Father Kuppler sat in the confessional booth with his legs crossed while all the veins in his forehead throbbed like tapeworms crawling along an emaciated belly. The hour to hear confession was almost over. While he waited in the darkness for someone to unburden sins to him, he sharpened his fingernails with a small paring knife and a rasp. He wasn’t trimming his fingernails or pushing back the cuticles to make his fingers appear more elegant. He was actually sharpening his nails, trying to put points on them sharp enough to shred clothes, tear flesh, and leave scars.
When he was satisfied that his fingernails were each sharp enough to cut glass, he put the rasp into his mouth and began to sharpen his bottom teeth. His eyes went milky and out of focus, and bone powder flecked his bottom lip in drifting arcs like sawdust beneath a band-saw.
There was a knock on the confessional door. Father Kuppler spat blood onto the floor, hid the rasp in his robes, and cleared his throat. He slid open the dividing window.
“Yes, my child,” he said. “I am here.”
Two searching eyes filled the window. Young eyes. Male eyes. Cynical and wry eyes, faded to the same light toothpaste green as the bottom of a waxy leaf.
“I am supposed to talk to a priest,” said the man. “I am getting married this weekend.”
“You are Catholic?” asked Father Kuppler.
“No,” said the man. “Not anymore. But my fiancée and I were both raised that way. She insists that I confess my sins before we wed. She is waiting in the car, actually. She says that I must have a clean conscience when we take our vows.”
“Confession is an open sacrament,” said Father Kuppler. “If there is something you need to get off your chest, then I will hear you no matter what state of grace you are in.”
“But there’s nothing I want to confess,” said the man, laughing. “I have no regrets. I’ve learned from every mistake I’ve ever made, and I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I haven’t enjoyed the pleasures of my life.”
“It’s your eternity,” said Father Kuppler, casually checking his watch. The man was trying to shock him. To shake him up like a spoiled teenager testing society’s boundaries by driving fast without a seatbelt. “So why are you here, then?
“There is something I want to talk about,” said the man. “I need advice.”
“Go on. I’m listening.”
The man’s green eyes filled the dividing window again, peering into the narrow confessional closet, trying to make out Father Kuppler’s features.
“You can come in here, if you like,” said Father Kuppler. “The dividing wall is for your anonymity, not mine.”
“Yeah, let me get in there,” said the man. He opened the door to the confessional. He brought in a chair from outside and set it down directly across from Father Kuppler, shutting the door behind him. Now they were knee to knee. Father Kuppler sized him up. He was a young man, handsome in a boring way, tall and blonde with perfect bone structure.
“What happens if somebody else wants to confess while I’m in here?” asked the young man, putting his open palm on the dividing window.
“Then I guess we hear them together,” said Father Kuppler, smiling. “Why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?”
“Okay,” said the man. “It’s very simple. I am getting married in two days, but I don’t know how to make our wedding night special.”
“Every wedding night is special,” said Father Kuppler. “Two souls become one. The union of divine opposites.”
“Sure, that’s great,” said the man. “Plus, the tax breaks and health care are great. Also, she won’t have to testify against me in court. Which is great. But I’m talking about where it counts. I’m talking about seck-shoo-a’lee.”
“What do you mean?” asked Father Kuppler.
“It’s like this,” said the man. “Once upon a time, people used to wait until they got married to have sex. It was the law. Before every wedding, the groom’s mother would test the bride’s virginity by sticking her gnarly finger up the bride’s frilly white dress to poke at her hymen as if searching for a hole in the toe of an old sock. Then, the entire wedding party would gather round the honeymoon suite and listen for the howling anguish of the bride’s deflowering. When the deed was done, the groom would crash out of the bridal chamber and proudly show the blood on his hands. His groomsmen would parade him around town on their shoulders like he’d just scored the game-winning touchdown.”
“I see,” said Father Kuppler.
