Falling in Love

 

Background: I wrote this for my freshman class, “Writing About Experiences.” I got an A- for the course. It’s easy to write when you’re passionate about the subject.

Story:

Tell It Like It Is


    Dave Morris stood confidently in front of us, holding up an old hymn book. “OK,” he challenged us, “Open up to any page in the hymnal. What number?”

    “Sixty-nine,” someone said.

    “Here it is. Now, listen to the words: ‘Oh, Lord most humble and divine, we bring to thee our praise, Of one, of three, of all of these, of thee, oh Lord, we praise.’ Now, what did they say?”

    We understood. Dave continued, “That’s the point I’m driving at. What I want is a group of about 40 interested kids who want to sing a Christian folk-rock musical called Tell It Like It Is. They’re going to have to put the Messengers first in their lives for the next couple of months. And it’s going to be a lot of work. But the message is there and I think we will be able to get it across.”

    I looked around me. I saw twelve apathetic kids. Twelve–and Dave wanted forty. It was going to be a lot of work.


    I dizzily stumbled down the steps, clutching desperately to the wooden railing. My head was throbbing with a grinding pain. My forehead felt like a piece of flannel cloth just taken from a red-hot oven.

    “You can lie down in this room,” the minister said, opening the door to a dark, green-painted room. The cool air inside flowed over me like the spray from a thundering waterfall.

“Thanks,” I managed to utter as I threw down my sleeping bag and slowly wrapped myself inside. I felt my clothes becoming steamy with sticky sweat. I shut my eyes. Feverish blobs of fiery red pulsed harder and harder on my black eyelids. Something was seriously wrong with my head.

    This was the first time on the tour I had felt sick at all. And it had to hit me the day we visited Washington. I had cradled my head on Betty’s lap all day but the faint dizzy feeling had only swollen. Now it was 6:00 at night, less than two hours before our next performance, and I was writhing in agony in the church basement. Bill, the husband of one of our counselors, was with me.

    Someone knocked on the door.

    “Yeah?”, I groaned.

    Al Huslander, another of our tour counselors, opened the door. “We came to help you, Binny. We need you tonight and we want to pray for you.” Behind Al came Steve and Alan, two of my friends in the Messengers.

    They slowly gathered on one side of me.

    “Have you prayed about it?”, Al asked, looking down at me.

    I nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders. I had prayed about it but I didn’t really expect that I would immediately be cured.

    Al and Steve and Alan kneeled down beside me. Al glanced up at Bill, “Would you want to join us?” Bill came over and kneeled in line with the others. They all placed their hands on me. Al said a prayer out loud, then Steve, then Alan. I kept my eyes closed and tried to pray silently with them but I couldn’t. I was scared. I felt as though I were on a firing line but I couldn’t see where the guns were.

    After about two minutes, they finished. “Well, Binny, when you’re ready, come on upstairs,” Al said as they left the room.

    “OK,” I answered, still smothered inside the wet sleeping bag, “I’m going to sweat it out just a few minutes more.”

    I lay there on the floor–deathly still. Nothing had happened to me. I felt like I was still feverish. No strange force had rushed into my body and filled me with life. I hadn’t leaped to my feet–cured.

    They were counting on me, though. I had told them I would be up. I couldn’t let them down. In a way, I couldn’t let God down either.

    I cautiously opened the sleeping bag. I slowly lifted my head. The throbbing was gone. I raised myself onto my feet. I felt weak but at least I could stand. I got dressed.


    Dave Morris presented his idea to our school chorus in a final attempt to recruit interested people. It worked. Over 80 kids appeared at our next practice. Keeping them interested was the next problem. Their resentment to authority was disgusting. It was not uncommon for one or two of the singers to walk out of every practice–mostly because they had been disciplined or forced to do something they hadn’t wanted to do.

    Two new counselors, Wendy and Ruth, joined Dave in his project. Both were teachers, Wendy at grade school and Ruth at high school. To me, Wendy seemed immature. It seemed as though she was always crying about something. One time it would be about a quarrel with her husband, Bill. The next time it was over a disappointing rehearsal or something. But, on the other hand, she was friendly and cooperative and 100% dedicated to the Messengers.

