It had been the very next day in class
that I noticed Beth Ann – or rather that she noticed me.
“I noticed you weren’t in class
yesterday,” she told me, “Were you sick or something?”
“I, ah… I was tied up with some other
stuff. You’re Beth, right?” You’d think that after thirty weeks of
classes, I would know everyone’s name, without asking.
“Must have been important to miss one of
Carson’s finals reviews. It’s Beth Ann,” she corrected.
“Yeah, well I wouldn’t have, except I had
to clear up a misunderstanding I was involved in last week, and
yesterday was the only day I could do it. So like, what did Carson go
over? Anything important?”
“Like Duh… We just reviewed all the
material from the first half of the semester. You have a girlfriend?”
“What?” Where did that come from, I
wondered? “Ah, not really, I mean…”
Judging by the way she was looking at me,
she must have thought I was a little wacked, but she kept the
conversation going. “Wow, I’m guessin’ she either doesn’t know you’re
interested, or else she knows you’re interested, and she’s not puttin’
out?” I could tell by the twinkle in her eyes that she was asking me,
and not just making small talk.
“Actually, I guess she doesn’t know yet,”
I explained, trying to avoid telling a fat one that would most likely
come back to bite me later.
“I’ll bet it’s Susan Shertzer,” she
suddenly surmised. “I see you looking at her like all the time.”
“I do?” I asked stupidly before realizing
my blunder. “I mean… You do?”
“Like yah-ah… Like all the time.”
Not sure what she was talking about, I
turned and looked toward where Susan was sitting and felt my face
heating up. It wasn’t Susan that I was always looking at. It was Javier
Montanez, who usually sat beside her, that caused my eyes to be pulled
in that direction. No matter how hard I tried to keep my eyes zoned
away, sooner or later they found him – and Beth Ann thought I was
looking at Susan. Thank god for small favors.
“I knew it. Oh my god, you are like so
blushing. I knew it was her. Hey Susan,” she called across the room.
Susan spun around in her seat to see who
had called to her. Javier turned too, and caught me looking right at
him. My eyes quickly darted down toward the table top in front of me.
“You are the bashful one,” Beth Ann
“Yeah well, It’s just that I ne…” I caught
myself before finishing.
“Never what? Come on… Never had a
girlfriend? …or never got past first base with one?”
“Not since I’ve been in California,” I
faltered. “I guess I kind of liked to party a lot the first semester and
didn’t want to be tied down, and then… well, I kind of had this thing
happen to me over Christmas break, and ever since then, I haven’t really
had a lot of extra time.”
I thought I handled her question pretty
well, not even really having to stretch the truth, but she seemed to see
right through me – scary!
She chuckled to herself. “You scared of
‘em? I’ll bet I could fix that in one easy lesson.”
As long as they kept their distance, I
wasn’t scared of girls, but Beth Ann was getting too close for comfort.
“Tell you what. Let’s go over to the
coffee shop after class. I’ll show you the notes I took yesterday and
you can sit real close and enjoy the view,” she told me, pushing her
chin back and looking directly down at her ample breasts to let me know
what she meant by the comment that had sailed right on over my head. I
glanced down at the fleshy mounds that she had done an adequate job of
not hiding too well in her tank top, and felt a cold sweat break
out on my brow. “…who knows where we’ll end up,” she saucily cooed.
I really did need to see someone’s notes.
And I knew that Beth Ann had aced most of the course to date, so I tried
to find a way around her come on. “Don’t you like have a boyfriend? I
mean, I’m actually kind of hung up on the monogamy thing.”
“You’re kidding? Oh my god. You mean you
never had sex before? Oh my god,” she repeated more loudly than
the fist time.
Her voice was way too loud on that one,
and seeing a few heads turn, I felt the need to defend myself. “I’m not
a monk,” I shot back at her loudly enough for others to hear, “I didn’t
say celibate, I said monogamy. I only do it with someone when I’m in a
committed relationship with them.”
