Severely Disturbed

OK, maybe not severely, but enough that it’s bugging me. April and I just watched a few episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (we’re trying to finish this season, which is due back to the library tomorrow, and we’d like it to be overdue as little as possible), and one of the main characters died. This was followed by the most intense two episodes of grieving and sorrow I have ever seen on television, and it brought two things to mind.

The first was that, though I am intimately familiar with those reactions, those feelings, those heartaches, there is no one I would feel that way for anymore… except April. I would not grieve like they were, like I did for Lynette, for anyone but my wife, and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. Part of me longs for that intense emotion in a somewhat macabre fashion, because any intense emotion is indicative of life to me, but I fear it as well. Because April is the one closest to me, and the only one, I have to really work hard to keep myself from worrying, obsessing even, about her safety and health. What would happen, if something were to happen to her? I’m not sure if I’d be completely and irrevocably broken, but it’s hard to tell.

The second thing it reminded me of was Lynette’s death and subsequent funeral. Seeing her in the coffin, seeing the coffin at the funeral. Memories of its colour (white, with blue highlights, birds, blue flowers and ribbons…); that they didn’t actually lower the casket while we were still at the cemetery; of speaking to all these people who had no idea who I was; of walking around for hours the night before the funeral; of weeping like I had never wept, uncontrollably; the piano keys wet from my tears because that was the first place I could find to sit after seeing her lying there, white and terrible.

I was able to stop mourning after about three years. To let go and begin to move on from all the death that accompanied my high school career. To remember and cherish the memories, but to stop grieving over Lynette, and Rick, and Dallas, and Jennifer, and everyone else, more than a dozen in all. To let the sorrow go and start healing.

But tonight, I remembered. I don’t know whether to thank Joss Whedon and admire him, or curse his name.

Hey There, Delilah

I don’t listen to the radio much, so I’d never heard this song by the Plain White T’s, but I guess it’s played a lot. That’s probably because it’s one of the only good songs by this band, but that’s OK; the song is fantastic, heartwarming…

And, of course, reminiscent. I haven’t thought of Delilah in years. Not the one the singer is writing about, but a girl I met my senior year in high school. She was adopted by a man in my (first) church. Delilah was a troubled teen who had bounced from home to home as parents gave up on her and shunted her along; a pretty girl with curly red hair and freckles across her nose, and actually a pretty good kid. We talked at various church events and got to know one another, finding something in each other we could both identify with. Delilah wasn’t necessarily a good student, but she did what she could, and she cared about others and was generally nice. I never understood what the other parents had against her.

Her adopted dad had been serving as legal guardian for another teenager he adopted. He had two biological children of his own, neither of whom had reached prepubescence yet. I think that was the biggest problem, to be honest. She and this other kid were both normal teenagers, but the dad didn’t know what to do with teens. His sons were still in the young, always-listen-to-your-daddy stage where they never disobeyed or anything. I don’t know what he expected from his adopted children, but his reactions were less than Christian.

I won’t go into the story, because it’s pretty minimal. Delilah and the other adopted teen didn’t really do anything major*; if they had been my kids, I would have shrugged it off and been rather proud of them, to be honest. But because they had disobeyed him, even in such a minimal fashion, he disowned them and ended the adoption (whatever that process is called). Kicked Delilah out of his house.

I had begun to look up to this man as a father figure; his own dad had been a jerk so he could understand where I was coming from pretty well. But he was no better for his experience; he had turned into his old man. Delilah was broken after that. She became cynical, anti-Christian, stopped coming to church… I haven’t seen her but once or twice since she was kicked out of her adopted father’s home, and that’s been five years ago now.

I wish we could have remained friends… there was no way to contact her as she didn’t have a home or phone or anything. I offered for her to live with us, and my mom agreed, but Delilah was too proud to accept the charity. I wonder where she is now.

Post about this topic, but with a moral/religious conclusion, over at the FnC Blog.

It’s not like he’s the only Christian to get angry and do something rash. We all need to pay close attention to our (re)actions so we treat others in a more Christlike fashion… but more importantly, we need to think about our reactions in advance. We need to be reading the Bible and praying and putting ourselves mentally into situations we might encounter so we can figure out how we much response to those situations. We need to discipline ourselves faithfully so we might act in good faith. If we do not do this in advance, our emotions will get the better of us and we will fail. We’ll fail our friends and family, our sons and daughters, our parents and selves. We can do better than this.

