Heartbreak, Prostitution, and The International House of Pancakes

John Gillen
Dec 14, 2016 · 14 min read

While I was a student at The University of Virginia, I became a member of The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society where I delivered several speeches.

This is one I wrote, but never presented.


The Worst of Times

The winter of 2014–2015 was one of the worst times of my life.

I had fallen in love with a woman with whom I had no right to be in love.

I’m a Christian, she isn’t.

I tried to commit to both her and to God, but I ended up sinning against both.

It was all very complicated.

She finally decided it was time to end it.

We had brunch one morning and she told me she didn’t want to be dating anyone anymore.

And so, during the winter of 2014, I lost my God, the woman I loved, and really I’d sort of lost my sanity.

For a long time, I didn’t know who I was or why I was living.

I lost fifteen pounds and slept two hours in the first three days after that brunch.

The panic attacks returned.

My behavior was erratic, my moods shifted between numb and suicidal, I didn’t know how I felt about anything.

There was no color, no flavor, no meaning, nothing.

Weeks passed in a painful blur.

Stacey

My waitress’ name was Stacey.

I was the only one in the restaurant, so Stacey asked if she could sit down and keep me company.

We talked.

I don’t remember those months too clearly, other than the pain, but I remember Stacey very well.

Stacey was a 64 year old great grandmother who had never been married, and worked as a waitress on the graveyard shift at an IHOP in Northern Virginia.

She used to be a child psychologist and guidance counselor in Kentucky, but there were budget cuts, and Stacey lost her job.

She started working as a waitress at an IHOP in Kentucky.

One day, her manager found out she’d been fucking the busboy.

This wouldn’t have been a big problem, except that the busboy (who had sworn he was 18) had turned out to be a 16 year old illegal immigrant.

The manager told Stacey he wouldn’t turn her over to the cops, but he had to fire both of them.

She went home and told her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend was pretty upset, not because she had been fucking the busboy, but because she had been fired.

You see, Stacey and her boyfriend had become quite fond of meth, but now that she had lost her job, they wouldn’t be able to afford it.

So Stacey’s boyfriend did what he usually did when he was upset.

He beat the shit out of her.

Among other things, he took a baseball bat and smashed in her ribs.

She waited until he had drunk himself to sleep, as he did every night, and then quickly packed and drove away.

Even though she had a huge family of bastard children, she said she knew that none of them could afford to take her in, so she found a place far away from her boyfriend where she could get a job quick.

And so after changing her name again, “Stacey” became a waitress on the graveyard shift at an IHOP in Northern Virginia.

But waitresses live off of tips, and waitresses on the graveyard shift at an IHOP in Northern Virginia in the dead of winter don’t get a lot of tips.

And Stacey had less than $100 to her name.

So in her spare time, Stacey returned to a vocation that she hadn’t pursued since she was very young.

Back then it had just been a fun way for a sexy underage southern girl to make some extra money and party the way she liked too.

But the parties were over now.

55 years of drug abuse, physical abuse, 6 bastard children, God knows how many grandchildren, and at least 4 great grand children had worn away all of the fun.

Now someone’s sweet innocent daughter was just a flat broke, meth addicted, cock sucking, whore named Stacey.

And sometime between 2 and 4am on a cold God damned winter night she saw a young man with a scraggly beard sitting alone at her table with a look on his face darker than the night he had walked out of.

She had seen that look before.

He looked like a customer.

Breakfast

And we talked.

She told me about all the John’s she had been with and their strange fetishes. All kinds of sick depraved things she’d had to do so she wouldn’t starve on the street. She laughed about it, but her laugh was hollow and you could hear that part of her soul had died.

As she talked, I was thinking.

I thought about Rahab the Harlot.

Rahab

So Joshua sends two spies to scout out the city who are almost caught and killed, but this young woman named Rahab the Harlot hides Joshua’s spies, and lets them stay with her.

In return, God sparred her life when the walls came down.

She had a few great grand children too, among them, were King David and Jesus Christ.

I always found it annoying that Rahab is referred to as “Rahab the Harlot.”

She helped save Israel, and the only thing we seem to remember about her is that, for part of her life, she was a whore.

As if that makes her different from other people somehow.

Bertha

In the film, Scorsese plays a John in a whore house. He has finished having sex with the whore, paid, dressed, and is about to leave, but instead turns to her and says, “If I pay you $15 dollars can I sleep here? I don’t want to be alone tonight.” The whore agrees, and they go back to bed.

