Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Jesus of the O.5.

Aaron introduced me to Jesus last week. It seems Jesus has taken up residence in a dilapidated blue trailer back behind the church. At first look, Jesus looks like Sawyer from Lost, but only if Sawyer just stepped out of a downtown soup line instead GQ. He has that squinty-I-could-charmingly-con-you-if-I-wanted-to look. When he opens his mouth, he sounds like Lawrence from Office Space, but only if Lawrence had a dark, menacing streak you don’t want to mess with. In one hand Jesus nurses a bottle wrapped in a paper sack, while with the other he dabs with a tissue at the blood leaking from his knee. Every so often Jesus lifts up the bottle, closes one eye and peers down the neck of the bottle. Maybe he lost something down there. He’s sitting in a white plastic lawn chair.

It seems like every portrait I’ve seen of Jesus, he’s got fair skin and flowing blonde hair. Something is lost in translation because as I stand here in front of him, he’s got an unkempt Kentucky mullet. His face looks like its seen its fair share of fists. He’s missing some teeth on right side of his smile. His own fists are pretty big and look like they could go through the wall of that trailer. And maybe they have.

Jesus’ brother had gotten caught up in the riptide that is the Monday night mercy ministries at the church. This is how Aaron knows Jesus. Jesus’ brother was a tough nut to crack. Aaron and Jesus’ brother went toe-to-toe a couple times. Living on the streets makes you tough, so I hear. Real tough. But Jesus’ brother died a couple months back. Jesus thinks he was about 42. Jesus talks rather lovingly about his brother. Like about the time he broke his brother’s shoulder. And how his brother broke Jesus’ shoulder and busted out his teeth. Or about the time some dude stole his brother’s blanket so Jesus’ brother doused him in gasoline and set him fire and watched him run down the hill in flames.

Jesus’ old lady steps outside the door of the trailer. I do a double take as she’s wearing an ivory-colored business suit with gold buttons and she’s barefoot. “See the angel pin I found?” She’s grinning ear-to-ear and points to the lapel of the suit. The shoulder pads give her petite frame a very rectangular shape. Apparently she and Jesus are planning to come to church Sunday morning. “We’re gonna dress you respectable for once in your life.” Jesus shrugs her off with another swig at the bottle. Her face looks worn, like it’s seen twice as much of life as it should have by now.

Jesus asks what line of work I do. “I work at Starbucks.” This is a surreal conversation. “What’s that?” Surreal. “I, uh, make coffee. Talk to people.” “It doesn’t sound like my style.” Apparently he’s looking for some work at the moment. “I’m a carpenter by trade.” To be honest, I’m not so surprised. “Lost my tool belt though. All new tools, too. Got drunk. Got in a fight.” He waves the now blood-blotted tissue in his old lady’s direction. “Next morning it was gone.” “You was bein’ stupid. That’s what that was.” She interjects.

There’s an old beat up Oldsmobile station wagon sitting in front of the trailer. There’s a sign in the back window: “$500: Runs good.” But apparently it doesn’t. Jesus’ old lady points at it. “That one don’t start.” She points at the other car next to the trailer. “And that one don’t stop.” Jesus says it’s something he can fix, but he won’t because it’ll only get him trouble since he doesn’t have a license. 7 DUIs. He wouldn’t be caught driving it anyway, it’s so beat up (“a time machine,” he calls it) and his long hair and he says he’s a magnet for the police. “Step out of the car. Put your hands behind your back…” he rehearses out loud like it’s his own memorized liturgy. He claims his been to the local jail 52 times. It’s a long walk home, he says. Even longer when you’re panhandling for beer along the way.

Somehow the conversation turns to drugs. “I don’t do no drugs,” says Jesus’ old lady, sitting on the steps now, cigarette dangling in her fingers. “I just smoke cigarettes.” “Them cigarettes is a drug,” observes Jesus in a condescending tone. “Lust is a drug,” he adds from seemingly out of nowhere. Someone makes a crack about being thankful there’s no piss test for that or we’d all be in trouble.

After about 20 minutes or so of this, Aaron asks if there’s any way we can pray for them. Jesus’ old lady talks about her bad back and losing feeling when she walks. Jesus turns to me while she’s explaining this. “That’s from when her husband broke her back. He got out of jail on the second. I’m surprised he hasn’t been by yet. He’s had several assault and battery charges.”

We all grab hands in a circle and pray there in front of the trailer. “That was beautiful, pastor,” Jesus says as he hugs Aaron. I shake his hand. Nice to meet you, Jesus. I’ll look for you Sunday morning.

I’m walking home and I see a freshly shed snake skin in the middle of Twelfth Street.

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posted by Peter at 1:49 PM
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