On Fat Tuesday, some friends and I went out for drinks. We were all raised Catholic and discussed what we weren’t giving up for Lent. Collectively, we agreed to go out of our way to eat meat on Fridays. My roommate, Tommy, was eerily quiet.
“Tommy, what’s going on? You’re quiet as balls,” I asked.
He sipped his Guinness and wiped the distinctive cream foam from his moustache.
“Well Joe…”He took another sip. “The Lord has put it upon me to take a journey this Lenten season.”
We put down our beers and looked at each other. Tommy never said anything positive about religion in the 15 years we’d known each other, let alone giving in to the practices of the church.
“For the next forty days and nights,” he continued, “I will sacrifice one of the essential elements of my life for the betterment of my eternal soul.”
“And what element is that, Tommy?”
We burst out laughing and continued with our celebration, figuring Tommy got us good. He returned to his beer and didn’t speak for the rest of the night.
The next day, I woke up to the previous evening being a happy blur. The details of what happened weren’t as important as the good time I must have had. My headache was evidence of that. I opened my door to discover Tommy on the floor…reading a Bible.
“Good morning, Joseph.” He turned to greet me, ashes on his forehead. The discussion about Lent started to return to me.
“Hey…Tommy. I’m going to McDonalds for some grease. You want to join me?” He carefully closed the Bible as though it were the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“Yes, Joseph. I believe I will. But I will have to catch up to you, I have some praying to do.”
I nodded and headed out the door. Tommy was freaking me out. I kept piecing together the elements from the night before. I knew Tommy mentioned giving up something for Lent, but my memory skipped straight to laughing at whatever it was. Then I heard some very loud stomping coming from behind me, fast. I turned. Tommy was running towards me with a goofy smile on his face. His arms were flailing and his legs bounced around. He was like those Wacky Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men that are displayed in front of car dealerships. Tommy quickly caught up to me and began running circles around me.
“Tommy, what the hell are you doing?”
“I gave up walking for Lent, Joseph!” He was breathing heavily, but was still smiling. I just shook my head and continued.
Tommy stuck with it. He ran everywhere. We would be on one end of the bar and he would dash over to the bathrooms. I learned quickly to bring him his drinks. He ended up losing twenty pounds. After Easter, he went back to normal, not mentioning Lent ever again. I’m still not sure what it was really all about.