08 August 2013

comfortable (a compromise)

The room was dark. I only had the hazy glow of the building's exterior light to assist with sight, although I didn't need it as my eyes were pretty much closed. I leaned in closer and adjusted there on his lap.  Here it was a cold Saturday night and we were warming things up the old fashioned way. He held me steady with one hand and the other was let's say wandering while he kissed me deeply. We went on like that for a while before he said we should move to be more comfortable.

I had a brief moment to ask myself, "What in the world am I doing and how did I end up here?" but soon most of my rational thought exited the premises. Note: mostly not completely. The he was Alex, the only man to be that intimately close to me. We'd just turned 22, were not in love and were searching for comfort.

Before I move on to what didn't happen once we crossed that threshold, I would like to address how I allowed myself to get there. As I explained previously, Alex and I parted ways at 16. I saw him for a brief moment at 18 before he went to UT Austin and I went to UT Arlington. We were in different places physically, spiritually and emotionally. And I bet he was not thinking about me just as much as I was not thinking about him.

I always dreamed of going far away to school but remained in the Dallas area. I didn't have my own vehicle so I couldn’t just go home, or anywhere, whenever the urge struck. So here I was in Arlington, Texas, the transition town between Dallas and Fort Worth where so many major attractions stand. My first night there a group of us went to a movie and friendships began that would be incredible bonds even to this day.

The next day we met for church and to be honest, I don't remember much. But the midweek service three days later I have certain details of. It was at a local recreation center, the weather was Texas warm, there was so much joy in the air, and I met this guy who was part of the campus ministry who would become a close friend. OK, I think you may be able to see where this is going.

His name, Brandon (changed this time to protect the innocent, well mostly), and I guess technically this was our second meeting. He was a counselor at my freshman orientation that summer, although it was he who would remind me of that later. He was just shy of 6 feet tall, straight brown hair, brown eyes, a bit scrawny and a total geek. Now understand, it took me a while to notice everything but the geek part. He and I became fast friends.

I don't have time to develop the story of our budding romance but the CliffsNotes version goes a bit like this. Brandon and I went on a few dates and I always enjoyed the time I spent with him. He would often drive my roommate and me to church and other locations as needed and we talked -- the usual university student, campus ministry stuff.

One night as I was spending time with my friend, Lori (yep, name changed), she asked the question that changed everything, "How long have you liked Brandon?"

I think I managed the very intelligent "Huh?" as my answer. I was shocked, a bit lost, a lot confused and felt the sudden urge to exit a moving vehicle. Then I managed to laugh.

"I'm very serious," she said, responding to my unspoken question. "It's obvious the way you look at him when you two talk, and come on, how many times has he asked you out now and you say 'yes' every time?" I continued to deny but became more uncomfortable with each denial although I didn't understand why. "Deny all you want girl but you like him."

Six months later I admitted defeat. I don’t remember the exact circumstance but I was aware the idea of him with another girl didn’t work for me. And if you think six months is a long time, it took him more than a year after that to understand how he felt about me. We were both rather clueless. We met in the summer of 1995, and on the last day of 1997, Brandon finally asked me to be his girlfriend.

As the story goes we had something special in my humble opinion. Initially some were shocked at our pairing; we are two very different people. And thank God we already had a great friendship because we needed that foundation. I was young and stupid; I did and said crazy stuff and if I didn’t know better I would say I was a terrible girlfriend, but I do know better. We had a lot of fun together, learned about life, leadership, and I know I came to understand the importance of someone else’s dreams, (good) expectations and feelings. I was challenged by him to allow myself to be more feminine — he wanted others to see that side of me.

In the midst of all that, I think it's called growing up, something amazing happened – I fell in love. I loved him so much, I didn't understand it and I definitely wasn't expecting it. Before you call me names, understand I was only 21 and very career- and ministry-oriented. Falling in love that young with my first adult boyfriend after only nine months was nowhere in my day planner, scheduler or plan before graduation. I actually wanted to marry him and yes it was another friend who pulled that truth out of me.

