A Tale of 2 Phone Calls

Lately, I keep getting woken up by the past.

Tale #1
Rrrrrttt. Rrrrrttt.

My phone was blowing up on vibrate.

Rrrrttt. Rrrrrttt.

It was 6am. No one ever calls with good news at 6am.

Rrrrttt. Rrrrttt.

I opened one eye, my brain still foggy from the dream of a machine at work that looked like it was destroyed by a tornado. I glanced at my phone. 2 missed calls and a few text messages from Phoebe. “I need to get away. I need to think. Alex is still with the girl. Can I come to your house today? Do you have plans?”

Whoa. This just got serious. “Give me a minute to wake up and I’ll call,” I texted back. Five minutes later, I’m pacing in the backyard, talking with Phoebe. She was surprisingly calm when I spoke with her, despite the fact she had caught her husband with another woman a few days earlier.

Phoebe flipped the script and left on the lam – Alex’s modus operandi. She disappeared without an explanation, en route to the airport for my house. I sent her a picture of my credit card so she could book her plane tickets without detection, promising to write me a check when she landed. A few hours later, I picked her up at the airport. Ironically, I had cleaned the entire house the day prior for no reason. “The Lord knew,” she said. This is also why I keep my guest room in a constant state of readiness. You never know who the Lord will send your way with a moment’s notice.

Phoebe looked the same, as if 12 years hadn’t slipped by, and we picked up right where we left off. We spent time at the beach, ate good food, sipped wine, and discussed her situation extensively. For 3 days I watched her oscillate between a confident Christian woman who was going to contact a divorce attorney to a puddle of sadness and despair, longing for her marriage to made whole again. I was glad to share my home with her, thankful that she was eating and sleeping – something she hadn’t done much of since the blow up.

An ending has yet to be written. But that dream though: all of us work in the same health care department, and I wonder if that shattered machine in the dream means what I think it does. So much prayer. So much.


Tale #2
The other morning I woke up to a group message from the old church I attended in college. They’re hosting a homecoming for the youth group – the whole lot of us were invited for a picnic. Everyone was replying – people I hadn’t thought about in years appeared on my phone – even Jacob and Hannah are attending. This ought to be interesting.

A private message from Ruth was there too – the reception is one week after we were suppose to go on one of our epic adventures – and we decided to table the adventure in favor of the meet-up. Over the years, we had mused about “getting the band back together” and what it would be like to do a reunion. And now, we have that chance. We’ve booked a hotel room and we are each other’s date for the “bring your family” event. She’s like a sister, so it works. My husband had a gig anyway.

I am ecstatic to be back in my college town, especially with Ruth, to walk down memory lane together, in addition to making new memories. My only concern is that John’s last post was in my college town and I could run into him, if he’s still there. We haven’t stayed in contact and I have no desire to change that status. Nonetheless, I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again and hopefully making some new friendship connections with the old church crew.


These sort of things usually come in 3’s, so I’m a bit pensive of the next way the past will pop into my present.

Come what may.

A fissure in time seems unlikely.

Right?

 

Pray & Prey

All the #churchtoo hash tags on my Twitter feed reminded me of a fellow youth group member in college who could classify as a preditor.

I would know. I was one of his complicit prey.

Word had gotten around church that I was newly single. I looked okay on the outside, but on the inside I was in the deep throws of an existential crisis coupled with an identity crisis. My ex was an emotional abuser, and I got too caught up in his web of dysfunction.

It was during this time that I learned when I hit rock bottom, I will find a shovel and start digging.

Jacob was the shovel.

Jacob had asked for my phone number and he was the full package: handsome chiseled features, very muscular, highly intelligent – an all around sweetheart who loved Jesus. I was giddy. I never thought a guy like Jacob would notice me.

Sure enough, he called me to hang out one evening. After a false start, we ended up back at my apartment to watch a movie with my roommates. Jacob put his arms around me and pulled me back onto him. This was nice – a little fast – but nice. In the course of a few minutes, his hands started to wander. I politely stopped him several times.

If I wasn’t in such a state of complete breakdown, I’d like to think I’d have rebuffed his advances. But when you’re already careening out of control and extremely comfortable with your sexuality, you make certain allowances that otherwise wouldn’t make sense.