“Well I’m not hung up on monogamy, but I
don’t really have a steady right now.”
Professor Carson finally finished his
conversation with the grad student who was assisting him with the class,
and took his place behind the lectern.
Halfway through the lecture, I realized
that I was staring at Javier again and forced myself to turn my head
back toward the front of the hall. I first felt, and then when I looked
out of the corner of my eyes, saw that Beth Ann was watching me. As soon
as she noticed that I saw her, she broke into this huge smile, like she
had caught me, and was going to make me pay.
“I could color my hair red, if that’s what
turns you on about Susan” was the first thing I heard after Carson ended
“What?” I asked, not realizing at first
why Beth Ann had said that. Then remembering that she had caught me
looking in Susan Shertzer’s direction, I thought to myself, “Yeah,
but could you dye your skin bronze and make your body look like Adonis’?”
I had been hit on by girls a few times in
the past, but for some reason, this seemed different – I mean she was
really laying it on.
“You gonna buy me a latte? It’s
pay-per-view,” she added as she smiled and again looked down at her
“Hey, lighten up. I was just kidding.” I
guess she saw my wrinkled brow, and gaping mouth.
“Ah… sure, that’d be great. … as long as
you bring you class notes.”
She gave me a bothersome wince, and turned
toward the door. I was almost past her before I realized that she wasn’t
moving, and was standing exactly like my mom used to stand when she
wanted my dad to wrap his arm around her waist.
I felt the warmth instantly drain out of
my hand. For me, putting my arm around a girl was like trying to scratch
your nose with a twig that you’re holding between your toes, without
poking out an eye. I had never done it before, and had no idea what to
expect. Whenever I had put my arm around Caleb or Eddie, my hand was
always met with the resistance of well conditioned muscle. I never had
to think about how to hold on to them. Beth Ann was totally squishy. I
mean, she wasn’t flabby, but there was like nothing solid to rest my
hand on. I just kind ended up holding my arm in the air and kept my hand
in contact with her hip – at least that was a little solid.
I felt a little self-conscious sitting so
close to her in the café, but she had pulled the chair up next to her
before I had a chance to sit down. I swear someone turned off the
ventilation system in there. Beth Ann must have thought it was hot too,
because she kept grabbing the neck of her top and pulling it away from
She seemed to be getting a little annoyed
that I wasn’t taking the hint, so I finally gulped silently, laid my
chin on her shoulder, and pulled it back slightly, so she knew I was
looking downward. That seemed to make her feel better. I just don’t have
a clue as to why two lumps of flesh turn some guys on.
Sunday, I couldn’t bring myself to getting
up and going to church – no surprise there. What did surprise me
was a knock on my dorm room door at two-thirty in the afternoon while I
was going over the notes that Beth Ann had given to me. No one ever
knocks on your dorm room door; they just come in if they want to talk to
you. When the door didn’t open, I walked over to see who it was, and got
the shock of my life. There, standing in the hall was Mr. Henderson,
Dalton’s dad. As soon as he saw it was me, he averted his eyes and
looked to the floor.
“I… I noticed you weren’t in church
“I suppose I owe you an apology, Alex. And
I can understand if you don’t ever come back to Faith Chapel after what
happened, but I was kind of hoping you’d show up anyway so we could tell
you how sorry we are for jumping to conclusions and blaming you for
something you didn’t do.”
I wanted to run, but he was pretty much
blocking the doorway, so I started to close the door on him.
“I understand… Alex, before I go, I just
want to ask you to forgive me and Dalton. We were wrong. I know that
might not help much, but I don’t want to be the reason for causing a
fine young man like you to turn his back on his faith and lose trust in
Again, silence filled my ears, blocking
out all the blaring stereos and noise that fill the dorm halls on a
We both looked when someone from down the
hall shouted “What the fuck are you doing! Shoot the goddamn ball,” at
“Alex, please. Just let me know that you
won’t let my stupidity keep you from finding another church, and getting
involved there. You have so much to offer kids.
