, “I know.”

We lay there for a while, and I kept thinking we should get up and go back into our own room. The guest bed is small and there’s no alarm clock in there. But I was afraid if I let go of Gloria I might never get to touch her again, that she might get up and walk out of the room and out of my life forever. So I held her tight and she held me back and eventually we drifted into a sort of mutual coma, drunk and exhausted and emotionally spent.

Then, only moments later, or so it seemed, Gloria was jumping out of bed and sunlight was blazing through the window, stabbing my eyes even through their lids.

“We’re late!” she cried. “Baby, we can’t miss again. We already missed last week!”

As I said before I would have been fine skipping another mass. I would even have forgotten about the football game if Gloria remained in bed with me, her back curled against my chest. It’s been so long since we’ve done that, spent time holding each other, and I don’t know if it’s the cause or result of the distance between us.

But Gloria wanted to go to mass, and I wanted to make her happy, so I hopped out of bed. I did my best to get ready on time, showering in three minutes, putting on clothes that weren’t quite pressed, ignoring my two-day-old stubble. We blazed toward the church at speeds that bordered on obscene. A lot of people would have been worried about being pulled over by a traffic cop, getting a ticket or maybe even going to jail, but not me, not even a little bit. I’ve never been pulled over by a police officer in my life, for anything, ever. Which may not seem that impressive to you, but I’ve been driving for eighteen years, and I speed everywhere I go. It’s a miracle I’ve never been ticketed and I’ve never been in an accident, as if, on the road, I don’t exist at all.

Even going as fast as we were, we still shouldn’t have made it to mass on time. Not with all the traffic lights along the way. But wouldn’t you know it, on this particular morning, when even the shortest delay would have kept us from arriving on time, every single light on the way to the church was green. We walked into the chapel with one minute to spare and sat down six seconds before the scary organ music told us to stand up again. Of course we got here on time. You can’t make this stuff up.

Let’s pretend like this is TiVo and fast forward to live programming. Right now mass is halfway over and Father Kindred is giving the homily. That’s what we Catholics call the sermon. Today’s subject is gay marriage. The Father is explaining why the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t support the idea. Loosely, his reasoning is this: Marriage is a holy union between a man and woman, and to give equal rights to homosexuals goes against natural moral law and obscures basic human values. Actually, that isn’t loose at all…it’s his exact argument. Which, I don’t know, I used to think that way, too, but these days it just seems so ridiculous. Aren’t we past all these labels and prejudices? I’m barely holding onto my own marriage so it’s probably not a good idea for me to have an opinion about someone else’s. In fact this is one of the ways Gloria has had such a positive influence on me, primarily because her brother, Michael, is gay. There was a time when I would make fun of him because I thought he was an effeminate, know-it-all elitist, and Gloria would tell me I was an insensitive prick. We went around and around about it until one day my eyes opened and I realized she was right. So I stopped being an asshole, and it took a few years, but eventually Michael and I sort of became friends.

This is why I’m surprised to see my wife nodding as Father Kindred builds his case. I would have expected her to be frowning with disapproval, or at the very least not responding at all. Hell, now she’s almost smiling.

In fact, as I look around the church, I see a lot of smiles and nods. More than a few people exchange knowing glances with each other, as if to share their approval of the homily. At one point Father Kindred quotes Pope Benedict, how homosexuality is an “intrinsic moral evil,” and if anyone here is offended by this statement, I can’t find them.

Look, I realize we’re in a church. This isn’t exactly the place where you stage a gay pride rally. But my wife has told me more than once that six or seven percent of the population is gay, so if there are, say, three hundred people in this room, twenty of them have just been told they’re evil. And no one seems to have a problem with it.

When I imagine Gloria’s brother sitting here, listening to this, it makes my head hurt. I don’t mean that metaphorically…I really am developing a headache.

My wife gives me such a hard time when I point out how much she’s changed, but this is a perfect example. Why on earth isn’t she offended? They’re talking about her brother, for heaven’s sake. There was a time when she would have walked out of the chapel rather than listen to a homily like this. Now she just sits there, smiling. Something is different about her, and I think it has to do with Jack. Ever since she started working for him I’ve noticed little things, different things. She dresses nicer. Wears new perfume. Works longer hours. When I ask about it she tells me she’s just playing the part of a director. She makes six figures. People report to her. It’s all part of the game.

But she and Jack have a history together, and I know she’s acting this way because of him. If I told you the whole story you would understand, but I’m not supposed to bring it up anymore because it makes me seem obsessive.

Eventually Father Kindred finishes the homily and begins the Nicene Creed. The Creed is a long prayer the congregation recites together, and which during the course of my life I have repeated hundreds of times. I don’t really think about the content of the prayer as I recite it—it’s more of a ritual thing. We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen…And for some reason, in this particular moment, it occurs to me how bizarre the whole mass is. Like, I work in a cubicle five days a week, building Internet marketing campaigns, and on Sunday I come to this odd building and chant ancient phrases along with three hundred other yahoos.

My headache grows worse. A lot worse. When I touch my temple, I feel the brain vein pulsing with blood. Have you ever had a migraine? A real one? I get one or two a year, and sometimes they land me in bed all day. Don’t laugh. If you get migraines you know what I’m talking about.

What’s funny is it also seems like the light in the church is different now. Everything seems to have taken on a bluish cast. Even Gloria seems a little blue. When she notices me looking at her, I smile and look away, wondering what’s wrong with me. But now at least the blue seems to fade.

Or rather, it hasn’t so much faded as it has condensed to a point on the wall behind Father Kindred. A bright blue point.

Either I’m hallucinating, or there is a stationary point of blue light on the back wall of the church.

It’s really pounding now, my head. And strangely, that point of light looks like it’s coming closer. Instead of being projected on the wall, it’s somehow moving toward me.

Through the air.

As the blue point passes over the pews I expect to see heads craning, turning to watch it, but in fact no one seems to notice it.

No one except me.

I look over at Gloria. The alarm I feel inside must be obvious on the outside, because you can tell she’s worried about me. I smile again, trying to reassure her, even though inside I don’t feel very sure at all. I feel like this time I might actually be losing my mind. As she watches me, I look directly at the approaching blue light, but evidently she can’t see it. Evidently no one can.

Except yours truly.

I know it’s possible to hallucinate during a migraine, but it’s never happened to me. I shouldn’t overreact, I realize this, but for the love of God now it’s hovering right in front of my face.

Seeing it up close like this, it looks more like an orb than a point. About the size of a golf ball. It’s bright and electric, what I imagine ball lightning might look like. But bluer. And rotating, like a planet on its axis.

If it were possible, I would get the hell out of here, but everyone around me is on their knees, and people are already leaving their pews to receive communion. So instead I remain where I am, immobilized, as if this whole thing is a bad dream. No one but me notices the orb make contact with my forehead. The thing is hot, searing hot, so hot I close my eyes and will myself not to scream.

And then—

And then it’s gone.

Along with my migraine.

I stand up.

“Baby,” Gloria whispers. “Are you okay?”

“Migraine,” I say. “I need some water.”

She starts to get up herself, but I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’m okay. Really. I’ll be right back.”

People around us are starting to notice. I shuffle past the other kneelers, which is more awkward than you might think, until I reach the end of the pew. Then I genuflect, head for the back doors, and cross myself with holy water.

I’m not sure why but something tells me this is that last time I’ll ever do that.

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