“Don’t they teach you anything in priest school?” said the man. “That’s the sort of night you remember for the rest of your life. Riding around the streets of your hometown on your best friend’s shoulders, your new wife’s hymen blood on your hands, your whole life right out there in front of you. Meanwhile, she is laying there with her knees curled to her chest, trying to suck your seed into her womb to breed your first child. It’s not like that anymore. Me and Imogene, we’ve been together for six years now and, to be frank, we’ve done everything there is to do. I lost my virginity when I was sixteen. Imogene lost hers when she was twelve. We met at a rave in the Bowery, back when AIDS was such a raging fire that when you found somebody who was clean, you did everything you could once you got your clothes off. Nowadays a good sex life is all about getting deep with somebody. About exploring every inch and kink. And I think we’ve done everything possible. Legal things and illegal things. And now I don’t know how to make our wedding night special, even though I want to remember it forever.”
“That’s a very spiritual attitude,” said Father Kuppler.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said the man. “We’ve already had some nights I’ll never forget. The first night we met each other, I’d been reading in ‘Popular Mechanics’ about how to trick your brain into releasing bonding hormones to form permanent relationships. According to science, if you have sex with somebody three times in a row, you’ll be bonded to them forever. As soon as I met Imogene, I knew I was in love with her and that I never wanted to be with anyone else. So the first night I took her home, we fucked for eight full hours, only taking breaks for food and band-aids. She told me to cut a notch into her thigh every time one of us came. To remember. She was kind of a mess back then. I came five times; she only came twice. She’s got the scars to prove that I was a selfish lover when we first met.”
“God forgives you,” said Father Kuppler.
“Then there was the Christmas Orgy. That was the first time we ever had anal sex. I didn’t pressure her into it or anything, so don’t look at me like that. We were at this Christmas party upstate and all of these degenerate publishing reps lured us into the basement, where they were drinking giant paper cups of tequila and talking about their sexual frustrations. We were the only happy couple and we wanted to show off to make them all shut up. We started making out. There was cocaine everywhere. Before I knew it, she had my pants off and was sliding me into her ass as if we did it all the time. Everybody in the basement was stunned and scared. The other girls started shrieking. One guy threw up because he was so nervous, watching us. Finally, Imogene pulled one of the younger reps over to us and made him take her from the front, too. After that, nobody wanted to be left out. When we left the party that night, the orgy was spreading out of the basement and crawling up to the second story of that fancy upstate house. Everybody always wants to be like Imogene. Everyone is always copying her. I love that girl.”
“A strong woman is tremendous consolation in these fallen times,” said Father Kuppler.
“And boy, is she strong!” said the man. “After the famous Christmas Orgy, she said that anal sex between us had to be an equal, reciprocal sexual trade. I resisted, of course, but I woke up one morning to find myself hogtied to one of the steel trash barrels that she brought in from the street. I was naked except for some argyle socks. She sodomized me with a strap-on she borrowed from one of her lesbian friends. I’ll never forget that morning. The head of the strap-on’s blue dildo had Elvis’s face carved into it. Old Elvis. With sunglasses. While she fucked me in the ass, she sang “Love Me Tender” and took black-and-white art photographs that we blew up and framed and that now sit over our bed. Is that a sin? Is it a sin to make pornography if it is with someone you love?”
“The Bible is not as clear about that as you might think,” said Father Kuppler. “Look to your conscience.”
“Then there was the time she made me clean her whole body with my tongue while we were backpacking through Europe and couldn’t afford a hotel room or a shower,” said the man. “Each night, I spent ages on her asshole alone. Do you know what the sweaty asshole of your lover tastes like after a full day spent walking through stupid castles and stupid museums?”
“I am the bride of Christ,” said the priest. “The bride of Christ.”
“I don’t want you to think I am some kind of submissive wimp,” said the man. “I give as much as I get. One time, after she forgot my birthday, I made her call all of her ex-boyfriends in order and apologize to each of them for breaking their hearts while I backed her up against a wall and fucked her with her legs dangling and her high heels clanging against my sweaty, skinny ass. You wouldn’t believe how close we became after that. We talked for hours. Just talked. About our dreams, hopes, and fears. She was like a ship that had unloaded its cargo and was now riding so high on the water that you could scrape away all the barnacles. And that’s what we did. We scraped away all the barnacles of her past. I’ll never forget that night. She tells me she doesn’t even think about any of her ex-boyfriends anymore. That it was the guilt that was keeping her from being mine completely in body and in soul.”
“As you can see, confession can be a very therapeutic act,” said Father Kuppler.
