The Third – три

A glass of wine convinced me to find the loves of my past, which is something I’ve never done. Without much thought, I held my breath and plunged my head beneath the watery surface of the past.


The third one was probably the most difficult for me. I wanted nothing to do with him ever again and said so the last time we saw each other, several lifetimes ago. His page was locked down, so his public posts were old and few. Nonetheless, I scrolled. He’s married with kids. His wife’s smile could power a house for days. The few pictures strewn about showed an incredibly happy couple. I was pleased to see that big stupid grin of his, I knew it spoke of his genuine happiness.

Despite being the stereotypical family man from his musings on social media, he looks exactly the same as he did all those years ago, which surprised me. The lines around his eyes are a little deeper, but outside of that small detail, it would be difficult to tell if they were from the distant past or recent. Even his body hasn’t aged, he is still very much that tall lanky kid from the absolute worst city in Illinois. He’s in his late thirties now, but he might as well have been in his late teens. His handsomeness hasn’t changed either, those daring eyes like the sea were the same ones that I fell in love with when I was young and impetuous. I found myself smiling at his picture. Despite the destruction he wrought in my life, I’m glad he is happy. I hope he and his family found Jesus, too, that would be the real icing on the cake.

His kids, for lack of a better term, are cute. They have his facial expressions and the professional pictures of his family in a park looked like an advertising shoot to sell anything to middle America. I hope those pictures reflect his true story, and not just for the camera.

I didn’t recognize the company he works for, so I googled them and was still confused as to what he actually does. A mutual friend of ours had always been very close with him, and I didn’t know they were the combined family vacations type of close. I’m glad they’re still in touch and support each other.

I always hope I will run into him randomly in a restaurant in my travels, where I see him but he won’t see me. If I did, I would secretly pay for his meal, write an anonymous note referencing Final Fantasy VIII, and send over a round of lemon drops. It would be my calling card, a throwback to an era where chastity and sobriety went out the window because of him.

Maybe he’d know it was me. Maybe he wouldn’t. But it would make him smile.

The Second – два

A glass of wine convinced me to find the loves of my past, which is something I’ve never done. Without much thought, I held my breath and plunged my head beneath the watery surface of the past.


We stopped speaking to each other years ago. I’ll always wish our last exchange was mended, but he made it clear he did not want to maintain any semblance of friendship.

We dated for a year or so. As much as I was in love with him, perhaps in the deep recesses of my mind, I knew we were very different people who wanted very different things; married life would not have suited us.

I was living a few hours away when he called. We met up for dinner once a year to catch up, as we truly stayed friends after our romance ended. His work was having an event nearby and he wanted to know if he could crash at my apartment overnight. As a third shift worker, it was perfect: he had the apartment to himself all night while I was at work.

He came over and I got him set up on the couch. His stout athletic body had not changed from high school. He was a strong Christian, single, and I trusted him explicitly. It was comforting to enjoy his presence again. When I returned home after work, he had already folded all the blankets, showered, and eaten. He didn’t have to leave for another couple of hours, so we spent the morning chatting. With all my relationship baggage, here he was, shining the light of Christ on my world. His grounded stance and daily walks with the Lord dazzled me. He reminded me there were good men out there, as I kept forgetting.

And then, we kissed.

It was only kissing. Clothes stayed on, hands didn’t stray, and it was like I was in high school again.

And then he had to leave for his work event.

I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I knew it was just a kiss and there was nothing more to it. The beauty of him reminding me that all was not lost had a lasting effect on me. I can’t describe how much his visit soothed my aching spirit.

I got an email from him.

It was long. Very long. Oh no, I thought, thinking he wanted to restart our romantic bond.

But, as usual, I was wrong.

The entire letter consisted of him begging for my forgiveness. He felt that kissing me objectified me, as we kissed without context. He knew things could have gone much further than they did (I would never have let that happen, he was still a virgin) and that frightened him. I felt so deflated, that a kiss flung him into such a state. We kissed throughout high school, it wasn’t like this was new territory for us. I quickly typed out my reply, assuring him he had the opposite effect on me. I did not feel objectified in any way; I thoroughly enjoyed our kiss and that I would never let my passions – or his – allow us to do something we would regret. I emphasized how much his visit encouraged me. I sent his letter and my response to my friend, who was in seminary at the time, to get her take on them and she agreed he was overreacting.

And that was it. My subsequent emails were unanswered and we haven’t spoken since.

Nearly two decades have passed.

