Category Archives: Personal not-boring memories

There are some incidents you don’t forget

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.

 

Note: Please forgive a short delay in responding to comments.

Advertisements

Short Thought 192 (names)

One Christmas when I was a kid my sister and received a small case apiece of Amelia Earhart luggage. It was only when I got older that I began to think it was a tad macabre to name luggage after the woman. On par with an Amelia Earhart Airlines.

Short Thought 181 (Family Dinner part 2)

When I was growing up, one of my father’s regular pastimes, when he and my mother weren’t arguing, was haranguing and verbally accosting his children at the dinner table. We were all trapped. As my older brothers & sisters moved out, there were less of us at that table which considerably upped the chance of being targeted. I remember literally keeping my head down and focusing on my plate so as to not attract attention. This had limited success; your number always came up. Only having a job was an acceptable excuse for missing dinner. The summer I was 16 and had my first seasonal lifeguarding job I was so happy to work evening shifts.

What older sisters should be

My sisters were all older but they didn’t do the things that I’ve become wise to (over the passing decades) that older sisters are supposed to do. They did not teach me how to put on makeup, or how to do dance steps, or tell me anything helpful about boys. They didn’t give me good advice, or show me how to knit, or teach me to read. They did not buffet me from the chaos and drama that infused our household, or model admirable character, or guide me in how to live successfully. It goes on like that.

But here’s the thing. When I’ll being fair and looking at the whole scene, I know nobody did all of that for them either; they could not embody for me what no one had embodied for them. Their strongest influence was our mother. It was up to her to show her older daughters how to lead her younger ones, whether by her own example or by instruction. She did not.

But here’s the bigger thing. My sisters loved me. I never doubted that. Whatever else they lacked, wherever they fell short in my eyes, they loved me. That love was something I hung my hat on for a long time. It was love I returned. It made so much difference. When I look back at the gaps and what my sisters were not, I make sure I remember that too.

Remember kids, don’t throw rocks

When I was a girl I loved tennis. I just took to it. I haven’t played in a long time. I’m afraid that in order to play now I’d have to wrap so many body parts – wrists, elbows, knees – I’d look like a tennis-playing mummy. Anyway, when I was young I’d often go to the “backboard” to lobby a ball back and forth to myself. The backboard was actually a wall to the local swimming pool so that poorly lobbed balls went over the fence and into the pool. In season someone might throw the ball back to you, but for nine months out of the year if your ball went over that wall it was gone.

There was one time, I remember it as being nice weather, somewhere in the spring to early fall range, when I went to hit tennis balls against the backboard. Lying on the grass nearby was a man I knew as “Animal.” Animal – that was the name his pals called him – wasn’t any friend of mine or anything. He was a man for one thing (which could have meant he was 18 or 20 or 24 for all I know) and I only recognized him because the community was small and he was a loudmouth who was often out and about. Another kid had told me that Animal had killed somebody and “buried him at the lake.” The veracity of that tale seemed unlikely. Asleep in the grass, he wasn’t a loudmouth or killing anybody this day.

He was probably drunk and passed out. I’d seen people drinking and even drunk but I had no recollection of seeing anyone passed out before so I didn’t immediately understand that was what was amiss. I cannot tell you, scaredy-cat that I was, why I didn’t just leave and go home. Maybe I wanted to play tennis too badly. Maybe I wasn’t alarmed because he was quiet and not bothering anybody. I don’t know.

Two girls I knew, twin sisters, who were about 3 years younger than me, came along and decided it would be a good idea to start throwing rocks at Animal. I don’t know what possessed them. I think they were trying to wake him up. Or just having a little sport. Where they got the nerve I had no clue. I sure would have never thrown rocks at a grown man passed out in the grass. When they got bored, the sisters stopped and wandered off. It occurred to me then that I had best move along too because if Animal woke up he might think I was the one who’d been pelting him with rocks.

Short Thought 173 ( sisters)

I must have been in my late teens. I could figure it out exactly if I really had to, but that part isn’t important. Our cousin and his wife were visiting. The women were sitting around the dining room table talking the way we did. Our cousin’s wife was pregnant with their first child. My older sisters informed her how the birth would be, how she would be screaming in agony and cursing out her husband. They knew all about it. That my sisters had never given birth, or even witnessed a birth was beside the point. It was not the last time I would think my sisters were full of sh*t.

Childhood stories best forgotten (if only I could)

My childhood was full of religious books and stories. Some of them I liked well enough and others I found very odd, even horrifying. I really did NOT like the stories about Christians being fed to lions. Because of stories like that I would seriously ponder whether I’d “renounce Christ” in order to be spared being used as lion bait. There were beheadings – John the Baptist’s head on a plate – crucifixions – of course – and all sorts of macabre tales for an impressionable child. This stuff messed with my head.

Not all were quite so dramatic as those I’ve mentioned. In fact, there were stories intended to hit closer to home. A whole series of them with illustrations. These were kept in our house and, as a kid who read constantly, I remember reading them mutiple times. Most are long forgotten (though likely still making hash out of my unconscious mind) but one in particular I remember. I’m going to tell it the way I recall it, which is to say generally, but if a few specifics are forgotten, the basic idea is intact.

A Little Girl lived with her parents in a fancy house with servants. The kid had everything she could possibly want. But did she appreciate it? No. She was a brat, sassed her parents, and was unkind to the servants; Cook, Maid, Gardener, and so on. So an Angel shows up to give Little Girl a tour of her future in heaven. Off the pair go. They start down a fine road. I’m a bit fuzzy here so let’s just say it’s a gold brick paved road for the sake of creating a picture for you. The first house they come to is a palatial spread (picture an antebellum, columned mansion if you need something to work with). “Is this my house?” asks Little Girl. No, says the Angel, that’s Cook’s house. Little Girl figures if COOK gets a crib like that, HER own house is going to really be amazing.

Angel and Little Girl continue down the road. They come to another huge, fancy house. “Oh that must be my house” says Little Girl. No, says the Angel, that’s Maid’s house. They go by one or two more fancy houses, made of the finest materials, each of which belongs to a servant. Little Girl is starting to get concerned. Why do the lowly servants get grand houses?

The road begins to deteriorate. It’s no longer paved. The trees by the road have no leaves. It’s getting creepy and downtrodden. There might as well be a “I’d turn back if I was you” sign. But the angel continues to take Little Girl down this path. Why, Little Girl wonders, are they going down this unpleasant road? Finally, they come to a pathetic, clay, one-room hovel. Little Girl is sure there must be some mistake. Whose house is that she asks? That house is yours says the Angel. Little Girl begins to sob uncontrollably beside her clay hut. How could this dreadful house be hers?

Angel explains that this is the house Little Girl’s crappy actions on earth are building for her here in heaven. But there’s a ray of hope. If Little Girl straightens up her act on earth, she might build a better house in heaven and move out of the clay district. Little Girl is all for that. She goes back to her home on earth and immediately commences being a sweet, Little Girl who gives nobody any problems. The End.