Even Satanists Need to Floss
Introduction: Joe and I had known each other only a few weeks when we were traveling across country with my friends Jaina and Christine and decided to get pregnant. I moved into Joe’s dark, nine-room apartment (seven rooms unusable due to being piled high with disorganized and eerie artifacts) and started to notice that there was something unusual in all his relationships. Everything made sense when he’d explained it to me on the phone, but in person I realized there was this complex web already established and I (and my fetus) had walked into it not completely welcome. Sometimes there’s a lot you don’t know, I discovered, about someone you don’t know.
July 25, 1994
I popped the first birth control pill in my new prescription out of the packet and cocked one eye at Joe. He got an erection! He said he wants to be with me forever and be bound to me, so I put the pill back in the pack and tried to throw it dramatically through the window of the back of the truck in which we were traveling (the girls were driving). I missed though, so I just left it on the floor and we had sex in the cab of the truck and came and came. That was this morning. I have no more money to eat in restaurants on this trip, so I stayed outside in the Texas sunshine while Joe and the girls dined. I was glad that I was outside, alone for the first time in days, watching a tiny tarantula move over the cement between my feet. I felt sincere. Or the air felt sincere. Life goes on and on; a little hunger is just one thing, not the all-important, demanding allness it seems when you are the one who is a little hungry.
Finally Joe came out smacking his lips, no less! and told me he’d pay for the hotel tonight. That means I’ll be able to eat from now on. I was almost disappointed. My most vivid moments have always been the ones where I can’t have what I need.
July 31, 1994
Joe took me to meet Anton LaVey, the head of The Church of Satan, and Blanche Barton, his mistress, in their black Victorian house. Tony the silent manservant would come into the room and stand there a while, then leave. All night, Anton sat in his cape and his sailor cap talking, and there was no food. Blanche gave us one sugar cookie each, and said, “The Doctor likes these.” “The Doctor” would give his theory on something, and then Blanche would sum it up perfectly in one sentence: “The Doctor has always said . . . ” Blanche put on thirty pounds because Anton likes that. She’s around thirty years old, sexy and blowsy with her boobs continuously falling out of her silky dress. Her hair is bleached and styled. She’s actually a lot smarter than Anton, I surmised.
Sometimes they get a dark-haired lady to go to bed with them, Joe told me, because Anton likes one dark, one light. It has something to do with this clock of attractiveness he drew in a satanic book he wrote. I think I’m a seven o’clock, I can’t remember. The guy must be seventy years old! We all moved into the kitchen and I was filled with hope. Alas, the kitchen does not seem to be functional. Tonight, Anton used it to describe his pee theory, which I couldn’t follow because I was so hungry. There’s a stuffed cat in there it used to be Anton’s pet. “The Doctor loved it so, he needed to keep it near him.” I suspect it of being moldy.
Conspiracy theorists are always so sexy at first. They look like mavericks in their egotistical creepiness and their not-believing-anything-anyone-official-says. There’s an American Dental Association conspiracy to get us to brush our teeth all the time, Anton said. Why? I think he said fluoride is mind control. Did Vikings brush their teeth? No! And did they conquer? Yes! I looked over at Joe, who seemed to be following this anti-dentistism avidly. Aside from interrupting himself every so often to bestow a magnificent compliment on him, Anton doesn’t pay much attention to Joe. No one should ponder their own genius in polite company. I always ponder mine in solitude, so as to not let it get in the way of other people eating and sleeping. I didn’t say any of this to Joe, because he seems to love Anton.
August 6, 1994
The pregnancy test was positive. Joe took me to meet his mom, and we told her. She didn’t say much, just advised me to stay as I am, not get mean. Hm, well. Then she started talking about a Barbra Streisand show, which apparently she did not like, though she hadn’t seen it. This will be her
first grandchild. Her house is very clean. Later, Joe found out that she thought I was eighteen years old, thus her lackluster reaction. I think she was confusing me with Carla, Joe’s last girlfriend, who just turned sixteen.
Carla is the daughter of a friend of Joe’s. She fell in love with Joe when she was eight. When she was fifteen (and Joe thirty-six), she wrote him a letter and they became lovers. She would go into a friend’s house and say, “What is your most prized possession?” When the host pointed it out, Carla would smash it to bits. She tried to kill herself when Joe broke up with her, then offered him one thousand dollars to impregnate her. She became involved with Richard Ramerez, the jailed serial killer, and appeared on The Sally Jesse Raphael Show with Ramirez’s fiancee. The two got into fisticuffs, and the show was cut, because Sally doesn’t show that kind of thing.
I used to think a youngster initiated into love by a much older man or woman was a good idea, to avoid all the fumbling. But when too much knowledge, money and mobility (travel possibilities) are thrust into a little, barely-formed heart, one’s peers and one’s own life suddenly appear stupid. In love, as with the intellect, anything fully-formed handed to you does no good. It’s the fumbling and the mistakes that make you really know.
This whole situation is very strange. No one is my friend here. The phone rings but no one’s there. Joe speaks in tongues when drunk. Carla, Anton, the mother: there’s something unstated in Joe’s interactions with them, and I wonder what it means for me and my baby. I was always the bad girl, but among these people I realize how truly (though weirdly) moral I am. I try to fit in, but there’s a carefully maintained, somehow vampiric universe covering the real one here, and if a person were to come along and get the irresistible urge to yank open the curtains, it would ruin everything. They look at me and they know I’m the type.
I was in love with Joe and I wanted to live in his world. Failing that, I think I thought I could save my pride by portraying myself as an avenging angel. The curtain-yanking showdown did eventually come, but in dribbles. Joe contracting gingivitis. The mom telling Joe he had to choose her or me, and he chose me . . . then her! Joe’s transformation from domineering, large-eyebrowed marauder to walked-over, helpless pawn only made me look bad to me. He was just a dreamer, not a bad man. I, on the other hand, wasn’t dreaming I stepped into that wretched life with my eyes open. I was angry about the experience for years, but the real idiot was me, and I’m thankful for that. Like little girls with their suave old men, you don’t learn anything by doing something right. Humiliation is the greatest teacher.