He suggested going back to my room and I agreed. I tried to explain to him how crazy my life was, but it came out jumbled and it was clear he was not understanding. The spell wore off after midnight. We didn’t have sex, but we defiantly knew each other better in the physical sense.

He requested I drive him back to the dorm at 3am, less than half a mile from my apartment. The conversation was terse, compared to what happened between us a few hours prior. He threw a casual “see ya” over his shoulder as he left the car.

I regretted it. I was disgusted with myself. His scent was still all over my sheets, but in the morning light, it smelled bad.

I didn’t hear from him in the following days and our group met on a few nights later. My heart raced as I walked to the building. I tried to catch his eye, eager to read his expression. We made eye contact: it was a quick expressionless glance, like when you almost bump into someone in a busy airport.

That was it.

Oh, I thought, as the reality seeped through my body. This is how it’s gonna be: all over me in private, ignore me in public. While I was disappointed, I also knew it was stupid to think he wanted something more. The situation a few nights previous was obviously about the physical rather than the mental, emotional, and spiritual. Just what I needed: another guy in my life to treat me like crap.

I wish I could say the story ended there.

But it didn’t.

It happened again.

And again.

While I’ve never done drugs, I’m sure Jacob was cocaine in the human form. I knew it was a bad idea, but I loved the high – it boosted me out of the hole I found myself in, albeit temporarily. I loved the rush, the impulsive nature of our aimless fraternization.

I was eager for another fix.

As time passed, I was slowly coming out of my self-induced haze, longing for the comforts of emotional sobriety. What if I was leading him on? I paused as I was leaving his dorm room, leaning against the door jamb for support. It was time to clarify things.

“So,” I began. “Where does this leave us?”

“Right here,” came the sarcastic reply and a smile.

“No, really. Where do you see this going?”

Jacob stopped and turned to me. “I am not in a place in my life where I would be a good boyfriend to you, I can’t be what you would need in a relationship.”

It sounded like a pre-recorded message, a backhanded complement, but I took his words at face value.

“Okay,” I said, as I drifted into the hallway and closed the door behind me.

That was fine by me.

It stopped right then and there.

I’d like to point out that all of this was consensual between Jacob and I. He never forced me to do anything. I take responsibility for my actions.

Then I got back with my daft ex, because I was young, stupid, and apparently masochistic at 21.

But that’s when the prowl started.

My boyfriend didn’t want to attend formal several months later, so I went alone. Jacob was there, handsome as ever. He tried to get me to come back to his dorm afterwards and I explained I was with someone else and not interested. Jacob tried to persuade me otherwise. He pulled me close when we were alone, and I pushed him away. “I have a boyfriend, we can’t do this, ” I said and left his presence.

I can’t remember the circumstances, but I had something to drop off at his place months later. He had moved out of the dorms and into a house. He gave me a quick friendly tour, no vestige of our history showed.

“And this is my room,” he said as we stopped at the door. He came from behind me and used his body weight to push me on the bed. We fell on the bed together and I knew what the look in his eye meant. “I have a boyfriend,” I said, slightly worried about how this situation was going. Again, he tried to charm me. “No, I have to go.” I sprinted out to my car before he had a chance to stop me.

That was our last encounter.

The following school year, Jacob was a distant memory. A girl named Hannah started coming to our group. Hannah was not only stunningly beautiful, but wholesome and kind. She was in my Bible study. I had just taken a big swig of soda when Hannah said she had an announcement: “Jacob and I are officially dating.”

It took everything in my power not to spit the soda across the room. She took her purity seriously, and while they made a handsome couple, I certainly hoped she knew what she was signing up for with Jacob.

I did not mention anything to her about my experience. Maybe she knew about Jacob and I, maybe not. I didn’t want to reveal my previous indiscretions; there was also the possibility of Jacob amending his ways.

They got married and have children. Occasionally a picture of them will pop up on my feed, all smiles. I wonder what their marriage is like and if they are truly happy beyond the pictures.