He wasn’t hard to find. He was the type that would still be in the same rural town, just like his ancestors. Interstates made him uncomfortable, as he preferred roads without lines.

Surprisingly, he had a social media page. He didn’t post often, but I did find pictures of his family. He has six kids – the oldest looks like they are in middle school, the youngest is an infant – and he lives in the middle of nowhere. Of course, I would expect nothing less. I would not be a bit surprised to find if he was a fundamentalist homeschooling Christian, but I couldn’t deduce that from what I found. His wife bears a striking resemblance to his mother, which I found a bit odd, but her homespun appearance still showed off her beauty. He aged quickly with a receding hairline and jowls. He looks much older than I do, even though I am older than him. He’s a large round man now, no longer the fit guy I remember. He’s not nearly as attractive as he was back in the day. His eyes still reflect the light and love of Christ and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is an excellent husband, father, and pillar of his church.

I have this sinking feeling he’d avoid me if we ran into each other again.

I’d still want to hear his story, if he was willing.

The First – один

A glass of wine convinced me to find the loves of my past, which is something I’ve never done. Without much thought, I held my breath and plunged my head beneath the watery surface of the past.


I went to social media. He had a professionally leaning page without any pictures of him or anything personal. Typical of him, really. My genealogical sleuthing prepped me for this. I scanned another timeline. He was still a staunch Republican, as he had touted Republican talking points since I met him. Interactions were minimal, as most of his posts concerned his current field and a few about the randomness of life and depression, which I knew he suffered from. Based on some observances, I believe he was being treated for it pharmaceutically – and also possibly suffered from Crohn’s Disease – but in those days I didn’t have the balls to inquire.

His current girlfriend looks like a model and not a day over twenty-five, but I didn’t look beyond that. I was already down the rabbit hole, I was not about to get myself caught up in a mole tunnel as well.

I really wanted to find a current picture of him. I hadn’t seen him since his twenties and he was a forty-something now. My searches came up empty. I wondered if he was still at the same company. I would know, I helped him prepare for the interview. I’m the reason he dressed sharp and walked in calm, cool, and collected. They hired him on the spot. He was made for this sort of gig. And after watching him search fruitlessly for so long, I knew this line of work would be salve to his soul.

I found the company had a social media account and started scrolling. I found a picture where his name appeared. Bingo, he was still there. I kept scrolling until I hit pay dirt. A full body picture of him standing at an event came into view.

I paused.

In my mind, he was still twenty, but in this picture, he was clearly not. It was him, alright, no questioning that. The big smile, the bright eyes, and the jawline hadn’t changed. His face, neck, and chest all expanded, as it tends to do to men in their forties. I expected him to be more muscular, but he wasn’t. He was in good shape, with a tight chest, but time had taken away the sleek sinewy body he used to press against mine. He hadn’t grayed yet and his hairline hadn’t moved. It was him, just slightly older.

He was still gorgeous.

I looked to see when the picture was taken. I checked my calendar – and sure enough – I was in the same city the same day that picture was taken. How strange. Perhaps we passed each other and never knew.

The picture couldn’t tell me anything about his personality or how he acts now. His cultural exceptionalism bled into his personal views back in the day, and I wondered if he had become tempered with age or grew into a giant asshole. It could have gone either way. I wonder if he has children.

I’d love to meet him over a beer sometime to catch up and get to know him as he is now, but without divine intervention, it is a pipe dream. I’m not even sure he would remember me or could recall me without rolling his eyes.

But man, I’d love to know what he is like now.

2005 and What Follows

2005 was a major turning point in my life. A year out of college, I was still batting the same battles I was at school: Take #4 of getting back together with the college sweetheart failed spectacularly, yet I should have seen that one coming. My friend with benefits probably wasn’t going to magically show up with an orchestra and profess his undying love for me, but I held out hope. My anxiety and depression ruled over me, keeping me from enjoying and experiencing life. I was carving out a career in the middle of no where and I was miserable. I had a pretty good idea of who I was and what I wanted, yet I was still very much a work in progress. Sick of waiting for “the right time,” which never actually came, a mental breakdown in late 2004 spurred me on: 2005 was going to be different because I was going to make it different. The cycle was breaking now.

And it broke.

I began with getting back to God: despite my church attendance, I was really slacking in the spiritual department. I woke up early and had tea with sugar, a candle burning, and I read through the Bible; another thing I hadn’t done before. This rhythm became a daily event that helped center me and give me pause to reflect through the lens of Him.