“But don’t you see my problem?” said the man. “How am I supposed to make our wedding night into something memorable? I haven’t even told you about all the blowjobs, footjobs, rimjobs, bukkake bowls, whips, chains, body piercings, threesomes, foursomes, gangbangs, bestialities, saran wrap, hot wax, and toobers. I haven’t even told you about my romantic side. I’ve surprised her with dinners on zeppelins, front row tickets to her favorite concerts that took me months to get, warm sweet nights filled with chocolate and murmurs and washing her hair as we joked about heaven and whispered our deepest secrets. We have fucked on rooftops, in circling cabs, once in a stable while horses watched us and chewed carrots. She mentioned once that she had a thing for pirates. I rented a pedal boat at Prospect Park and hired some actors to come board us and take her away. I was explicit to them about what they could and couldn’t do. I never asked her what happened, but when she returned the next day she didn’t say anything: she just kissed me, blushed like a rose, and made me a big, thick steak.”
“Weren’t you jealous?” asked Father Kuppler.
“There’s no such thing as jealousy when it comes to real love,” said the man. “Real love is about making your partner as happy as you possibly can while letting them do the same. About fulfilling their wildest dreams and fantasies with as much creativity and joy as you can muster while letting them fulfill yours. We live in a new world now. A world without all the old barriers and miseries. But don’t you see my problem? Don’t you understand? I am out of ideas. Or rather, none of my ideas are good enough for our wedding night. I intend to be with her forever, and we will only have one wedding night. If I blow it, how will I be able to live with myself? You are a priest and celibate. You’ve heard more sins than I can ever dream of and suffered more desperate longings than a whole hotel full of perverted deviants. In your vast experience as a man of God, can you tell me how to make my wedding night special? How to make sure that my wife and I are the most intimate we’ve ever been on the night that our souls are conjoined and we become one flesh, one heart, one mind?”
“You want my advice,” said Father Kuppler, leaning forward and putting a hand on each of the man’s knees. The man looked at the priest’s hands but did not move them.
“Yes,” said the man. “Tell me how to make her remember our wedding night for the rest of her life.”
“You want to know what I think you should do?” whispered the priest, searching the man’s eyes and making sure the man could smell his stale, sour breath. The man’s nose crinkled in involuntary disgust.
“You want my OPINION?” asked Father Kuppler.
“Yes,” whispered the man.
“Kill her,” said Father Kuppler. “Wait until she is asleep and then put a pillow over her face and smother her until she stops struggling. Kill her. Kill her dead.”
The man looked at Father Kuppler, waiting for the punch-line. Father Kuppler only smiled, showing his sharp little teeth and squeezing the man’s knees. His sharp little fingernails punched through the man’s corduroy pants and drew beads of blood.
The man stood up, knocking the chair over behind him. He raced out of the confessional and out of the church, yelping, looking over his shoulder as he ran; not quite screaming.
When he was gone, Father Kuppler knelt down in prayer. He chuckled to himself and tried to find God. Father Kuppler knew the man wasn’t the murdering type. He’d looked in his eyes and seen nothing but a scared little boy. Why did people always think they could shock a priest? But the man had asked him for advice about how to make his wedding night special and the priest had given it to him.
Now, no matter how banal and boring their wedding night sex act, no matter how anticlimactic their first sacred coupling after years spent fornicating across the whole wet rainbow of explicit and transgressive coitus, even if they laid down like babies with their eyes closed and their legs locked and their mouths joined, rutting with the same boring animal lust as Adam and Eve, the smell of incense would come into the man’s nostrils, he would hear the hallowed silence of this church, this chapel, this God, and the priest’s words would drift into his mind no matter how hard he tried to fight them off.
And the priest’s words would echo through the man’s mind until his new wife could hear them, too, in her wedded heart. Their bodies would fill with an intensity that the priest would never know. Their souls would expand and overlap and merge. Their frenzy would drive them momentarily mad. They would thrash together like the chemical soup at the center of an exploding star.
And it would be the most powerful sex of their new lives. Because in this world, opposites are not only as far apart as magnetic poles, they are also right next to each other, joined like old friends or an old married couple.
Murder is the willful ending of a human life as an act of hate, rage, or revenge.
And marriage is the opposite of murder.