He should have done better…

*Long story short: The adopted son needed a ride to the bus station because he had enlisted and had to be on the next bus to head off, and Delilah gave him a ride even though he was grounded.

History Revisited: Memories of Megan

Josh, an old friend from elementary school (and junior high and high school, though I didn’t see him as much after I left 5th grade) invited me (and presumably a few hundred people) to a benefit concert Saturday night via Facebook. I’d been wanting to hear his band play, so April and I decided to go. The catch is that he married my ex-girlfriend from high school last summer, and I haven’t seen her since we graduated. There was a lot of negativity between Megan and I the last couple of years of high school, and on into our freshman year of college, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. But the concert was pleasant, and small talk with her went better than it otherwise might have done. The conversation brought with it a slew of memories, images I’d forgotten and stories from thirteen years ago…

It was October of 1994 and I was in fourth grade. My best friend (Matt) Wilson and I were trick or treating, and my parents dropped us off at the big, square house on AA highway, just across the street from our school. While they waited in the driveway, I went to the door and knocked hesitantly; I was shy and afraid of strangers. But the woman who answered the door seemed nice, and she asked what grade we were in. As it turned out, they had just moved to this house and their daughter would be starting at our school soon. Her name was Megan and, being so young, I had very little world experience. You see, I had known a girl in Maryland at my after-school-babysitter whose name was Megan. I hadn’t seen her since we moved to Missouri, and I assumed it was the same girl.

I couldn’t wait for her to come to school. I hadn’t been happy since we had moved to Springfield; I had few friends, was constantly picked on and beat up, and longed to return to Maryland. I was excited that, at last, I would have a real friend who liked me. Maybe Patrick, her brother, would be with her, and I would have two friends! I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on school work, all I could do was sit and daydream about when she would start school.

A week or two later, this small, blond girl joined our class and I discovered that the Megan I was waiting for wasn’t the one from Maryland, but a different Megan with big glasses and a shy laugh. In 5th grade, we started orchestra together (I played violin and she played viola), and I didn’t think much about her… except that she was the best friend of Jamie, for whom I pined all the way through 8th grade.

Jamie, as girls in junior high tend to do to lovestruck, silly boys, broke my heart in 7th grade and I began the process of moving on. The summer between 8th grade and our freshman year of high school, Megan and I started getting together more, and we continued playing in the orchestra in high school. It was in the orchestra room, while we put away our instruments, that I asked her to homecoming. We shared our first kiss on her barn roof, and neither of us knew what we were doing. A month or so later, I took her on our first formal date to the Outback Steakhouse using a gift certificate I had won off of the radio. We weren’t dressed for the winter weather, but she wanted to go for a walk after dinner, and we ran across the four lanes of Glenstone Avenue to wander through the shopping center where Wal-Mart is. I was so worried that she’d be too cold and get sick, and we found a bench in a shaded alcove where we could sit until my mom got there to pick us up.

She didn’t ask me to the LPA (Ladies Pay All) dance that year, and I was crushed, but by the summer we were close and getting closer. We would lie under the bridge on the way to Fellows Lake, listening to the creek babble among the rocks, and ride bikes along the back roads. We talked constantly and were together often, but we also fought a lot. The relationship was characterised by drama, and it began to seem that we fought more than we had good times. I lived on hope; hoping to get to the next calm period, to the next kiss, to the next happy laugh, and I coasted on the memories of the last good time. At the end of the summer, though, I told her I wasn’t Christian, and told her what my religious beliefs were.

After trying to convince me to become Christian, ending in a failed attempt to seduce me into converting, she told me it’d be better for the world if I was burned on a cross, that I was evil, and that she hated me.

It took seven months to convince most of the people I knew that I was not a monster. Megan had spread a plethora of rumours and lies about me, and combating them was exhausting. I kept pursuing her and, after that seven months, we got back together again, just in time for the summer. It was the end of our sophomore year, and it seemed like things were returning to normal. I went to debate camp and missed her terribly for two weeks, and after I returned we continued riding our bikes on the back roads and visiting the lake. I tied a gym bag to the front of my bike and stuffed a blanket in it that we would put on the ground to lie on (usually behind the junior high on some nature trails back there); the blanket didn’t get taken out and washed until I went to college. We got caught fooling around at my parent’s house one day by her father, who we had told we were going to a movie. He’d gone to the theater and become infuriated when he saw her car wasn’t there; came immediately to my house and took her home. It was funny at the time and still is; they didn’t believe her that we hadn’t had sex, and took her to a gynecologist, who told them the same thing, and they still were uncertain.

