Please don’t let this be summer long.
Finally continuing my story after a bit of a break. The previous section can be found here.
My final semester at my community college had ended. If you recall, I was deeply struggling with a non-relationship with one of my teachers, Peter, and after graduation I realized fully for the first time that his interest in me was real. It’s hard to explain that struggle if you didn’t grow up with the same teaching that Christian/non-Christian relationships were absolutely forbidden. Friendships? That’s one thing. Romantic relationships? That was always taught as an absolute no-no.
My friend, Amanda* and I were taking a road trip to Boston the week after graduation to stay with friends and tour the city. We were quite looking forward to it. She wasn’t exactly understanding regarding my relationship with Peter. I was particularly coming unglued at this point because we were visiting Boston…the place he had invited me to go with him for a 3-day, 3-night convention. He would be just leaving as we arrived. Psychologically and emotionally, that was hard for me to deal with, since part of me desperately wanted to be with him and part of me knew I couldn’t be.
We were staying with a family I knew from my church camp. The husband, Nate*, was one of the elders at their chapel, so much of our stay revolved around church gatherings. The first night we stayed with them, Amanda went upstairs to go to bed, and I stayed up talking with Nate and his wife, Clara*. I told them about Peter, and how much of a struggle it had been. They were so understanding. Of course, they were clear that no relationship could come of it according to Scripture, but they didn’t offer up the antidotes I’d been getting from other friends (“it’s not a big deal, get over it” – the only friend who took it seriously was Dan*). I was so encouraged to be with them.
The second night we were there, my life changed.
One of the women from their chapel had a gathering at her house – a cookout and bonfire. Two of Nate and Clara’s sons play guitar, and we were going to have a hymnsing as well. We got there a little late, and as we walked into the house and were being introduced to people, I noticed a young man sitting in the living room. I was so struck by him. His eyes seemed so dark and full of pain that when our eyes met, I hurt for him. I felt an instant kinship with him. His name was Joseph*.
Keep in mind, as I related in “O God, the aftermath“, I did not relate to men well anymore. I kept them all at a distance and trusted no one, save Daniel from Bible study. I was unnerved by the instant connection I felt with Joe, but also somewhat intrigued.
We spent the entire night by each other’s sides, talking and laughing and singing. At one point, only three of us knew a song – “Shout to the North and the South,” by Delirious. One of Nate’s sons played it while Joe and I sang a duet together for the group. When it came time to leave, Amanda had to literally drag me away as Joe and I were still talking animatedly. When we got in the car, she gave me a quizzical look. “You never talk to guys like that,” she said in a hushed voice so only I could hear. I nodded, understanding her unspoken “be careful,” and determined that I wouldn’t become too attached to him. I succeeded the next day during our tour of Boston to keep him from the forefront of my thoughts, and tried to steel myself for having to see him in church on Sunday.
Sunday rolled around. We did not sit together, but in between meetings while I was playing piano, he stood with me and sang with me. As we were leaving and I was once again congratulating myself for not having made a fool out of myself for him, Joe and another girl from the church invited a group of us to meet them to go to Rhode Island, to hike along the beach and maybe go out for dinner. As my group agreed to this, I wondered what was going to happen. We arrived at our previous host’s house, and as we were getting in our cars, I brashly decided to invite Joe to ride with us. He hesitated for a moment, then ran and jumped in our car.
For the next eight hours, Joe and I were inseparable. We walked mostly alone together at the beach, talking non-stop. I told him a little bit of my relationship with Peter, and how much I loathed myself for the situation. At one point, I admitted that I thought that most people would be better off without my influence. He immediately rebuked me and told me that I was one of the best, most godly and loving people he knew. He admitted to me that he had been suicidal as recently as a few months before, and that he had deeply rooted family problems. These he attributed to a decision he had made – a decision that also apparently cost him all of his friends. (He had only recently begun attending Nate & Clara’s church, and seemed to indicate that they were unaware of whatever was going on.) I told him that self-inflicted pain is often worse than pain inflicted by others, that I understood what being your own worst critic and abuser was like. It seemed that we understood each other completely. At certain points, he would reach out and hold my hand to steady me on the rocks. To my shock, I didn’t feel threatened.
Once it began to get dark, we walked back to our cars and went to dinner. We sat together, and he paid for my dinner and gave me my first drink – Chivas Regal on the rocks. It must have been my feelings for him that made me like the whiskey, because I’ve had it since and am not as crazy about it as I was then =) After dinner, we agreed to go back to a friend’s house to watch The Last Samurai.
In the car on the way to pick up Joe’s car, we came very close to the subject about which he was ashamed. He told me he trusted me, but that he didn’t want to divulge what was going on in front of witnesses (the other two passengers in the car). I suggested that when we picked up his car, I would ride with him to our friend’s house. He agreed, then admitted that he was afraid he would lose my friendship as well. I swore to him that I loved him with the love of Christ – that nothing he had done would change my desire for his good.
Once in his car and heading over for the movie, he became very quiet. At long last he said, “I’m going to court on July 3.”
My heart skipped a beat. I started wondering what was going on. Had he been drunk and killed someone in an accident? Was he being sued? “…okay,” I replied slowly.
He took a deep breath, let it out, and continued with the sentence that would change my life forever.
“Things with my wife will be settled at that point.”
My heart plummeted. I think I actually grabbed onto the handlebar on the car door to steady myself. The past eight hours of conversation made even more sense.
I must have been quiet for a while. He laughed nervously and said in a very small voice, “What are you thinking?”
I frowned, wondering the same thing. At last, I replied, honestly, “I’m thinking that once we get to Ruth*’s house, you’re going to need a hug.”
The rest of the evening is somewhat of a blur. I know that we did hug after getting to the house for the movie. We also sat together for the movie, hip to hip, once again inseparable…but it seemed different now. Joe seemed desperate for love and affirmation from someone who knew his secret, and I still felt like I was drowning on the inside and was clinging to the friendship – and possibly more – that had blossomed so quickly. At the end of the night, we exchanged phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, and screen names and vowed to keep in touch.
The next day, Amanda and I departed for home. She didn’t understand my silence and pensiveness. I didn’t explain to her. My heart was so full of conflicting emotions and allegiances that I just didn’t know what to do. Joe and I texted briefly, expressing our desire to be together (without stating what that meant), and our thankfulness for one another. I had never felt so elated and so full of despair. Suddenly, Peter was a distant memory, and my heart was struggling to not collapse into shambles.
My story continues with “The stolen moments worth living for.”