The trip had begun like most of our church youth group trips had, with me working on the 1970-too old, Dodge Crap-O-Van. Was it a new water pump that time or a bad alternator? I can’t remember. I do remember the crunch of gravel under my feet and the singing of the cicadas from the church parking lot’s only tree, so I know it was in August. I remember praying to God for the strength to get through the whole repair without using sinful language, but I prayed that prayer frequently working on old vans.
I can’t remember what the trip was for, either. Were we going to some Bible college? A Christian rock concert? Or was it the trip to Denver where we spent two weeks doing vacation Bible school puppet shows? It’s been so long since then, but those youth groups trips were incredibly important to me, at the time. My father’s post traumatic stress and my mother’s agoraphobia created a home where friends weren’t very welcome. We lived deep in the cornfields, where dad could shoot paper targets until the fear went away and mom could drink in the sun and trees until the strain of normal life was lifted. I came of age not at school, not hanging out with my friends, but at Bible camp, in Sunday school, and on the sticky vinyl seats of our church’s 15 passenger van.
For whatever reason we’d gone, I will never forget the trip back. We were exhausted, and all of us were fading in and out of sleep. The engine was a continuous roar, drowning out conversation and the tires droned out a hypnotic hum down the interstate. I was in the first passenger seat, in the middle between several thousand dollars of sound equipment on the right, and Darcy Trigg was on my left. I laid my head against the cold, hard fiberglass of the roadie boxes, and closed my eyes.
We hit bump and I awoke, conscious only of scratchiness across my face. I moved my hand up to the scratchiness, and confusingly found something soft and warm. The fog of sleep clearing, I realized that in my sleep I had turned away from the hard case, and turned instead to Darcy. My eyes fluttered open, and I froze. The scratchiness was the collar of Darcy’s sweater, stretching across my face from chin to widows peak. Not only had I turned to her in my sleep, I had laid my head on her chest and slid down. One eye looked down the front of her sweater, but the other was on the inside, her ample breasts and white satin bra, cast a warm pink by the sunlight shinning through her top.
She must be asleep, I thought, and there is no way, that if she wakes up she is going to believe this is an accident. She’s going to to know what a disgusting pervert I am, and no girl will ever talk to me again…I will be “that guy.” I closed my eyes, and very carefully and very slowly moved away, sitting perfectly straight, and not opening my eyes until I was in a position to stare straight ahead. Then, and only then, did I slowly turn my head to Darcy.
Her chin was in her left hand, her elbow on the window sill, watching the cornfields shoot by. She’d been awake the whole time! Clearly she hadn’t pushed me off or woken me because she was mortified with embarrassment. I was so ashamed, and yet I didn’t want Darcy to think that I thought she was ugly. I wanted to say that I thought she was beautiful but at the same time I was terrible sorry for violating her. My mouth was dry and I felt shaky.
“Darcy..” I whispered loud enough for her to hear, but too quiet to carry over the road noise to any other listening ears, and leaned towards her for greater privacy.
“I…I was asleep…I…didn’t…” I stammered.
She turned to me slowly, her eyes big and kind, bashful from underneath her brow, a slight smile upon her lips. She leaned toward me, closing the space between us I’d made by sitting up straight, and laid her hand on my knee.
“I didn’t mind,” she said softly. She searched my eyes, her serenity and kindness pitying my confusion and fear. Squeezing my knee, she sighed contentedly and returned to watching the landscape out the window, giving me a last over-the-shoulder smile.
I sat in total confusion. Darcy was the kindest, most gentle soul I knew at the time. Growing up in a world that divided women into nice girls and sluts, Darcy’s credentials as a nice girl were impeccable. She was quiet, demure, modest, and serious. She knew the Word, and walked the walk…and she told me that I had done nothing wrong and she enjoyed me having my face down her shirt. I realized then that maybe good girls did want to be kissed, held, and touched. Maybe, just maybe, good girls might have sex drive, and maybe a girl could want me, the geeky guy with the thick glasses, because I was OK, and not because she was screwed up.
As I write, I let the music flow through my soul. I see the little white house at the end of the lane. I see the row of abandoned cars. I think about the way people looked at my clothes; the way people asked why my family didn’t do the things that theirs did; the way people laughed at me when I talked about my dreams.
Last night my wife and I had a friend over. My wife and I are not the people that we married. People grow, people mature, but we love each other still. Becky talked about how different she would be if she could go back to where she was but being who she is now. She wondered aloud if I then would still be interested in her if she was so different now.
Considering this I said, “If you had said, ‘I’ve never met anyone like you before. I want you. I want more of you. I want more of all of you. I want to know you better. I want to see more of your soul and your body. I want to go deeper and know more of everything that makes you, you.’ I would have melted chocolate-like into your hands.”
Upon hearing this speech our friend remarked, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. If a man said that to me I would be his. We would go through the pretense of courtship, but I would just be his in every way.”
So, these are the magic words. As our friend said “That is the most beautiful thing…” I was suddenly a younger man. I was not the man I am today. I did not have my own place, I lived with my folks. I did not have a new car. I did not have a good haircut. I didn’t have any of the outside things that mark me as who I am. I was just a desperately lonely boy, the seed of a successful life planted but not yet growing. Many years ago and miles away, I laid my heart of the table with those words “I just want more of you.” It wasn’t a plea for sex, as she well knew. It was admitting to her that I loved her, as she had told me she loved me tearfully months before. But I, thinking that a woman wanted a man of integrity, had told her, to wait. She’d said it while crying over the loss of her boyfriend (my best friend), and I wanted to give her sometime to really think about whether she meant it or not. She cried then too. I was so understanding, so mature, so kind. Yes, of course she would think about it and give me time to think about it. Anything for me, this man who treated her with so much respect.
And those words, “I want more of you.” Followed not by a smile, but a sneer. It was all a mistake, Israel. As if I would feel that way about you.
I was the same man, the same heart pumping the same blood. The only thing different now is that I look on the outside like what I always knew I was on the inside. Hearing ‘today me’ say “I want more of you” a friend says its beautiful. Hearing ‘then me’ say “I want more of you” a friend says, “You?!”.
Once, I believed that I had forgiven everyone who ever hurt me. This was because I believed forgiveness was pretending everything was cool. Well, it’s NOT cool. Some 10 years later it still stings around the edges. She could see the broken down cars and little shack at the end of the lane, but she couldn’t see the man who was going to rise above it. She could perhaps see the the brittle brokenness in me, but not the steel at the core.
I’m sneaking up on my life. I threw it away when I was about 16. I not quite back to where I should have been when I was 16, but I am sneaking up on it. So to the chorus of voices who saw the Wal-mart glasses but not the fire behind them, I just want to say one thing for closure to each before I move on.