Aliens Among Us
Excerpt from The Bus Driver’s Book of the Dead
for Mike Bala
Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep naked on a bare floor to bring himself closer to Christ.
When I was a bus driver in Chicago, I worked with a Polish guy named Mike Bala, who had been baptized by John Paul in the old country when the sainted one was still a parish priest. Before drinking himself to death in the late ‘80s, Mike offered many of us the unique opportunity to marry illegal aliens from Poland for $3,000.
When I was growing up with the Southern Baptists, Catholics seemed alien back during nights I’d unfasten my belt and beat my meat before falling asleep naked and not feeling closer to the risen Christ. I knew, even then, that Jesus did not want me to play with my penis, O magic wand of adolescence, which seemed to stiffen and wave on its own, almost as if it were an alien part of my body taking guidance from outer space.
In his final days, Mike Bala would pass out after two beers, his liver so swollen that the alcohol went right into his bloodstream. We’d carry him out to his Pontiac, throw him in the back seat, let him sleep through the cold hours until dawn. He’d always show up for work the next morning, talking shit about the old priest and telling Polish pussy jokes that, even then, weren’t funny.
It is funny how Mike and the Pope are in heaven now, that alien place where everyone is closer to Christ, where a just God strokes his white beard, where the risen play their gilded ukuleles, where I’m sure those angelic, big-boned Eastern European women wander stark naked across the cumuli.