It was as if nothing had ever happened. This was probably for the best, I suppose, but it sure left me feeling empty inside. I wanted to talk about my experiences, my fears, and my brokenness that was still ever present, but life moved me along. This community had a sense of pulling you back into itself, resetting the clock as it was, with an invitation to sit back like some old episode of the Twilight Zone, and pretend that nothing ever happened. You had tried to break free but in the end you came back so relax and allow yourself to be assimilated.
You know, that level of creepy.
Over the years that I was in this city this very scenario became the joke. They may try to leave but very few succeed. And worse, if they come back after trying to leave, they will never leave again. Seriously, this was part of the identity of this valley city. The only benefit to me in the moment was that similar to my emotional and mental exercise of wiping the slate clean every time my family suddenly uprooted itself and moved on to the next community – it had now happened for me. The strange part was that although I had only left this city a few months earlier, I was now back in the city with circumstances reset to a year and a half earlier.
It was as if my relationship with that girl who would come over to my apartment with the youth group never happened. In the moment that was strangely therapeutic for me. It fed that part of me that liked to delete things, to disconnect from things, to fragment away from what was actually happening. And so, although I was still broken inside, still hurting, and desperately trying to make sense of things, still longing to talk about my journey, the allure of simply forgetting it all was just too much to resist.
So I did.
Or, so I thought.
The problem is that as George Santayana has said, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Like the others, her name isn’t important but the story is. It was shortly after I had arrived back ‘home’ and had that Sunday morning experience that her and I became a couple. It started with her asking me to help her with some tutoring. This was only the vehicle in which to flirt and ultimately I had only helped her a couple of times with her math before we ended up being the youth group’s newest couple.
Our relationship sped forth at an alarming rate. Very quickly I had met her family. I ended up traveling to the neighboring province with her and her family to celebrate the New Year and her birthday. By the time January had rolled around we had become quite a serious item, although I felt like I was stumbling along trying to keep up.
Case in point. I dropped her off at her home one afternoon. As I was walking back to my vehicle she suddenly burst from her house, raced down the stairs and over to my vehicle where she began to tell me that she loves me over and over again. The words spilled out of her mouth with much enthusiasm and conviction. I was caught off guard and not knowing what to do in the moment, I returned the favor by telling her that I loved her too. I didn’t know if I did or not but what the hell, this was the ride I was on.
However, that interaction radically changed our relationship. I guess, as it ought to, if both participants had their crap together, this would be a wonderful next step in their relationship but neither of us had our crap together as it turned out.
Those three words changed our relationship in the sense that now the first month of the year hadn’t even come to an end, our relationship barely having begun, and we were now talking marriage. Oddly, both of our parents were very into this idea. On her side I was the most sane guy to have come into her life in a long time so that made them happy. With my parents I have no idea what the hell was going on there, only that my mom was so excited, she promised my bride to be the family china as our wedding gift.
When I did eventually get married, to another woman a few years later, the family china was not just off the table – it had been either sold or disposed of, taking the explanation of why my mom was so enthusiastic about this girl with it.
Not much time passed from the promise of the china, when one Sunday I was with the rest of the youth group at a local restaurant where we would go after church. I was to meet my girlfriend there. She never showed up. Instead she had driven by, the passenger in some other guy’s vehicle. As I sat there in this restaurant the situation was clear. I had been fucked over once again by my girlfriend. The title was the same but their names kept changing.
I caught up to her a bit later after she had hooked up with that other guy. She explained to me that she couldn’t be with me. I was too nice I think she said or some other bullshit like that. Either way, I was unceremoniously dumped and she hopped back into the car of her new partner, driving off.
This was a familiar place to be. Broken. Alone. Confused. A mess. With the hug still fresh in my mind I found solace in my faith, although tentatively. I retreated to the mountains that surrounded this valley and shouted out toward the heavens with my emotional brokenness. I found comfort up in those mountains, just me and my God, holding me and being okay with my mess. I liked it a lot.
So much so that I was now contemplating becoming a monk.