From Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour, edited by Jon Paul Fiorentino and published by DC Books in 2003.
It was one of those summers when people just kept coming to stay, and I’d pull out the futon and slap on the sheets and set my friends up in the living room. My place was small, and the overcrowding really bugged my girlfriend, who was far more solitary than me. There’d be a breather of two or three days before each new onslaught, and we knew that in a couple of months, the visits would all be history. But then the Pope called, and I couldn’t really turn him down. He was coming to Toronto for a few days, and he’d be pretty busy, but he wanted somewhere to crash at night, and he remembered my futon fondly from years past. I told him yeah, okay, but I couldn’t spend a lot of time with him—my girlfriend and I needed to reacquaint ourselves—and he was fine with that. So I went to the hardware store and cut him a key (Clint had left without giving back the extra), and told him I’d leave it for him in the mailbox.
The Pope wasn’t great with stairs and I was on the second floor, but he said he could manage. I was scared I’d come home one day and he’d be halfway up, sitting on his papal ass, his head hanging down at his chest, gasping for breath. I talked to my girlfriend and said at least one of us would have to be around to check in on him, and she agreed, but through gritted teeth. I looked forward to at least one late night of drinking and watching videos, when maybe I could turn the sound down low and talk to the Pope about the whole girlfriend thing. He was good about that, even though he didn’t have a girlfriend himself. I figured that’s what gave him perspective. I was worried that the Pontiff and my girlfriend wouldn’t get along—they were complete opposites. In fact, I’d never had a girlfriend during any of his previous visits; he’d always show up when I was a bachelor, and he, of course, was a perpetual bachelor.
Things were pretty busy in the days leading up to his arrival, not only in the rest of the city, where they were putting up statues and shit, and making sure the Popemobile routes were secure, but also in my apartment. I was cleaning like a fiend. Usually if a friend stayed for only a day or two, I wouldn’t bother laundering the sheets, figuring the next arrivals would never notice. But the Pope was pretty picky about that—he had an amazing sniffer and always knew when I was slacking on the laundry. So I washed all the sheets, and threw out mouldy things from the fridge, and put away all the CDs that littered my living room, and made sure I had enough extra pillow cases (he liked three pillows for his head, and one between his knees when he lay on his side). I did some shopping, too, making sure there was plenty to eat. He was pretty good about that stuff—after he left, I’d always find a can of peas or a bag of chips that he’d bought and stashed in my kitchen. He’d never taken advantage of me, that was for sure. And he did the dishes every morning—I’d wake to the clinking of plates and cutlery and yell from my bedroom for him to cut it out, I’d look after it, but His Holiness just shouted back that he liked to do it—they never let him at the Vatican.
The Pope’s always full of surprises, and when he suggested one night that we knock over a convenience store, I did a double-take. He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he held up the keys to the Popemobile and shrugged his shoulders (the Pope was all shoulders). I cracked open another beer for myself and mulled it over. He was just staring at me, waiting for my answer, or perhaps he’d fallen asleep with his eyes open—it was always hard to tell. I told him to hold on, I just had to use the can, but instead of going to the washroom I went into my bedroom, phoned my girlfriend and asked what she thought of the idea. She didn’t think too long before she declared it stupid, even if it had emanated from the Pope. I said, but come on, this is the Pope, he just wants to have some fun, he knows what he’s doing, and she said it was crazy, and if I did it she’d leave me, because there’s no way she was ever going to bail me out of jail again. I called her a bad Catholic and hung up on her. Then I punched my pillow in anger, or perhaps because it was flattened out, I don’t remember, but either way, I immediately regretted breaking up.
Back in the living room, the Pope was watching Seinfeld on TV with the sound off and listening to a Yardbirds CD. I said, come on, man, let’s just do it, and I reached for his keys. The Pope looked at me for a moment, his head on that weird angle, but his eyes as alert as ever. I thought he was going to frown and roar Silencio like he did in Nicaragua just before he yanked out all those liberation theology bishops, but he just laughed and tossed his keys in the air. He told me he’d been kidding, what was I thinking, he was the Pope, and then he turned back to the TV.
So the guy comes to town, crashes on my futon, watches my TV and wrecks my relationship with my girlfriend. I kicked him out without a moment’s hesitation, and hit the sack. I was exhausted. I mean, I’d done the laundry and cleaned up—I was bushed. In the morning I turned on the TV. There was the Pope, in front of like 500,000 people, droning on and on about this and that, while people cheered and waved flags, and there was my girlfriend on his arm. That’s what you get for being hospitable. I was going to call this “The Pope Stole My Girlfriend,” but I didn’t want to give everything away.