The year was 1997. My best friend, “Pilot”, was getting married down in Jacksonville, and I was his best man. Best man is something I’m good at and have loads of experience with, since I’ve done it 4 times now (twice for one guy – he’s buying my tux next time). Pilot was nervous, man…he’d been a player most of his post-adolescent life, and although he’d found a gorgeous and wonderful woman, the thought of settling down wasn’t something he embraced 100%. It’s hard, hard I say, to go from “Player” to “Husband”. Muy dificil, mis amigos. But he was in love, and he was willing to give it a shot.

Pilot, like myself, was raised Black Baptist. Black Baptist is different from Southern Baptist or just regular Baptist. Black Baptist churches bring the FUNK, man. You’re libel to see ANYTHING in a Black Baptist church. Dancing, shouting, people running around, speaking in tongues – and that’s just during choir rehearsal. And let me tell you something – if you’ve never seen anyone speak in tongues, it’s fucking SCARY if you’re not prepared for it. It’s not like people just sit politely in the pew, conversating in an unknown language. Oh, noooooooooo. When people start speaking in tongues, they convulse, flail around, fall on the floor, gyrate, shudder, shimmy, shake, and generally look like they’re having a grand mal seizure. It is intense.
Pilot’s fiancee is Catholic. Very, very different religious atmosphere. Strict rules and regulations, lots of structure, and wine by the bushel. She being Catholic, she wanted a Catholic wedding, which Pilot was ok with. Pilot’s in the military, and therefore figured he could easily deal with the rigidity of a Catholic wedding.

Being somewhat nervous, he wanted to go check out the church the day before, just to get the feel of the place. Neither of us had ever been inside a Catholic church before, and didn’t know what to expect. The coolest thing about Catholic churches is that they’re almost always open. You can just stroll right on in, like you own the joint. To me, that’s awesome. My mom came to visit me last year, and wanted to see this very famous Baptist church she sees on TV every week. We went at 2pm on a Monday. The place was closed and gated. No entry. My mother had come over 1,000 miles partly to see this place, and she couldn’t even get a peek inside. Personally, I thought that was bullshit. But hey, maybe that’s why I’m not a regular church attendee. Anyway, back to the story…

We walk in. This place is phenomenal! It’s about 100 years old, and absolutely gorgeous. And HUGE! It’s like walking into God’s house – oh wait, nevermind. We’re standing there, looking around and just commenting in low tones (this place DEMANDED low tones), saying stuff like this:

“Damn, this place is HUGE!”
“I know, man…and fucking gorgeous, too!”

–I know, I know…cursing in church…leave me alone.

As were standing there, sinning right there in the church, a voice speaks to us. The voice is coming from all around us. The voice is warm, friendly, and very welcoming, in fact, it said

“Welcome.”

We look around. There is literally no one else in the church with us. We look at each other, just like people do in the movies. Then we both kinda smiled nervously, and continue talking, pretending we didn’t just hear a voice from nowhere. About 10 seconds later, the voice spoke again:

“Please, come in.”

OK, now we’re concerned. We start walking up the aisle, convinced there’s someone up near the pulpit (or whatever it’s called in the Catholic church) fucking with us. There’s NO ONE. We are alone. There’s not even anyone lighting those candles. No priests, no nuns, no one. The voice spoke again, in a rich baritone:

“It’s ok, make yourself at home.”

Having never been in a Catholic church, I begin to ask myself some questions. Is this why Catholics historically have a superiority complex? (Refer to the Crusades if you doubt me) Is it because they can literally TALK TO GOD? Maybe I should consider converting. Perhaps being a Protestant isn’t the way to go. Should I go confess? (Screw that.) Maybe God is expecting me to respond. Is Pilot in shock? He looks frozen. OK, I’d better say something…

I take a tentative step forward, looking up at the lovely enormous stained glass window behind the pulpit. The light shining through fractures into a thousand beautiful shards of color. I can almost feel God’s presence. I’m filled with warmth and light, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. I am blessed. I incline my head, close my eyes, and I say:

“…God?”

And the voice replies:

“No, it’s the choir director. I’m behind you, up in the balcony.”

Then he laughs. Bastard.

Peace.

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