When I couldn’t utter a sound, he turned
to leave, head hanging down; looking like he had failed to do something
that was important to him.
“Mr. Henderson?” I managed to whisper. “I…
I forgive you.”
He hesitated briefly then continued to
“You… you want a Coke or something?” I
wanted to forgive him. I wanted this all to be over and done with; it’s
just that I had no idea how to do it.
He stopped and looked at me before telling
me he’d enjoy that.
I carefully blocked his view of the inside
of the fridge Seth and I shared, and rooted around the beer to find the
one can of Coke that I was sure we had.
“I guess Seth must have drunk the last
one. You want a beer instead? Seems like that’s all that’s in here.”
I looked up and saw a smile break across
his face. “I didn’t know you were dorming with an upper classman?”
I felt my face flush.
“Hey,” he said, “just kidding. I went to
I grabbed two bottles and unscrewed the
caps. “Yuengling, okay?”
“Yuengling’s fine, if that’s what you’re
By the time we had both thrown down two
brews, conversation was getting easier. Mr. Henderson was a Human
Resources Specialist with the city, and his wife had her own beautician
shop. I told him that I had come out to L.A. because my mom had moved
here after divorcing my dad, but that my phone call from the police
station had been the only time I got up enough nerve to call her. “Seems
kind of stupid to pick a school because of that, when there are so many
schools closer to home,” I told him.
“I think I see the Lord’s hand at work,
Alex. Who knows what the Lord’ll do for the two of you.”
I studied his face to try to figure out
what he meant.
“Listen, I got to be going. I’m ushering
at the evening service, you want to come along with me? I can drop you
back on campus afterwards.”
Talk about dumping a bucket of cold water
on a conversation. Faith Chapel was the last place on earth that I
wanted to go just now. Mr. Henderson must have seen the look of disgust
on my face, because he suddenly got serious.
“Alex, all through your life, you’re going
to be faced with things that slam you for no apparent reason. You might
think that the best thing to do is to turn and run away from it. But
what if God brought this situation into your life to help you to see
something that you could never have seen without going through it? You
ever see the movie Facing the Giants?”
“It’s about man named Grant Taylor, who
coaches the football team at a Christian high school to one losing
season after another. On top of his coaching troubles, he and his wife
want to have children and hadn’t been able to conceive. Coach Taylor got
to the point where he felt like God must have turned his back, and
forgotten him – just like maybe you’re feeling right now.
“He could have just thrown in the towel
and walked away from it all, but instead, Alex, he turned to God for
answers. That’s when he began to realize that coaching high school
football shouldn’t be about winning football games.”
I looked at Mr. Henderson with a screwed
up expression on my face, trying to figure out what coaching football
was about, if wasn’t about winning games.
“No sir. What God helped him to see, is
that coaching is about using a game to teach young men to give their all
to something, even when the odds are stacked against you. Coach Taylor
began to see that he could use football to teach the players how to win
in the game of life. When those boys learned to sell out to a cause and
give everything they had… well, that’s when God did some pretty amazing
“There’s a giant in your life right now
that I, along with Dalton, helped to create. I don’t know why God chose
to put you in the middle of this mess, Alex, but I do know that if
you’ll press through the trouble, and give whatever it takes to find his
purpose in it, you won’t be sorry in the end.”
Mr. Henderson, paused for a moment to
watch me think about what he was saying.
“Alex, I’d like nothing better than to
help you face that giant, and see you beat it. What d’ya say?”
I was not into picking fights with giants
at the moment. I had lots of practice just sitting on the sidelines
licking my wounds. I was getting good at it, and had no desire to do
anything differently this time around.
Absentmindedly, I began picking up the
empty bottles, and dropping them in the trash, neither speaking, or
looking at Mr. Henderson, as he stood to leave.
