The Risen God and the Fallen Man With His Cross.
His oily smile gleamed liquidly, loquaciously; words oozed out, coruscating in the dazzling reflection of the Christmas lights of Huntington Park.
So self-satisfied, a sanctified satyr.
His garish cross caught the red lights strung up in a nearby tree and glowed like a sanguine history of holy wars.
A good Christian family man.
His own history was ruddily revealed; an affair with a beautiful Asian lady coworker had razed his altar of deified domesticity to the ground the past year.
His daughter wouldn’t speak to him, and his wife, now separated and equally taciturn.
My flask shone as it passed between us full of the dark bourbon I used to like, our secret sacrament.
He was headed to midnight mass at Grace Cathedral, I was just going out for the night.
Passing each other beside Huntington Park as I sipped, he said, “That looks good!”
I laughed, already tipsy, clad in my skin-tight black jeans and shirt, a weathered leather jacket slipping jauntily off one shoulder.
“Want some?” I asked cheekily, an innuendo-steeped query that I would never utter in my daylight, rosy reality, but here amid the red-lit trees, infused with bourbon, I could say anything.
“Yeah,” he said deadpan, watchful.
“So you’re just going out? How old are you?”
I often lied, by a year or two, either direction depending on who I was talking to.
I went up a year since I was drinking, and I saw his cross, winking judiciously at me.
I was still very young, so young that I almost believed a crucifix’s claims.
The more we spoke, the more I learned, about Christianity, how those hard lines of metal can shift to accommodate just about anything — an affair, evading taxes, a bloodthirsty divorce lawyer — and still allow someone to hide behind some linear, rigid righteousness.
I wanted to melt that cross down in a crucible of contempt, see it iridescent and burning in molten shapelessness.
As the gleaming, gilded mass of people poured into the church, a parison of parishioners, I resolved that I would have him and his faith.
The cult of Christ fought against other gods before attaining ascendancy — the paradoxical Dionysus, all melting boundaries and constant contradiction, Golden Aphrodite, the goddess of desire and beauty, and Artemis, mistress Of beasts, unclaimed and free, protector of wild things.
I’ve long held the belief that Christ’s priests fought dirty, warlike and bent on total dominion, erasure, toppling altars and demolishing sanctuaries.
The only way to survive is to do the same.
One thinks of the Crusades, and the conquistadors in later years, pressing their breathless confessions into the vestibule of the sheathed blades of shoulders, and one must imagine the seed of this cult carried at the tip of the spear.
Still later, Southern preachers proclaiming on their pulpits that slavery is the will of god.
Today, we can only consider the tradition alive and well, witnessing evangelicals allowing any infraction on the holy teachings in the name of political power.
Crosses around the necks of those spouting vitriol and poison and encircling the Capitol as death threats are screamed into the air, same as it ever was.
I smiled — puerile, predatorily pagan, pretty.
I loved to get myself into situations that seemed to be beyond my ken.
I think back on my hungry hazel cat eyes as a kind of Batesian mimicry — a harmless creature pretending to be fearsome.
Like a monster mirroring moth to a flame, I invited him home.
Not my home, but the home of a family friend, away for the holidays.
Divorced herself, due to a wandering husband.
“How perfectly cyclical,” I thought absurdly, as my boots clipped the sidewalk in an uneven canter while listening to his skewed cant.
He wanted to make sure I got home safe, he’d miss church for that.
His cross shone in the lamplight and was met by my flask boasting in brilliance.
“I had some wine,” I said, though it really wasn’t mine.
My ID at the time was barely enough to get a grudging admission into dive bars and a bottle of bourbon from the permissive shop-keeps downtown.
We arrived at the house, a well-appointed building with stately ionic pillars that were the best feature. Once inside, one was consumed by a drab functionality, the finery of the exterior burned like a mirage in the dark foyer.
He balked at the family photos, perhaps reminded of his daughter, his wife, his lapse, but I moved us into my bedroom, a more intimate space than the parlor strewn with proof of prior domestic bliss.
The guestroom was staid, cream and beige, save for a Pierre et Gilles print I had hung on the wall.
I poured the wine, still caught between his steely blue-gray eyes and the cross around his thick, stubbled neck.