It’s a good/funny memory, though it was certainly stressful at the time. Megan was often depressed and talked about running away from home. We had many late evening conversations where I tried to talk her into staying. I guess I did pretty well, and she invited me to her church’s Vacation Bible School at the end of the summer. I was still rather anti-Christian, but I went and had a really good time. Jess, a guy I’d become friends with just the previous school year in chemistry, was there and I enjoyed the entire week. I didn’t see Megan as much as I’d have liked, which I found odd, but I was doing my best to become friends with her friends for her sake.

As it turned out, I didn’t see her much because that was the week she started cheating on me with Jess. A week or two after VBS, I took Megan to a movie and afterwards she told me she’d been thinking about breaking up with me, but now she wasn’t sure… I was always there for her when she needed me, and I was sweet and understanding, etc… I told her to do what she had to do, what would make her happy, and a few weeks later she said that we should take a break during the school year. I’d assumed she meant that, for our junior year, we’d take a break and get back together at the end of the spring semester. By the end of September, I discovered that she had been dating Jess since July, a month before she broke up with me.

That fall of 2001 and spring of 2002 (my junior year) was horrible in general, and I won’t recount it or all the loved ones and acquaintances who died, but suffice it to say that Megan and I were not on good terms, and my friendship with Jess ended when he began hating me. I never found out what she told him about me, but he despised me just as she grew to. Megan and I were both still in Speech & Debate, so there was a great deal of tension over the next two years, but I began to learn how to shrug it off by the end of the spring of 2002. I briefly dated a girl I had met my freshman year of high school that I’d been interested in for years, though I had pushed it away because I was happy (for a given value of happy) with Megan. Through this girl (named April, ironically), I met Jennifer, who started me going to church. My senior year was filled with apathy for school, distance from Speech and Megan and most of my peers, and becoming more involved with church and Jennifer.

Graduation came and went, and I was content that I’d never see most of these people ever again. But in November of 2003, Megan instant messaged me. Jess had just broken up with her because she cheated on him, and she needed to talk. I asked if I should call or come over, and she asked me to call. We talked until four in the morning, which was a bit stressful since I had to get up at six to drive to Chicago the next morning for a Model UN conference. She couldn’t believe how I had changed in the last two years that we hadn’t spoken much. I was Christian now, and active at a church and looking for a college ministry. She lamented that, if only I had been our sophomore year what I was now, maybe we’d have stayed together. I pointed out that she cheated on and left me, not the other way around, so we would probably have still broken up. Tearfully, she agreed, but we began mending the rift that had grown between us, and part of me entertained the hope that we’d someday get back together…

We talked regularly on the phone for two weeks until she started dating her next boyfriend. She didn’t answer my phone calls for several days, and then told me in unequivocal terms that she did not need me any longer and that she would call me when she did.

I’m such a tool.

That was four years ago, and I haven’t heard from her since except that she and her new husband, who was in first grade when I was in third and who was a close friend of mine in elementary school, would not be able to attend mine and April’s wedding. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t sure what would happen at the concert Saturday night, but it went well. I was afraid that Josh would hate me, that Megan would have filled his head with despicable lies the way she did with Jess, but he seemed OK. I saw Josh’s parents for probably the first time in ten years, and they were very pleasant and glad to see me as well. Maybe it’s all water under the bridge and maybe we’re OK now, just distant acquaintances, but all these memories came flooding back and I wanted to write them down.

I had forgotten what her voice sounded like (nasally and kind of annoying), and what her eyes look like. I’d forgotten her hair and her shoulders. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are absolutely no lingering feelings, either positive or negative. The past is slipping away from me and, for once, I am glad. Let us move on. Let us be glad. Let us live tomorrow, rather than yesterday.

I gained a sense of closure Saturday night; not a magnificent or grandiose closure, like the penning of a final chapter, but more like a single period. It might be slight, but it is the ending. I am glad.

What can I write?

Part One

You know how occasionally it is appropriate to say, “Wow, everyone I know is getting married!” You might have heard this phrase before when someone knows 3-5 people who have recently gotten engaged. I’ve been through that a couple of times, and almost a year ago I was one of those 3-5, which was kind of cool. I guess now that’s run it’s course.

Man, everyone I know is getting divorced.