    Ruth was different. Ruth was always cheerful. The fact that she was an adult made no difference in her relation to kids. To her I could tell my deepest problems and to me she could give the wisest answers.

    I think that each counselor was a necessary gear in forming and guiding the Messengers. Dave provided the decision-making and the leadership. Ruth existed as the “guide” for the 14–18 year-old age group and Wendy was the “mother” to the kids from 14 down to 8. They were an odd yet fantastic combination.


    “For many of you, this type of prayer meeting will be a new experience. Maybe you’ve heard about them. Well, for the next hour, before your bus leaves, we will be in praise to the Lord.”

    The speaker was a young minister–the new “Holy Spirit” type. He wore mod wire-rimmed glasses and had fairly long hair–quite a contrast to the other ministers we had met so far during the tour. He spoke in a voice and constant smile that seemed to say, “Man, I’m ready to take on the world!”

    I sat in tense apprehension. Around me were my fellow Messengers, sitting or lying on the floor of the altar.

    The minister continued, “We’ll start out by singing ‘Alleluia, Jesus’. You may hear some strange language during the meeting but don’t worry about it, because it’s perfect prayer to our Lord. And you may sing songs you’ve never heard before, but that doesn’t matter either. Our purpose is to praise the Lord.”

    With that, he began to sing. “Alleluia, Jesus. Alleluia, Jesus.”

    One by one, people joined in with the melody or with harmony. The volume increased–louder and louder. Before long, the church was filled with singing and praying. The whirling atmosphere would often be broken with shouts of “Praise the Lord. Thank you, Jesus.” A person would begin to pray out loud and the excited chorus would subside to a low moaning. When the prayer ended, the volume would swell up again until the next prayer began.

    I was near the middle of the altar, in full view of everyone. I forced myself to hum “Alleluia, Alleluia” over and over, along with the chorus, just so no one could call me “atheistic,” as I had been labeled before by some of my “friends.”

    After perhaps 15 confusing minutes of this, they finally died down and stopped. Boys and girls alike were weeping and hugging each other. Shiny tears slipped down joyful faces.

I stood up with the rest of them, a smile pasted to my face. I didn’t know whether those tears were for Jesus or for themselves. I didn’t know whether any of the Messengers knew or understood why they had sung, “Thank you, Jesus.”

    One question was tearing at my mind–”Was I missing something?” I didn’t know. I looked around for someone to question–someone who could help me find the answer to my problem. But I saw no one. Everyone was too busy hugging each other and crying.


    After five months of intensive practice, a hard core of about 40 kids remained. I was surprised that we had progressed as far as this. I was one member of the Messengers but I wasn’t really one of the Messengers. I only went to about every other practice because of homework or something. And besides, almost everyone in the group was younger than I.

    One night, after a local performance, we were riding home in the bus. Everybody was happy, as the performance had gone well and the church had been filled to capacity. Ruth was bouncing around as always, laughing and joking. Suddenly she stood up and got our attention.

    “Hey, gang, what would you think if we went on tour?”

    We all laughed. “Get serious, Ruth. Us?”

    “No, I’m serious. We could rent a bus and spend the whole summer just driving around the country and singing.”

    She finally shut up and sat down. I knew it was a crazy idea. First of all, we weren’t good enough. Sure, we could sing the musical, but as for perfection and expression... Secondly, I couldn’t imagine 40 young kids maintaining peace among themselves for a few days. A whole month was entirely out of the question.

    I told the counselors I wasn’t interested in going.


    I balanced myself on the edge of a chair and held my breath. From between the tiny cracks in the window I could faintly hear Bill talking with two boys who had been roaming the streets. The mercury vapor street lights outlined three deformed silhouettes against the frosted window.

“What’s going on here?”, one of the boys asked, probably having noticed the parked bus.

    “We’re a Christian group that sings folk and rock songs,” Bill answered. “You like rock, don’t you?”

    “Yeah, I guess.”