The shine of youth is gone for Jacob. The sculpted muscles have given way to age and fat; he looks well into his second trimester now. Those bright eyes and boyish grin still come through, but I know what lies behind them. Hannah still has a better body than my barren athletic one.

What is Jacob like now? I wonder if anyone at his current church has a story about him. I wonder how he dealt with the past or if he ever did.

Many years later, I told my good friend Ruth (from the same group) about everything that happened between Jacob and I: turns out I was just another link in the chain. She and many others had a similar experience. Ruth shot him down before anything came of it (as I should have done). I wasn’t the first in the group. I wasn’t the last either.

I was simply another violin in a woeful symphony.

I was played. And prey.

Writing Challenge Day 26: Things You’d Say to an Ex

When I was younger, I’d have written a soliloquy about this, covering the chasms of emotion and trying to hurt them with my words as much as they hurt me. Having grown up a bit and moved on, that is no longer the case. I know exactly what I’d say:

“How are you?”

I mean this not as the common American greeting; I’d want to know where they were in life. What people, events, and experiences shaped them since we last spoke over a decade ago? I’d want to know how they really are; without the facade of social media or a monotone “Fine” which is what I got the one time I asked an ex how they were. I would want to dig deep into the condition of their soul, and yet stay detached as an outside observer.

I don’t believe I’ll ever get the chance to ask, but I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I could. Chances are, their memory of me is so dim, it may not even register anymore.

Number 35

I turned 35 today.  It kinda snuck up on me, this mid-thirties business.  I swear I’m still in my twenties, but my legal documentation, not to mention the fine lines under my eyes, say otherwise.

I started out the day with a grande pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (it’s free when it’s your birthday!) and a fancy donut from one of the local shops here.  I took my collective 1,000 calories and sat down on the beach.  The Atlantic was choppy and  I was glad I brought my jacket with me.  The sunbathing days are over for now.  Despite that, the sun was shining and I was in my happy place.  I talked with my mom and wrote in my journal – which had been neglected since last spring.  I took stock of my 34th year, and wrote down my hopes and dreams for the 35th year.

When I was 34….

  • I began writing a book detailing the 20+ years of genealogy stories and trees I have rolling around in my brain.
  • I applied for 3 jobs that are out of my area of expertise in hopes of a career change: thus far I’ve been rejected, and am now awaiting to see if #3 will hire me.
  • I learned how the mind of an addict works on the fly.
  • Roadtripped with my sister-in-law, niece, husband, friend from college, and myself.
  • I started a technical writing certification program.  It was time to put some energy into a passion.
  • I learned how to crochet and improved my craft.  I’ve come a long way from my drunk spider mode, but I still have so much to learn.
  • Discovered the lifestyle of contemplative prayer, and how it fits so well with my worship style.  It is so different from what mainstream American Christianity offers, it was like jumping in the ocean on the hottest day of year: so refreshing!
  • Began rock climbing again, and met some very cool people along the way.
  • I learned French (I started with nothing), where I can read simple things, but cannot actually impress anyone from France.
  • I kept up with my German studies through video, lessons, and reading the Bible.
  • I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls.
  • Rediscovered one of my favorite authors of all time, Alister MacLean.
  • I started this blog.

As for 35….

  • I want a new career.
  • I want to nail my capstone project for my technical writing certification.
  • I want my crochet projects to benefit the homeless and others in need.
  • I want to expand on the contemplative prayer lifestyle, connecting further with the Lord.
  • I want to travel out into the western part of the USA.
  • My husband and I have been contemplating an exit plan, perhaps moving away from the beach.  The current job situation went from bad to worse with him.
  • A European adventure is on the horizon:  every time I go to Europe, I am inspired to do something and I wonder what this trip will bring.
  • I want better control over my anxiety and lack of confidence.
  • I want to identify and express my emotions better.  I really sucked at that when I was 34.
  • I want to write my book, finish the stories, finish the trees, get an editor/manuscript.
  • I want to surf.
  • I want to open my home to friends, strangers, and those in need; even if my husband is upset at the idea.
  • I want to be a better wife by growing closer to my husband and reflecting the Lord.
  • While a family is not in the cards I was dealt, and my heart is so tender in that spot; that the Lord may fill it with what He so desires.