PAWTUCKET, RI–A first date that "actually seemed to be going pretty well" came to a screeching halt Saturday, when area resident Kyle Richman stepped into Melinda Tulle's Christ-packed apartment.
"Immediately upon walking into the living room, I spotted that framed Last Supper hanging above the couch," said Richman, 32, speaking from the safety of his own non-Jesus-themed apartment. "It took me about half a second to realize that it just wasn't going to happen for the two of us."
Richman expressed regret that the evening turned sour, but also relief that he "found out when [he] did."
"It was only our first date, but I'd been thinking I might have actually found someone nice for a change," Richman said. "But when I saw all those Jesus eyes staring down at me, I realized I'd made a mistake–a big mistake."
Among the other Christian decorative items Richman encountered were rosary beads, a St. Peter statuette, several glass angels arranged on an end table, and a gruesomely detailed Christ-on-the-crucifix painting casually placed above the television.
Excusing himself to the bathroom to collect his thoughts, Richman found a Virgin Mary night light and a heavily highlighted book titled Living Your Faith.
"The book sealed it," Richman said. "She wasn't just a Christian; she was one who actually 'lived her faith.' There was no way to make it work between us."
Just minutes prior, an excited Richman had been driving Tulle home as the two energetically discussed music.
"All of Melinda's favorite bands were ones I'd never even heard of–Footprints, Garden's Edge, Everybodyduck, Concrete Jesus–so I figured they must be some of those alternative bands I don't know anything about," Richman said. "When she asked me if I wanted to stop up to her apartment and borrow some CDs, I said sure. I was like, wow, this date must be going even better than I thought if she's asking me up to her place."
Even after seeing the Jesus-laden apartment, Richman said he still clung to the faint hope that the religious items belonged to a roommate. Tulle confirmed, however, that the Jesus stuff did belong to her and was not there for any kitsch value.
"My faith is very important to me," Tulle told Richman. "It makes me feel at home to know the Lord's presence is near. Please, sit down. I'll get you something to drink."
Said Richman: "I honestly never saw it coming. I mean, she was wearing a cross around her neck, but I figured it didn't mean much. Lots of Christians wear those, not just Christian Christians."
The pair met on Mar. 12 when Tulle came into the Eastgate Mall B. Dalton where Richman works to buy a book for her niece. The purchase led to a brief conversation between Richman and Tulle about their own favorite childhood books, and he asked her out to dinner.
Richman reported that the date began well. He and Tulle enjoyed dinner at a local Italian restaurant, enthusiastically discussing their shared love of dogs, camping, and The Wizard Of Oz, and then stopped by a nearby ice-cream shop for sundaes.
"It was going great: She was laughing at all my jokes and said I had 'wonderfully deep' eyes," Richman said. "At one point, I suggested that we go to a dance bar, but she said she didn't really like dancing. Now I see it's probably not so much that she doesn't like dancing but is against dancing. And when she said most movies and TV shows are awful these days, she didn't mean lame or dumb, but sinful."
The evening ended approximately 10 minutes after Richman entered the apartment, when Tulle mentioned she was going to church the following morning.
"Before she could get a chance to invite me, I said I thought I left my car door unlocked and got the hell out of there," Richman said. "The worst part is, I can't even just avoid her because I have all these CDs I have to return. Christ."