Ribs

She loved meth, and I felt like getting stoned too. I’d prefer cocaine to meth personally, but it makes no difference.

Both are just artificial love for people who can’t get the real thing.

I wanted to have sex with the woman I loved, but instead I chose as Paul says to “abstain from fornication.”

Stacey had made different sexual choices. Maybe she was right. Maybe I was wrong. But I think mostly likely we were both wrong.

We had both just been through bad breakups.

And then there was the ribs.

When I was about eight, I got hit in the chest with a baseball bat while trying to break up a fight.

To this day, I have a dent in the left side of my chest just below my heart.

I have often wondered what would have happened if he’d hit me just a couple inches higher and punctured my heart?

Anyway, the point is Stacey and I had both had our ribs broken, in almost the same place, by angry men, with baseball bats.

After thinking over all the things we had in common, I realized how little difference there was between us.

When you come right down to it, the only differences were our age, sex, and faith in Jesus Christ.

But time is an illusion, and a person’s sex doesn’t define them, and faith in Jesus Christ is something that can be lost or found in a matter of seconds.

So really the only difference between us was our choices.

The choices we had made, and the choices we had yet to make.

A Generous Man

“Yes. Yes, I am.” said the lonely man with the punctured heart.

I waited till her shift ended and then went with her back to her grimy extended stay motel.

We talked for a long time, but eventually she had had enough conversation.

“So what can I do for you John? What do you want John?”

She offered me everything.

Everything except what I wanted.

I didn’t want to be alone.

But at the time there was only one woman who could make me feel like I wasn’t alone.

And it wasn’t Stacey.

But she couldn’t understand that.

This woman who’d had sex with thousands of men and women couldn’t understand why I didn’t want sex.

Not that it matters, but for the record, I did want sex and I do want sex, as bad as any man or woman does I suppose.

But what I really wanted was Love because only Love drives out loneliness. I read something somewhere that said, “You can’t fuck your way out of a lonely heart.”

That’s not in the Bible, but it’s still the Gospel according to John.

But Stacey was convinced I wanted something so kinky I was too embarrassed to ask for it.

So she kept pressing me.

Finally, I said, “If I pay you $50 can I sleep here? I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

She fell asleep on my chest.

Panic

If I think too long about that girl who broke up with me I get panic attacks.

Heavy breathing, strong muscle spasms, I even had heart palpitations for a couple of weeks.

Panic attacks feel like you’re being dragged to hell by a hurricane.

I used to get panic attacks sometimes, but when I was with that girl, they stopped.

Lullaby

They call it a lullaby.

I know what that’s like.

But I lost her, so the panic attacks came back.

And this time, there were no lullabies.

I would wake up sweating and screaming at 3AM.

Out of breath.

Always dreaming.

But with Stacey asleep on my chest I was able to finally relax a little and just breathe easily for an hour or two before I went back to work.

I didn’t sleep, I just rested.

But maybe that’s not what happened.

Maybe that’s a lie.

Maybe that wasn’t the choice I made.

Choices

And I was lonely so I waited til her shift ended and then went with her back to her grimy extended stay motel.

I paid her $50 for a hand job went home, took a shower, and went to work like nothing happened.

Maybe that’s a lie too.

Maybe I didn’t make that choice either.

Maybe she said, “I like spending time with handsome strong young men like you. As long as they are generous of course. You are a generous man aren’t you John?”

And I was lonely so she gave me one of the key cards to her room in a grimy extended stay motel and I agreed to wait for her there.

Son of a Bitch

I took Gideon’s Bible out of the nightstand and opened it to the Gospel According to John, which is the Gospel written by Jesus’ best friend, a man referred to as “The disciple whom Jesus loved.”

I wrote “Jesus loves you Stacey” on the grimy extended stay motel stationary and placed the note on the open Bible.

I know that is a terrible cliche that has lost all meaning, but I like that.

The meaninglessness is holy.

Then I went downstairs and spoke to Emmanuel at the front desk.

I made arrangements for Stacey to keep her room as long as she needed it.

Emmanuel asked me why. I think he knew about Stacey’s side job.

Maybe he was a customer too, maybe a regular.

I told him I was her son.

He knew I was lying, but I didn’t care.

The opening line of Martin Scorsese’s 1973 film Mean Streets is spoken in voiceover narration by Scorsese himself. It is implied that Marty’s voice is that of a priest.

“You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets, you do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.”

That’s not in the Bible either, but it’s still the Gospel according to John.