    “I’d like to have you come tomorrow morning and listen to us. Will you come? I think you’d really like it. It’s folk and rock music.”

    “Yeah. I don’t know.”

    “You guys got any place to sleep tonight?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Where?”

    “Anyplace,” they laughed.

    “Why don’t you sleep at home?”, Bill persisted.

    “Get serious–I hate my old man.”

    They talked about their jobs for a while. Then Bill asked them, “Any of you guys ever read Run Baby Run?”

    “Yeah, man, I have.”, the one boy answered.

    “You have?”, his friend retorted sneeringly.

    “Yeah, you know how New York gangsters attack cops? Throw garbage cans at ‘em.” They laughed.

    Bill then said he had to go inside and he left. (Wendy was crying.)

    After a long silence, I heard one of the boys say enviously, “Hey, man, you want to sleep here tonight?”

    “Yeah, how do we get in?”

    “I don’t know, let’s ask some cat.”

    “A warm place...”

    A little while later one of our counselors let the boys in. They went up into the sanctuary and lay down and slept.

    The next morning I noticed the two poorly dressed boys in the audience. Maybe the Messengers did have a message...


    About a month before the tour was to begin, I noticed a particular girl’s interest in me. That immediately changed my whole outlook on the tour and on the Messengers. The idea of being alone with this girl–away from my parents–was irresistible. You see, the one element I feared most about dating was, strangely enough, the harassment I would receive from everyone. I always defended myself when people asked about why I never dated by saying that I didn’t want any interference with schoolwork. But, to tell the truth, I was just plain scared.

    Trying to persuade my mother to let me go on the tour without letting her know the real reason was touchy. I told her the Messengers needed me as a bass player–that they wouldn’t sound decent without it. And besides, the tour itself would be costing me hardly anything. We’d eat our supper at the church where we were to sing. Then a host would house us for the night. The money from contributions would buy our lunches on the road. What was there to lose?

    It worked. Two slim weeks before the first day of the tour, she said that I could go. Three weeks with Betty–alone!


    “May I have your attention, please?”, Dave asked, standing up at the front of the bus.

    I kept my eyes glued to the window, being hypnotized by the endless scenery blurring by.

    “Come on, people, quiet down!”, pleaded Dave. It seemed as though no one listened to Dave anymore–at least not until he yelled at them.

    “Shut up, Morris!”

    I snapped out of my dreams and looked around. Dave stood motionless. The only sound was the dull hum of tires on asphalt.

    “Shut the hell up, Morris!”

    I swung around in my seat, trying to give Betty the impression I was calm. A bulge throbbed on my chest.

    From the back of the bus, Steve was shouting at Dave. HIs thundering voice filled everyone with terror. We all knew the vicious, wicked temper Steve had.

    Suddenly, he heaved himself out of his seat and stormed down the aisle. Slowing down near the middle of the bus, he shouted, “Don’t tell me what to do, Morris.” Then he stormed back to his seat.

    Dave hadn’t moved. He just uttered in a low voice, “What was that all about?”

Soon the usual chatter filled the bus again. Dave sat down and everyone forgot about the  incident. I stared ahead, thinking about how I should have gotten up and made Steve sit down.

    Later that night, Steve excused himself by explaining that a demon had taken possession of him. I felt like saying, “And you call yourself a Christian?” But I didn’t...I just watched.


    All the luggage was packed. The hot afternoon sun glared off the silvery sides of the parked bus as we lined up for last-minute pictures.

    Today was the day I had nervously waited for. Today was the day the Messengers were leaving for their Mid-Eastern States Tour. Today was the day I was going to try to break my life-long inhibition.

    Yes, I had asked her a few minutes ago if I should bring my tennis rackets. She had said yes, so I had dashed home in the car and grabbed two. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?

    The picture-taking was finished. Everyone dashed for the bus. I lost her in the crowd milling around me.

    I hadn’t asked her if she would sit with me. That would sound pretty stupid anyways, wouldn’t it?

    I searched the eager faces piling in the bus.