I sought medical treatment for my anxiety and depression in the form of medication. I had a false start with some bad side effects but eventually found something that worked for me. I could finally heal.

I decided the college boyfriend wasn’t worth a 5th chance and cut him off entirely. A weekend at a fancy hotel was the epilogue of my friend with benefits. I decided if he wanted to call me and make this romance official, I was game. He didn’t call me and I didn’t call him for two months. He wasn’t interested in a real relationship with me.

I did date a guy I met on match.com and we were completely wrong for each other overall and there was only one thing positive about the relationship that’s too stupid and shallow to even write here, let alone build a partnership on. We lasted four months before he broke it off and I was completely okay with it.

I went to Europe with friends and while the trip was challenging, it gave me the courage to leave Illinois and I interviewed for a gig that eventually allowed me to move to North Carolina at the beginning of 2006.

It was a year of refining change that was desperately needed.

And with 2020 nearly here, I find myself in the same place.

The front has changed, but I’m fighting the same battles I was fighting in 2015 and I am tired, so very tired. Spiritually, I feel I need more rubber on the road; a technical writing church project will keep me busy around Christmas. And while I profess to follow Jesus, am I really living out His mission in my daily life? What would that look like? My husband and I keep hitting potholes and it’s apparent I need a wheel alignment, but I’m more interested in getting the road fixed, although my tires are wearing unevenly. Unlike 2005, I don’t have a clear path forward. I’m not sure how to adjust the sliders and knobs to get better sound quality; the mics feeding back have frayed my last nerve.

In addition to my contemplative prayer app, starting in December, I decided to read a book of the bible every month, and spend the entire month in that book. I want to savor verses. I want to read over passages that make me roll my eyes, shake my head, question, and really push through them. I want to use verses as a prayer, like a hard candy melting in my mouth.

I don’t know what 2020 and the decade ahead holds, but all I know is it can’t be a second verse to this song that’s been on repeat.

Save a Prayer

“It’s not there anymore,” Phoebe had said. I was strolling through town and had planned to stop at the college bar we frequented back in the day. It was dark by the time I walked through the door. Phoebe was only half right: the bar was still there, but most of the building was a restaurant.

Then I realized she was right all along: it wasn’t there anymore.

The bar I remembered was a dimly lit unrefined establishment that drew in the early 20’s crowd. There was a large and scary looking dude manning the door, who put your ID under a video camera to document the time you arrived. His glare insured you wouldn’t start any problems. There were pool tables, a dance floor, a DJ booth, tables, and a large bar that was perpetually sticky with spilled drinks.

This bar, with the same name and location, now was lit with what can only be described as flood lights. Only two pool tables remained, but they were obviously new. The hightop tables were not only clean, but shiny brushed nickel. The bar had liquor bottles lit up on shelves and a several TV’s broadcasted ESPN. A small area was dedicated to gambling machines, a big deal in Illinois now, apparently. The bar was a fraction of the size I remembered, the dance floor gave way to the restaurant. The girl behind the bar looked like she was still in middle school with no bouncer. I was the only patron.

I ordered a peach vodka and Sprite, checked my phone, and looked around. This was not the place I left. Then again, I’m not who I was the last time I was here either.

I was here my last night as an Illinois resident. What a night that was.


Alex and Phoebe were here with me, as well as Three – the four of us played pool. Three was a co-worker. His real name was a mouthful of prestige, and he was the third generation to carry this long bulky name, so it was shorted to simply Three, which fit him better. We flirted constantly. He asked me out right after I accepted the job offer in North Carolina. Three was a good man, but he had his gaping flaws. In addition to falling asleep during the sermon when I brought him to my church, Three was banned from several bars for starting fights while drunk. Despite this, he had a good heart, kindness, and a love for hard rock. I knew he wasn’t long term boyfriend material – he was older – but to me he was a pint of beer on a hot day: probably not the best thing to be drinking, but it hit the spot.

I was two Long Island Iced Teas into my night when we left the bar. He was buzzed too, so we walked back to my empty apartment. He had been over a few times already. We worked the same weird shift and it wasn’t uncommon for him to crash at my place – we spooned.

I awoke the next morning before sunrise. The reality of everything hit me. I was leaving Illinois for good after breakfast. I really liked Three and I wondered what would have happened if our timing had been better or if I had stayed. I watched the sunrise with all of this flowing through my mind, while he slept. Once the sun was up, we hugged and kissed good-bye and that was the last I ever saw of him.