While Emmanuel finished processing the payment I asked if he had ever seen Mean Streets.

He hadn’t.

Emmanuel means “God with us.”

I walked out of the motel into the cold Goddamn morning and drove to work.

Tip Your Waitresses

Or Maybe that’s all a lie too.

Maybe that’s not the choice I made either.

Maybe what really happened is Stacey said, “I like spending time with handsome, strong, young men like you. As long as they are generous of course. You are a generous man aren’t you John?”

And maybe I said I had to go home and get some rest.

Maybe I ate my breakfast, tipped her 20%, and went home to bed like a good sweet innocent Christian boy.

Services Rendered

And I was lonely so I waited til her shift ended and then went with her back to her grimy extended stay motel and spent over three hours fucking her in every hole she had and every position she knew.

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything.

I could tell her body had been well used, but she knew what she was doing. So I came five times, showered, dressed, paid her $650 dollars I got out of an ATM, ate the extra omelet I’d brought back from IHOP, and drove to work with my heart beating a little slower and not thinking about God, or Jesus, or Martin Scorsese, or the girl I loved, or the lost paradise of her lullaby eyes.

Maybe

Maybe not.

Maybe I made some of these choices, maybe I didn’t.

Maybe I made the whole thing up.

Maybe what really happened is none of your Goddamn business.

Maybe what really happened doesn’t matter.

Because there are millions of Staceys and millions of Johns.

And the point is not what happened to this particular Stacey and John.

The Point

Because all of us have suffered and all of us have opportunities to take advantage of the suffering of others.

And the only thing that makes any of us different from each other, the only thing that matters, is the choices that we have made, and the choices we have yet to make.

So it doesn’t matter what I chose to do, it doesn’t matter how many sins I have committed, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all that matters is atonement, grace, and penance.

The blood of Jesus takes care of atonement and grace, but penance, repenting or turning from your sins, that’s your job.

Repent

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Jesus is baptized by John, then he fasts in the wilderness and is tempted by the devil, then he comes back and finds out the John has been thrown in jail, and so Jesus begins to preach for the first time.

“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum…From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus begins his ministry where John the Baptist left off by saying repent.

But if you notice there is no mention of temples.

John and Jesus were out in the wilderness, wandering city streets, preaching to sinners, preaching repentance, preaching that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

Because you don’t make up for your sins in a church, you do it in the streets.

Choose

The last line on the last Beatles album says “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

But as for advice about how to live and what choices to make I cannot advise you.

I cannot recommend the choices that Stacey made, nor can I recommend my own fucked up life of sin or my Goddamn lonely love.

I cannot tell you what to do about the needs you have that go unmet.

I cannot tell you how to stop the panic attacks.

I cannot tell you how to ease a troubled mind or comfort a lonely heart.

I cannot advise you.

Man Of Constant Sorrow

This man once said to love thy neighbor as thyself.

He said to bless those who curse you and do good to them which despitefully use you.

He said do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

And I happen to think this man of constant sorrow was right.

This man who was ridiculed by religious leaders for spending his time in the company of sinners and whores.

Borat

One of the refined southern gentlemen at this dinner party is a pastor.

And Borat sits at dinner with these well dressed, rich, white, Republican, Christian, ladies and gentlemen who all go to church, and say their prayers, and never ever say any naughty fucking words.

And Borat invites a fat, black, tattooed, prostitute, over for dinner, and as soon as she enters the room, the good Pastor stands and ever so politely excuses himself, because everyone knows that no good christian would ever spend time in the company of some 64 year old poor filthy meth addicted cock sucking whore who waits tables on the graveyard shift at an IHOP in Northern Virginia.

I don’t think Jesus would make a very good Christian.

The Gospel According to John

So much has happened, so much has changed, I have lost so much of my mind and my identity in the last few years.

I know I just got all preachy and everything but honest to God I really don’t have any good answers for anyone.

I want to do the right thing, but it’s impossible to know what the right thing is.

What was the right thing to do when I first met that woman I fell in love with?

What was the right thing to do when I met Stacey?

What would you have done?

What would Jesus have done?

What should I do now?

I don’t know.

And so like everyone, I have sinned many sins.

So you live your lives and make your own choices and God help us all.

Maybe Jesus is right, but maybe he is just as full of shit as I am.

I mean what did Jesus know anyway?

He was just another one of God’s lonely men.

A man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief.

Just another son of some whore.

Right?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I don’t know.

Benediction

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Amen.

John Gillen

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“My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else.” — Martin Scorsese