“Dalton and I have asked Pastor Berger if
we could stand in front of the church tonight to ask them to forgive us
for what we did to you. It would be really special if you could be there
with us, so we could publicly ask for you’re forgiveness too.”
I was stunned – and amazed. I never heard
of anyone doing something like that before. I didn’t know how to react,
but I did know that I wasn’t ready to face three-hundred people who
still thought I was a pervert who had tried to rape one of their youth.
That giant was just too big for me.
“No thanks,” I told him.
“I understand, Alex. But please, before I
go, promise me that if you can’t find your way back to Faith Chapel,
you’ll at least find another church to get involved with.”
“Yeah, sure” I told him, certain that I
would never set foot in a church building again.
Seth tried his hardest to get me to go
with him to the party at his bud’s frat house, but I was deep in
thought. I couldn’t get Mr. Henderson’s words out of my head. Aside from
Phil and his family, I had never met “real” Christians before. I mean
the kind who actually admit that they’re not perfect, and don’t expect
you to be either.
Fearing that I might be walking into
another trap, I pushed the sanctuary door open and slipped into the
nearest chair just as Pastor Berger was ending his sermon.
“Folks,” he said when he was finished, “we
all know that the Lord commanded us to ask forgiveness when we do wrong.
We also know that it’s the church’s responsibility to forgive those who
make mistakes in judgment, and embrace them back into fellowship. Many
of you are aware of a certain unfortunate incident that took place in
our fellowship this past week, and as a result of that, there are two
families who have asked if them may confess there wrongdoings to their
brethren, and ask your forgiveness. I understand the party who was
wronged, Alex Harper, declined to attend tonight’s service, but that
shouldn’t keep us from doing what the Lord commanded.”
With that he nodded to the front row, and
six people stood up and walked to the podium.
David Pendergast was first to talk.
“My lying about something I did made Alex
Harper go to jail.” David stopped to swallow. “I… I want to ask you all
to forgive me.”
A hushed murmur rose from the crowd of
people, as well as a few “we forgive you David’s.”
Mr. and Mrs. Pendergast gave David’s
shoulder a squeeze as they moved off the platform and sat down. I
thought to myself that they actually looked like they forgave David too.
I wondered if what I had told them at the police station had made a
difference in the way they treated David when they got home that day.
Dalton was next. He was sweating, and
looked nervous. His voice trembled as he offered his apology. It seemed
like he was just going through the motions – like he had been told what
he had to say.
Lastly, Mr. Henderson, holding tightly
onto his wife Dottie’s hand, stepped up to the microphone. He scanned
the church congregation like he was looking for someone in particular. I
slid down in my seat hoping that he wouldn’t see me. Our eyes locked for
and instant before mine darted toward the mauve carpet at my feet. When
I worked up the nerve to look up again, he was still looking at me. He
smiled and squeezed his wife’s hand.
“Brothers and sisters, I come to you,
feeling the pain of regret,” he began. “My son, who seems to be a lot
like I was at his age, told a very believable tale about something that
supposedly happened here in church. I hope when he gets to be my age, he
will be a little smarter than I am, because without checking his story
with others who were involved, I believed him. I’m here tonight to ask
you to forgive me for being a fallible human being, who believing the
best of his own flesh, put another fine young man’s Christian walk in
jeopardy. I spoke with that young man, who had offered so much to the
youth of our church by helping Rex Davies on Tuesday nights, and asked
him to forgive us for the wrong that we had done to him.
“He assured me that he forgave me and
Dalton, but that’s not enough. Please pray for Alex, so that God might
restore him to the faith that we all may have so badly damaged – the
faith that we all must have in other people.”
Then he looked straight at me and asked,
“Alex, will you give this congregation another chance to prove that we
I leaned forward in my seat, burying my
head in my hands, as several people laid their hands on my shoulders
prayed for me.