I long for that summer. If I could extract the raw pain from the break up, I would relive that summer over and over. It was healing and life-changing and full of possibility and revelation and friendship.
I drove each week an hour away to this church, a small congregation I providentially happened upon where a dozen people my age were attending. They were Christians in a way I’d never seen before, and they beckoned me to taste and see. We became family fast, in a way I’d never experienced family. We joked that I was then adopted by the Parents of three of the friends, and it felt like I had been. That summer was spent riding bikes, watching baseball games, Disney movies and black-and-whites, good story-telling, dating and crushing, and pulling one another aside to talk seriously about our souls, driving to concerts, to churches. It was full of morning coffee and deep talks about life and bodies and pillows and blankets dropped all over the House when the coffee and zeal wore out. We sang, we stayed up into the mornings reading the Bible, we rummaged through the delicate pages to determine whether or not a phrase or attitude or life-choice could be found within. I relished their conviction and welcomed their advice and needed their certainty and structure. I read, and read, and listened to sermons, and studied with the preacher and with my friends and by myself and that dormant energy was revitalized and it poured out in the form of religious zeal. I didn’t know the Bible was so simple, that it could be understood so matter-of-factly, that there was logic and order and reason and rules and that my faith before had been so shallow. And bitterness welled up, for the judgment of the Student and his family against me, for their misguided expectations, for their seemingly unspiritual mindsets. I wanted to confront them, I became puffed up against them. Against everyone who didn’t see what I saw.
But I struggled to free myself from the claws of bad habits and a fractured morality and the rules were not enough to uproot the idols and insecurities and trauma brooding within.
It feels like the day after I broke up with that too-perfect boy. But perhaps it wasn’t.
I met up with the Intruder.
Why must so much of life be so gray? Why can’t it be neatly black-and-white?
The Intruder had a habit of intruding into my life. I hated him passionately for years after That Day and he refused to humor my accusations. But I heard rumors of other girls with their own stories about this boy. My parents didn’t know, they only found out I’d had sex, and I was disciplined accordingly. The first person I told was a boyfriend a year later. And he encouraged me to tell. And I did. And my mom would struggle to believe, and she would say, “But you let him in.” And my counselor would say, “Are you sure, because I have to report this if so” and I would say, “No, nevermind.”
And a couple of years later, he’d call me up and inform me, laughing, that they were moving into the house across the street from me and I would say defeatedly, “But I hate you.”
And my dad would take pity on him because he was fatherless and he’d give him a job and we would walk to work together and we started hanging out and he had a confidence about him, a confidence that he owned me and that I would do whatever he said. And maybe he was right.
And maybe a year later, I would run away. Not for any reason other than it seemed like something I should make a point to do someday, and I was gone for a week and I hitchhiked and smoked endless weed and had sex with strangers in exchange for a place to stay, and I took a bunch of adderall and called the Intruder and unloaded on him. I yelled at him and told him what he had done to me and how much I hated him and how my life was a continuous loop of never saying no to boys and men, to being used, and used, and used, because of some will he broke inside of me and he was calm and we hung up and he called my parents and they called the police and they came and picked me up.
And months after that, I would start dating the father. And one night I was at the Intruder’s house and we were in the kitchen and he moved in close to me with that arrogance and overbearing assertiveness and he said something about my body and something about Satan and he picked me up and we had sex and everything I knew disintegrated and I hated him more and the father walked in and that’s why his parents were so sure the baby wasn’t his.
But just before the Student and I broke up, after I had been baptized, he would contact me. And he would apologize to me. For pressuring me, I think he said. And I knew about forgiveness so I practiced it. Things would be different this time. I couldn’t keep blaming him and hating him, I had to love him. And I could say no to him.
So now here we were, at his apartment that summer, in the whirlwind of God and sin. I had been distraught over something that weekend, I don’t remember what. And I said yes to drinking at his apartment, and I never did learn to drink in moderation. We watched a movie, nothing eventful happened. Until I was fading and the door opened and a boy from high school walked in unexpectedly. And later another boy came in, I don’t know who he was.
That night was long and traumatizing and I refuse to describe the details, except for the part where I pushed him squarely in the chest, an impulse four years in the making and he tackled me to the ground in anger, threatening to call the police. And the part where he yanked me into his room, light shining, door open, and violently did what he does, the same jerk of my pants and I managed, but not immediately, to thrust him off of me and there was so much palpable hostility in that air between us and his friends were lingering with trepidation and they watched and they did nothing, unless holding a camera is doing something. But the high school boy laid by my side until the unparalleled humiliation subsided. And the Intruder chided him for it with a twinge of something that sounded like jealousy.
I texted the Rebound, who left camp an hour or so away and sped in the middle of the night and came to the apartment and flung open his car door and I could see his heart pounding and his voice was shaking and his hands trembling and he wanted to walk through me and bound up the stairs and into that apartment, but I told him to take me back to his place.
I spent the next week drinking every day and not eating and cutting my arms and my legs and not hiding it at church and sobbing in the back of the pews and being comforted by one of my friends there. I felt disgusting, grimy, lost. I needed a fresh start. I couldn’t live with the incongruity, I wanted it washed away. I wanted to be able to point on a calendar, to the day I became a Christian and not have a mess of sex and sin and obscenity following that day. I just wanted clarity. I wanted neat boxes. Black-and-white. Assurance.
So I called the preacher after midnight one night, after studying with a friend who didn’t think I needed to do this, and he came to the church building and I was baptized again. It didn’t make me more of a Christian, but it washed the grime away, and maybe that’s what I needed.