What happened to us? To the people I knew in high school? My first response was, “What were they thinking?” Not just with the divorce, as sad as that is, but I knew when they got married that they weren’t right for each other. Were they just in love with the idea of being in love? With the idea of being married? Did they not realize how hard it would be, or what sacrifice it would demand of them? Thank God the couples I know currently getting divorced haven’t had children yet, but it’s still heartbreaking. And for one of the couples, it’s completely out of left field for me. I thought they were fantastic, one of those perfect couples. They seemed so good together…

Part Two

The last two weeks have beget a great deal of melancholy and emoness. I don’t know if it was a holdover from the holidays or what, but I’ve thought a lot about people who are no longer in my life. Relationships that ended, friends who either drifted away or tore themselves forcibly from my life, loved ones who have died, people I was once close to who seem to have just fallen off the face of the earth…

Last week, I wrote a letter to a girl I knew several years ago named Neci. When Mike ditched us on the bills and moved out without forewarning, I started looking for a new roommate to fill the third room of our townhouse. Neci was one of the few who responded to our flyers and we were quickly becoming friends. She was seriously considering moving in, but then something happened with her family and she felt the need to return to Arkansas immediately, dropping out of college and leaving everything here behind. The only good, inexpensive means of communication available to us was by paper letter, so we wrote briefly.

That is to say, I wrote her, she wrote back, and over the next six months or so I wrote two more letters. After not hearing from her in that six months, I finally called and, after three attempts, got a hold of her. Turned out she had gotten the letters, she just hadn’t gotten around to writing back.

That was just over two years ago. So much has changed, and I found myself randomly thinking about her last week and wondering how she was, so I wrote. My letter was returned to sender, unable to forward.

Part Three

I still haven’t been able to get in touch with Melvin, the father of the family who originally got me going to church. They meant so much to me towards the end of high school, and I’ve worked so hard to keep in touch with them throughout college. Every time I talk to Melvin, he tells me of how they’ve been thinking about me, or they were talking about me just the other day. Their daughter, Jennifer, and I have been estranged since we graduated for reasons I never quite understood. Now when I call Melvin, I get a disconnected signal at their home and voice mail on their cell. None of my messages have been returned, so I haven’t been able to invite them to my wedding.

I’m hoping it’s a simple matter of them having moved, gotten a new home phone number, maybe gotten a new cell, and having forgotten to call me like they always do. (In the last 5 years, I think Melvin has called me once.) My imagination can’t help but picture worse fates, but it’s usually the simple answer, right? I hope they’re OK.

Part Four

Jesus, I’m glad this posts to LiveJournal. Grab a sticker and label me Eyore.

On the positive front, my bachelor party was awesome. Shawn and Cody pitched in to get me Guitar Hero II, and I borrowed a projector for the night. We hooked mine and Ryan’s Xbox 360s together and the five of us (Cody, Shawn, Ryan, Brian, and myself) played through Halo 3 on Legendary in about 6 hours. There was also some GHII, of course, and some Smash Bros. on Cody’s Gamecube. It was, all-in-all, a very good night. It was also really easy to set up for, so I’m thinking we should make such evenings a semesterly occurrence.

All is not doom and gloom in the world of Matthew. The wedding plans are all but completed, and I’m excited to see them come to fruition. There will be cake. No lie. And I’m looking forward to the holidays, particularly being off work. Life is good with April, classes are over, and I’m happy. In general, things are good.

I want to leave it at that (on a positive note) and come up with something to write on the FnC blog. Check it later for an article on the concept of Us vs. Them.

Google is ruining everything!

Cyber-stalking would be a lot easier if my old/ex-friends were less reclusive or prone to move to other land masses.

I’ve only got one left to find, and no one has mentioned having heard from her since high school. It’s kind of weird how she appears to have just fallen off the face of the earth, but some people do that I suppose.

I know, it’s probably not kosher that I try to find people online, particularly if they have tried to distance themselves from me in the past (which only applies to two of them >_> ), but I have trouble keeping myself from thinking, or worrying, about people I love. Even if these individuals have pushed me away, even hurt me deeply in years past, I can’t stop caring about them, and I want to know that they’re OK, that they’re doing well. It’s nice to see that they’ve gotten on alright, are teaching or studying or working at whatever, are married or maybe have kids or, at the very least, aren’t homeless. When I can find nothing, that’s when I worry.

So I’ll keep on praying. I’d like to ask around a bit more than I have, but it’s hard to broach such topics. “Hey, remember so-and-so from five years ago? Whatever happened to them? Oh, why do I want to know? Just curious…”

It sounds more creepy in my head, I swear.