I didn't know whether to be happy or cry. I was back in that odd place of shock, a bit lost and a lot confused. There were so many other things going on at that time too. School was very difficult, and for the first time in years I was dealing with temper issues that I was sure I had mastered. Some of my friends were afraid of me. I was moving from one small group to another at church, attempting to settle in somewhere, I was working and I began to perform poorly in school. I began to see a counselor and take medication; depression had set in.

Shortly after my confession of wanting to be Mrs. Brandon Norman I broke up with him. I was afraid to lose him because of all of the craziness that was going on in my life. I didn’t consciously end it as a preemptive strike, but somewhere inside I feared he would leave me like some of my other friends. I thought I wouldn’t be able to take it so in a moment of intense anger I ended it.

Unfortunately there were people around and it was ugly. I hated myself even more and questioned my sanity. The next few months were dark and troubling. I felt as though I was losing my mind and my friends. Not just anybody either, my brothers and sisters from church. This was scary; I was afraid of who I'd become and didn't understand what was going on inside me.

Within a few months some of my friends began to marry, and those who were already married began having babies. I wasn't jealous, I just had the desire to participate in the fun and games, too, but felt as though I destroyed my chance. I lost my closest friend, Brandon, and I was the third wheel with other friends. I was depressed, felt alone and I was terribly uncomfortable.

One week after my best friend's wedding (seven months post break-up) I was in the computer lab working on a paper for history of interior design or some such when I looked up just as Alex walked in. He smiled, that one that melted my teen-aged heart so many times and made his way over to a terminal near me. I politely smiled back and made small talk. After all, we were old friends.

This wasn't our first meeting. He transferred to UTA during our sophomore year, prior to Brandon and I dating. We saw each other near the Activities Building one day and that was about it. I went to a movie with him for his birthday, but other than that I stayed away from him. A friend suggested I not get close just to be on the safe side. She said it may seem cruel but I would later understand that it was for the best.

So as we sat there talking, my personal emergency warning system was going crazy. Every sign of trouble was blinking and telling me to keep it light and go back to my paper. I think I even made a slight attempt to do so. But it was late and I was tired and uncomfortable with my state in life, and he represented a memory of comfort.

Any time he stepped away I agreed to keep an eye on his things and any time I walked away I know what he was keeping his eye on. I don't know when exactly I learned the rules of seduction but here I was playing this game like a pro. At some point I gathered my things and headed home but a seed had already been planted in me. Again I think I tried to resist but it wasn’t a real fight.

I saw him again the next night at the lab. Nothing happened, we worked diligently and went our separate ways. The next Friday, even without communicating we were at the lab at the same time. When I turned and said goodnight he leaned in and kissed me. Just a quick one on the cheek and another soft one on the lips.

The sirens were wailing in my head and I heard the warnings: “Stop!” “What are you doing?” “He is not who you want!” “This is dangerous!” But I smiled and winked as I walked away letting him know I understood what he had not said.

Saturday night my roommates went off to work and I was back in the lab grateful they wouldn’t notice my absence. I had no intention of going home because I was searching for the comfort I was so desperate for.

I knew it wasn't real. I knew I didn't have any feelings for Alex and I knew what he wanted to feel, but I didn't care. What happened to my unwavering commitment to God? Where was my resolve to remain pure and faithful in the face of temptation? At that moment all the pain and shame I felt for my failings left me almost desensitized.

I was facing challenges in my life without trusting God. I was caught up in the lie that I was a failure and only able to hurt the ones I loved. I was grieving over my poor choices. On the stage of reality the script didn’t play out the way I'd always imagined and I was ready for a rewrite.

So that night I was in Alex's apartment where this story began. Believe it or not, we did not consummate the relationship that we didn’t have. I am not proud of what did happen that night or the days prior to it. But even in that place of compromised discomfort I couldn’t go through with it. As much as I physically desired to have him fully, I couldn’t overcome the spiritual and emotional implications. But at the end of the day I was definitely willing to compromise for the sake of my own comfort.

This is the end of the history section. The final part will discuss what I learned and why I decided to share this. Thank you for your extra time this week.
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