I noticed the grays there, and in his hair the cross had dulled in the yolky lamplight, as I poured the wine and it gurgled into goblets with an unctuousness matched only by his flattery.
“You’re a good kid, I can tell.”
As we drank and talked, he seemed both more heated and diminished. Imposing, his mass was heavy, leaden with shadow and a tinge of regret.
His neck was now florid with thudding, weighty excitement and wine, the cross caught on a turgid river of veins carrying the burden of desire and the lethargy of time.
Christ was unlikely to defeat Dionysus in my bedroom.
I don’t remember how it started — it was probably me, insouciant when sloshed, and impudent in the face of imperiousness.
He had spoken to me of responsibility and faith — the details escape me, but somehow this philanderer in my room was convinced of his moral superiority.
Forsaking his mass and family, he seemed to perceive someone more lost, more at sea, and felt equipped to proselytize.
He had shaped words of reform and grace before I tasted his mouth, all bourbon and wine and masked with a cloying, saccharine taste I now know to be nicotine gum.
So many sins to be absolved in a sweet cover.
Still with all the hiding he did from himself and myself, I wanted to find him, to know him.
I was precocious, if essentially carnally inexperienced, but the few experiences I had I wanted steeped in meaning, I wanted them to stay potent in memory.
A smoky richness over any artificial overlay on the perennial palate.
I wanted to find him and savor something real.
His strong jaw, tired eyes that were nevertheless direct and steady even if they veered into a strained, imploring intensity.
An imposing nose and a ledge of a brow, a slab behind which holy wars and turgid turmoil brewed.
I loved how life had marked him — like rock, or earth, traced with time — marred and lined him with the passage of moments.
Moments like these maybe, he seemed too easily to fall into movements, too easily for this to be completely unknown.
Not the first pillaging of The New World, lost on a voyage seeking spice.
Fade Into You played as I tasted him.
The rigidity of his body, its bulk, the shudder and release, feeling tumescence acquiesce into a heavy languor. The taste of salt.
That was the first time I had experienced the fullness of it.
Something in his mature form and demeanor begged for completion.
I felt the cross clip my left ear as I lifted my head, laughing with a sigh.
A rosy-cheeked, full-lipped youth, and a man chained in hypocrisy and years.
The cross in a thicket, his hirsute chest heaving slowly, the bellows of an old forge liquefying the symbol on his breast with every rise and fall.
The fall I savored most of all.
Aphrodite ascendant, over a cult that stole from other gods and subordinated their worshipers.
“You can’t stay here,” I said. My voice had a kind of deranged softness, ephebe-like, pubescent almost.
“I know, I know,” he said, sounding more gravely, almost hoarse.
“I think you missed your mass,” I whispered, crazily, cruelly.
Always tempting fate, tempting faith.
A large man, folded awkwardly on the floor between a loveseat and a bed.
My rumpled black jacket inky and gloating beneath his hand contained in a wedding band.
“I’ll always remember this,” I thought, oddly disassociated, drifting.
“This is what I wanted,” I thought reassuringly, as his face seemed to gather the surrounds and me with a heavy acceptance, then a low grunt, the clink of a belt buckle, the rustle of a sports coat — navy, not black, I noticed absently.
“Walk me out?”
“Yes,” I said dreamily. I was young again, dumb, and out of my element.
A kid in a grown-up’s house, with another grown-up there in front of me.
I didn’t know who was in charge. I wanted to be outside under the stars. I suddenly hated constraints, crosses, rings and silver picture frames with kids who wouldn’t seduce older, married men.
I wanted to be free, free of this moment, him and the house.
The small home yawned around us and I walked him out.
“Kiss goodbye?” he asked, somehow regaining composure, authority, as his cross glowed insidiously, something ever reborn.
“Don’t ruin the moment,” I said, seizing control again, defiant, young, warlike and feral.
He gave me a kind of indulgence smirk, but humble, brought-down.
“This was good,” he said, leaning in and kissing me, softly, sweetly.
Then he gave me a nod of buckling cockiness and left.
I watched him emerge from beneath the columns and turn around the corner under the moon.
He was gone and I was free, no rules or presence or metal confined me.
I showered and finished the wine, then went for a run.
A wild thing, an untamed and unchained beast under the moon.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.