I ordered another peach vodka and Sprite as the past seeped into my consciousness. A conversation in the days to come revealed Three was married with children, still working the same gig.

I left the bar, surprisingly sober, and mulled it all over in the couple of miles walking back to Phoebe’s house. It felt like two lifetimes had passed since this ground was under my feet in different shoes.

Two lifetimes had passed.

And it was.

Make Like a Plant and Leave

The hashtag #exvangelical is comprised of people who have left Christianity and some who are still Christian but don’t believe the Americanized gospel flavor we’ve all been seasoned with. Every time I see this hashtag, I think of David. He’s the reason I came to Christ, yet I don’t think he’d walk into a church today.

David was an outcast in high school and had no sense of self. I’m not even sure how we became friends. He had a crush on me, but I ensured we’d never leave the friend zone.

David went to a Christian conference and came back saved. I mean saved. Instead of being “on fire,” as they say in the Southern Baptist circles, this kid was his own little forest fire – slightly out of control and too hot to get close to. I remember telling him as an apathetic Catholic that it was great he found Jesus in his life (didn’t seem like a bad thing, really), but he needed to start acting like a normal person again. After a couple of weeks, he returned to normal David mode, but this Jesus thing stuck. I got curious about all this and ended up at a youth game night at church. This was the beginning of my story with following Jesus.

David had a vision from God on the bus home once. I was part of that vision, where God told David that He would take care of me. David shepherded me in my new faith and our friendship grew closer because of it. He wanted to become a pastor. Even our classmates nicknamed him “Rev” as he was never without his Bible and sometimes overstepped his boundaries with calling out someone else’s sin. “Simonne,” he’d say, drawing out the “onn” part. “What are you doing? You know where that can lead,” after I told him about making out with my boyfriend in the woods. I filtered most of that because I didn’t want his wisdom bestowed upon me. We were all virgins, True Love Waits was part of our church curriculum, and our drink of choice was Mt. Dew. Still, Rev David wanted to make sure we were living pure God-honoring lives. He was a one man inquisition.

I vaguely remember when it started. “I asked Pastor about it and he shut me down,” a dejected David shared with me. “He actually yelled at me, saying something about just accepting it on faith.” David wanted more information on the supernatural part of the gospel – demons, ghosts – stuff like that. Apparently at this church, questioning too deeply meant you didn’t believe correctly, didn’t have enough faith, or were trying to circumvent the pillars of the SBC. David was upset his questions were continually dismissed with some glossed-over church verbiage.

We left for college. David went to an ultra conservative Christian one. While there, he met Jessie, a preacher’s kid. They fell in love so hard it caused them to drop out of college and get married the summer after freshman year. Jessie was a few weeks pregnant when they walked down the aisle. I found this out at the rehearsal dinner.

Their marriage was tumultuous. They attended church here and there and then not at all. Jessie forbade me from contacting David. She had what I can only describe as a mental illness and two more kids later, she abandoned the family by hopping on a Greyhound bus to Pennsylvania to meet some guy she met in an internet chatroom. Once it was all figured out and the missing person report was trashed, David filed for divorce. The judge granted him full legal custody. Thank God.

David married again. Some years ago, David apologized for severing our friendship because of his ex-wife. I stepped away because I naively thought their marriage was more important than our friendship; now I would view it as a sign of abuse. I hoped it would restart our friendship, but it didn’t. The last time we spoke David wasn’t the guy I remembered. He had a faraway look in his eye and we only small talked for five minutes before he had to go.

On his social media profile, it says “Ask me” under religion. I’d like to someday.

Most Southern Baptists would just say he was never saved to begin with if he’s fallen this far away. I disagree. I believed his faith was real. Was David just a seed that fell on those rocky places? Was he all leaves and stem and no root? Did the church ever amend the soil for him? I don’t know. But I wonder: will he be reseeded? Will anyone water him? Is there anyone in his life with a big old bucket of spiritual compost?

I’ve always wanted to reach out to him, see how he’s doing, but I’m afraid that season of friendship had sailed. I don’t have that kind of access anymore. Decades later, I’ve changed, he’s changed – is there any common ground left, outside of the distant past?

I wonder if he considers himself an exvangelical. Does he read his Bible? Does he pray? Have his children grown up knowing the Lord? I can only speculate, but I think the answer is no.

I’m leaving the door open to the possibilities, praying once again Jesus will connect our lives.

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 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.