I wasn’t yet 20. I had a short relationship, a serious one, with a guy who was a few years older. He’d previously had a reputation as a “flirt”, someone who made his interest in the opposite sex obvious. Girls liked him too; he was attractive and had an easy way about him (he’d even dated my good friend). Some years earlier, when I was both inexperienced and somewhat geeky still, he’d focused his charms on me one day at the community pool and I’d been very flattered. A few years had passed and by the time we dated, I was far more my own person and could meet him as an equal.
In those years he too had changed and in fact, had recently found religion. What this meant was that religious and philosophical discussions were in heavy rotation between us, which was fine by me since I loved spirited, intense conversations. However, I’d had it with organized religion by that point in my life so dating a born-again was a challenge. That said, I definitely cared for him. There was a warmth and sweetness to our relationship.
Part of his new beliefs meant a drastic change in his sexual activity. Prior to seeing me, he’d been sexually active but now was invested in a chaste life, believing that sex was for marriage only. Kissing was about the extent of was on the menu between us. He was so devoted to his new life that he once asked me to wait outside his house while he showered and changed clothes so that the neighbors would not think we’d gone inside to have sex. I’m not kidding.
I think he believed that eventually I’d get onboard with the born-again thing. He talked about marrying me. If only I would convert. I met the religious people he’d begun following (a friend had warned me off, saying they were like a cult), but had no intention of joining them. They tried to “court” me but they were out of their depth as I wasn’t interested in joining a new religion of any sort and was quite skeptical of them. Once that was obvious to him, that I wasn’t going to start believing what he believed, he broke it off. I was surprised because it was sudden but offered no objection. If he wanted to stop seeing me, I wasn’t going to argue it. I was plenty tired of having the Bible quoted at me (I remember asking him to at least put it in his “own words” but he preferred to quote and proselytize).
Some months passed – no more than a year – and I reached out to him (and a few other people I had lost touch with). I think at the time I probably just wanted us to be on decent terms – which was likely misguided – but as a result we took a walk one day. Once we were in each other’s company, he made it clear that he interpreted my reaching out to him as a ploy of sorts to reconnect romantically. I knew he was the same born-again and while my motives might have been fuzzy at the time, it wasn’t to get back together.
After the walk we returned to my parents’ house (remember, I’m still in my late teens) and stood in the street talking, when out of nowhere he started tussling with me. He pushed me down onto the neighbor’s lawn and held me there. This was very, very strange. We hadn’t interacted like this when we were dating and despite the fact he was acting like he was “playing” it was clearly aggressive and didn’t fit the moment whatsoever. It was daylight out. My family was home. Neighbors were home. And I’m lying in the grass with this guy on top of me in the neighbor’s yard trying to fight him off. What was his intention? To humiliate me? To work out sexual aggression never realized in our chaste relationship? I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. But I didn’t like it and I was pissed. I started kicking at him , saying “I don’t care if I hurt you.” Which was to say I wasn’t going to be sorry if one of those kicks hit him in the balls.
It probably all happened very fast (you know how time gets drawn out in certain moments, exaggerated; this was one). He let me go and I stood up and walked across the street to my house without a word. I never looked back. This tawdry little scene was the addendum to our relationship and the very last impression I had of him. It colored my feelings about the relationship we’d had, tainted it.
Fast forward decades. I reconnected with another person from my teens, one who had been friends with the guy I dated. We talked about this other guy (who’d apparently tried to push the whole religion thing onto him too all those years ago). He told me a story. Back in the day he and his girlfriend had gone to the beach with the future born-again. He had left the two alone to go do something (I don’t remember what; take a swim/use the restroom/whatever). On his return, his girlfriend confided that in his absence his friend had basically jumped on her. Nice fellow. Waited till his buddy’s back was turned and put moves on his girlfriend. It didn’t sound innocent or forgettable. It sounded, in the telling, all this time later, like an attack. I could tell it still bothered the man sharing it and at the time it happened it had affected his relationship with his friend.
Learning this, that my born-again had done the same thing, that is act physically aggressive out of nowhere with another girl, around the same time period, validated everything I’d thought about how he behaved with me on the lawn that day. I hadn’t imagined anything. It was disturbing and strange. At least at that time this repeated behavior showed something in his nature.
A couple years ago the born-again guy I’d had the relationship with so long ago had his daughter reach out to me on Facebook. He wasn’t on Facebook and was using his daughter to contact people. I didn’t know his teenage child – or until very recently anything about what he’d done with his life, including that he even had a wife and children – and she certainly didn’t know me or my history with her dad. In fact, she instead brought up an unrelated incident that had occurred with my good friend, prior to our relationship, a story my born-again apparently still found funny.
What I find funny, although not in the haha way, is what people decide, consciously or not, to remember or find significant years later. Yes, I’d been there and remembered well the incident his daughter related – one that had not been especially funny at the time nor to the main person affected. But I also remembered another one that this girl was sure never to hear, not from her father certainly. Had he really forgotten? Had it slipped his mind that the scene outside my parents’ house was the last impression he’d left with me? What if I’d said to his daughter, “Ask your dad if he remembers the knee-slapping time when he pushed me down and climbed on top of me on the neighhor’s lawn and I had to fight him off.”
I decided to answer the Facebook message because this kid, although kind of cheeky to approach an adult stranger in such a familiar way as she did, had nothing to do with my relationship with her father so long ago and wasn’t remotely responsible for his actions. After I replied briefly and light-heartedly to the daughter (who must have reported back to her father), she offered the family email so that I might receive their last “Christmas letter.” I didn’t follow up. I thought it was peculiar that the man I’d known was using his child to make contact with people from the old days and receiving the family Christmas letter sure wasn’t going to set things to rights. Her father eventually joined Facebook. He has not contacted me.
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