    Darn, where did she go? I tried not to make it obvious that I was looking for her.

I mounted the bus steps and walked toward my seat. I mean, if she likes me she’ll come up and sit with me anyhow. Right? I would...there she was...sitting with her girl friend. I guess I smiled. At least, I hope I did. But I felt defeated. I felt as though my best friend had betrayed me.

    This was the reason I was going on this lousy tour–the only reason. Now where am I? What have I done wrong? What do I do now?

    I bitterly dropped into my seat. Everybody was waving out the window.

    “Good-bye, Mom.” “Good luck on your tour.” Don’t forget to write, Tom.” “Praise the Lord.” “Good-bye.” “Bye.”

    Shut up, will you?

    The bus started moving.

    “Bye, Mama, thanks for everything.” “Here we go.” Yahoo.” “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.” “Isn’t this wonderful?” “Good-bye, Canton. I hate you.” “Hey, Brad, pass the cookies. Come on, don’t be a hog.”

    Why did I come? Oh, I hate myself. Three wasted weeks. Shut up, will you please? What have I done wrong?

    I stared out the window.

    “Hey, Binny!” Ruth was looking at me. “Is something the matter?”

    “No, no,” I said, turning back to the window, “nothing’s the matter. Nothing’s the matter at all.”

    The bus accelerated down the open highway. It was too late to turn back.


    The time of truth had come. It was now or never for me. We sat in the stadium seats, watching the Pittsburg Pirates baseball game. Betty was to my left.

    I had to do it right. Time was evaporating. Third inning–fourth–fifth–sixth. During the seventh, a cold numbness flooded my insides. My veins felt like rubber tubes about to burst with pressure. My palms were sweaty sponges. Eighth inning.

    I had to.

    Her hand was resting on the edge of the seat. I pictured myself reaching out–as I had been doing mentally for the last two hours.

    I lifted my hand.

    No, no, I can’t do it. I’ve never done it before and I never will.

    Now.

    I’ve got to.

    NOW.

    I reached out and slipped my hand into hers. I felt her fingers wrap around mine. The sensation of thin, cool, damp skin–fingers–a part of her body–in deliberate contact with mine was overpowering. The barriers were disintegrating. It was like a sand castle at the seashore. Each wave slowly rolls in, just missing the thick sand walls until one wave suddenly tumbles over the walls and into the courtyard. The walls, crusty with age, crumble–disappear–never to be formed again.


    The good-byes and the tears were over. Two thousand miles had fled past me. The Messengers were finished.

    I strolled slowly down the dimly lit street leading to home. In one hand was my guitar and in the other, my suitcase.

    I was thinking of the places I’d seen...of the person I’d met...of the events I’d witnessed.

I looked up at the crystal night sky. Billions of stars, twinkling and shimmering and blazing, were suspended in the eternal vastness.

    I thought and remembered.

    “Thank you,” I whispered. “Thank you.”

Comments: Betty and I were “serious” for about two and a half years. But I wasn’t content to settle on a “first love,” despite what Revelation 2:4 says, so junior year in college I moved on to greener pastures. That set in motion decades of serial dating. In hindsight, our relationship lasted the longest of any I’ve ever had, except for my love relationship with Jesus, now in its fourth decade. Thank you, Lord, indeed!

Look Up:

Traveling to other universes

How I Got Kicked Out:

A Sort-of Cult

Once Before Time:

A Story You’ll Never Forget

Entangled Up in You:

The Quantum Secret

Armpit:

My Spiritual Biography

Clothesline Theory:

The Future Hangs On It

Bible Codes and DNA:

Life is a Strand

The Perfect Church:

I Can Always Dream

Falling in Love:

God and Betty

Bubble Boy:

Free will is a joke

Look! The Cross:

It’s Everywhere

Cross Shopping:

When Satan almost fooled Jesus

Communion:

Power Meal

A Quick Look at Eternity:

The Big Picture

Take Me Home:

Home Page

Contact:

Let’s Talk

Life’s a Script:

Book of Life

Moses:

The UFO Connection

Jesus, this hurts!