P.S. Have you noticed how often I have to employ the “retrospection” tag? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s unhealthy.

P.P.S. I originally wrote this blog entry on an iMac in Safari. Some observations from this experience:

  1. My site looks horrible in Safari. To my Appleified patrons, I apologize. Freaking get Firefox.
  2. Safari apparently doesn’t handle rich text editors. I suppose I already knew this, and part of me respects Apple’s design philosophy, but it still annoys me.

Like the Father said, keep on smilin…

While we were in Wichita this weekend, April and I walked to a park near the house where we stayed and wandered around the playground. There was a skating area with ramps and jumps and bars to grind on, and some skaters were braving the cold (I was bundled in my trenchcoat and a warm hat) to skate while it was otherwise unoccupied. I had this brief daydream of going over to watch, of them inviting me to give it a go and my standing on a skateboard, going up and down the ramps and grinning while my new friends whooped and hollered and cheered me on.

I thought of when skateboarding was a part of my life, however miniscule, back in junior high and high school. I tried once, but fell. Wilson tried a lot and also fell, but more rarely than me. It was emo and punk and part of a larger culture in which I was never able to participate. It represents all that is wild and reckless in youth to me, and I somewhat regret not going down that path.

This Thanksgiving, I reflected on my youth and what I would have done differently regarding the friends I made and the activities in which I participated. Maybe I would have ditched the violin and learned drums or guitar sooner, joined a band and learned how to skateboard. I’d have grown my hair out and maybe gotten an ear pierced, maybe a tattoo in 2001 like I’d been considering. Hell, maybe I would have gone to England, consequences be damned, and Evie would still be alive.

I thought a lot about Elisabetha this Thanksgiving.

And I feel vaguely guilty for considering the past, for sitting and thinking about what I’d have done differently. Because if I had changed any of that, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I’m employed and well fed, with a good place to live and a nice church. I have an amazing fiancé who plays video games with me, and makes sure I eat, and who loves me. I love her, and I feel bad for reconsidering the past; I don’t even know if I’d be alive now if I’d taken a different path.

I don’t think about the past because my present is undesirable. It’s just some weird twist of masochism that leads me to regrets. In retrospect, I would not change anything, but I wish there was a game or a machine somewhere that could act out the possibilities for me, fill in the mysteries, and conclusively prove to me that I was right. That I needn’t have any regrets. In a sense, though, those regrets are precious to me. The calamities of my youth spur me to try harder so I do not repeat my mistakes, and my present and future are better for them.

It’s just hard to remember that as I drive down the highway, listening to CDs I burned my freshman year of high school and wondering about the book of poetry she never published, or where Wilson’s at now, or what songs I’d have written had I learned how to listen to myself sooner.

What were you looking for?

I was scanning the statistics collected on my site–just the usual, how many visitors I’ve had, where they’re from, how they got here–and noticed that I had some links from LiveJournal subscriptions. This isn’t unusual; my blog automatically cross-posts entries to my LiveJournal, and since those entries contain links to my site, they’re going to show up in my stats report. I didn’t recognize one of the LJ addresses at first, though, so I went to the site and looked up their profile. Turns out it was someone I was friends with 3-4 years ago, but haven’t talked with since she paid a disastrous visit to Springfield.

And I’m ashamed. Even now, there is some lingering anger with her, but it has mostly gone cold and dead like an ember left too long in the ash. Life’s too short to hold grudges, to cut people out of your life simply because they frustrate or anger you. If they’re directly hurtful towards you, then life’s too short to keep them around, but if they’re just frustrating?

Years later, I wonder what she is like. If she has changed. Lord knows I have.

Dave Gill texted me this morning to say that he was in town and was I interested in hanging out? I was indeed, so we had breakfast at Gailey’s and talked for hours. I’ve missed theological conversations of that nature.  The rest of the day was spent cleaning and playing games, just enjoying a day off. Lunch with Brenda tomorrow, and April back in the evening ^.^

I’ve got an idea for FnC Tuesday night now, and I definitely need to invest some time in writing tomorrow. I’m putting together a story set in the EVE universe at the moment (just ideas, nothing cohesive yet) that I’m hoping to co-write with a guy I met on there, and I really want to start writing poetry again.

If someone were to write a poem about you, what one characteristic would you want it to focus on?

And if you want to take it a step further, what form would you like it to be in?