There was no greater torment for me than staying at home alone with my thoughts while it rained. I could not read books, I could not watch TV, I couldn’t even do homework—the way Mara interpreted scripture, if one could not actively do good works like hand out tracts, or witness, or volunteer, the least evil activity that one could do in the Sabbath was to nap. I was such a contrary daughter that I couldn’t even do that. Tossing and turning and flopping in bed, it was as if I was ten years old again—a chronic insomniac—fighting alone against the hidden demons of my past those many nights.
Determined to put the past behind me, I pushed away those memories, and threw the covers aside.
I had expected that Tony would call, but he didn’t—and I certainly wasn’t going to call him.
I thought about last Wednesday. He’d called me after prayer meeting, just as I got home and was taking off my shoes at the door Mara shouted from the living room, “There’s a call for you in the phone”
“Ok. I’ll take it in my room” I’d said and had run upstairs before she had the chance to catch a glimpse of my red and blotchy face.
“Tony?” I asked incredulously, “What’s up? How did you get my number?”
“You left your binder at church, kiddo, and I got your number from your student handbook.”
I cursed and threw the phone receiver on my bed while I unzipped my backpack. I glanced inside; no binder. I double checked by dumping its contents in my bed, hoping that he was mistaken. No binder. No notes. No dynamics lab report. No linear algebra homework. No French Literature paper. No student handbook with—
I saw red.
How stupid could I get? How had I left that behind? I thought back. Oh, yes. Zuri had picked me up from work, and I had brought my binder to sketch on while the prayer meeting was going on. Then I’d had my crying fit, and the rest was history.
“I can’t believe I did that.” I spoke into the phone, “Thanks for holding on to it, but what am I gonna do now? I can’t ask Zuri to take me after all the trouble I caused today… and then I don’t see you until Monday….” I calculated my odds of success with Mara. They were not promising.
“Aren’t you going to need it? I can drop it off at your house if you want.”
I sighed, “I’m so sorry…but could you?—I’ve got my lab report there.”
“It’s the same address on the cover of the handbook? Halcyon Drive?”
“Yes—Oh! Do you mind not knocking at the door?” I felt immensely awkward, but in this case necessity was greater than my embarrassment so I pushed on, “Mara—I mean, my mother—will ask me a million questions. Can you honk or something?”
“Ok, I’ll call you up when I’m there. You can save the number on your caller ID, that’s my cell phone.”
And just like that, twenty minutes later he called me saying he was in front of my house. He’d handed me back my binder without any comment, except to ask if I was alright. “I’m fine.” I smiled, relief had made me almost giddy, “Thanks for this—really.”
He nodded, and after considering something for a few seconds he turned the ignition off. “Hey, Tanya?”
“I know how it feels—when in prayer you are confronted with who you are and you realize that it is not the person you want to be.”
I looked down and was silent while I thought back on my prayer, “I don’t know if that’s what happened. I just,” I sighed and hugged the binder tight against my chest “I don’t know if it signifies much, but I just want to start over.”
He nodded, “I know. Take courage, kiddo, I’ll be praying for you.”
He’d driven off in his sleek black Jag, and I’d gone back home wondering about the kind of person Tony was— I couldn’t make him out. He was young, but he obviously had a well-paying job as evidenced by his car and the time I’d seen him dressed in a suit. Yet the image of the successful Tony clashed with the image of the guy who had come in to church one rainy night, soaking wet from the rain in jeans and a hoodie—and that image also contradicted the Jesus freak who would eagerly go to prayer meeting on Wednesdays and Bible studies with a bunch of old people.
But that episode with the binder had led to my overestimating him. I suppose after that I came to think of him as someone I could trust, so that on Friday—faced with the menacing thought of returning to Hilltop Church the next morning—I’d called him. I wanted to be talked out of going. Instead, he encouraged me to follow through with it, even going so far as to offering to meet me there.
“Two are better than one,” he’d quoted, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow”
“Pfft! You sound like a preacher.”
“I mean,” I modified my tone and amended the statement lest I come across as offensive, “sometimes you say things that sound like they came out of the Bible. I’m pretty sure Jesus said that.”
He chuckled, though I didn’t for a second imagine he was laughing at me, “I know my Bible pretty well, I guess. Didn’t I ever tell you? My father is a pastor”
“What? You didn’t tell me.”
That was when he told me that he’d been the black sheep of the family. He’d made a run for it the moment he had graduated from High School, and now here he was hundreds of miles away from home trying to return to the straight and narrow. I didn’t get to ask about details because Mara had entered my room to inquire why I was still up and who I was talking to.
“I gotta go now.” I said to him after having evaded a minor quarrel.
“Ok, so tomorrow 9:30, right?”
“See you tomorrow, then.”
He’d said that, but then he’d never showed up.
More than being angry, more than being annoyed—I was disillusioned. Once more I’d gotten my hopes up, and once more I’d seen that there was no one who really cared. It’s so easy for people to talk and say that they’ll be there for you, but when it came down to it, they are always too busy for you. Adults…they are so fake.
And yet, that was not enough for me to give up hope that maybe he would call and say that there had been a fire, an accident, or someone had been taken ill and had kept him from going. I even refrained from going online to the BookNrds chat room in case Tony called (this was back in the AOL dial-up days).
But it was no use hoping—after all, I was just a stupid kid.
Part 22 – If You Only Knew