Last week, I announced a contest. People sent in stories of "Love and Redemption," and I picked three, which will be read at this Saturday's performance of "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at the Central Square Theater.
Here are the winning entries, for your Friday reading pleasure:
Redemption is a funny thing, especially when you get dumped for God.
What you need to understand about academics is that we are often pretty socially awkward. Or stunted. We fall in love for some strange reason that normal people would never understand. So when this liberal agnostic from New England studying in Texas fell for a Republican born again from the deep South, mostly because we both appreciated the intricacies of intertwining syntax and pragmatics within the Construction Grammar framework, nobody got it and everyone didn’t. We were together for the better part of my 30s.
Fast forward to every academic’s nightmare – an excellent tenure-track job and eventually tenure in Salt Lake City, the most horrible place on earth (except perhaps for Yankee stadium). It was the spring of 2004, and the bottom had fallen out. The realization that I would never get out of Zion was setting in. A rescinded job offer from a much better city was the icing on the cake. And then his call came from Austin – he had made up his mind. He was going to become a priest; he had been accepted into the seminary.
A funny thing happened that May. I decided to hit rock bottom and spent the summer living with my parents in Connecticut. I worked on my book, played softball, and passed the late afternoons visiting my grandmother, who was suffering from advanced dementia. She was the only one who made sense to me. I watched every single Red Sox game with my dad. I dated a lot of younger men; I wrote my book; and that fall, the Sox won the World Series. I finally had hope. I left my job a few years later.
Finding a soul mate requires persistence, thick skin, and a lot of alcohol. I moved back to Boston a year and a half ago and continued my dating rampage, still focusing on younger guys, figuring that men my own age were too stodgy. And then, out of nowhere, came the one I’d been waiting for my whole life. Another linguist, living two blocks away. Who loved baseball. Who had also decided to choose geography over the “dream job.” Who knew how to treat a woman. Who was two years older than I was.
I had reluctantly turned over my boyfriend to God, tipping my cap to the biggest of Papis. Then I stumbled upon the real thing. We got married in July.
E and I met in high school. We were in a lot of the same classes. He made me laugh. He always knew how to tease me in a gentle way. We started dating just before graduation and both went to attend colleges in the Boston suburbs. Without cars, it felt long-distance. We found our own friends and got involved in our own things. In October of our sophomore years we broke up. It was oddly mutual, but devastating too.
We stayed friends. We graduated. I moved to another city. We began careers, but stayed in touch in a distant, friendly way. We dated, had other relationships. I always wanted him to be happy, but I didn’t hold on to pipe dreams of reuniting with an old high school flame.
I learned so much about myself in the years after I graduated from college. I learned not only how to pay my own bills and make life decisions; I learned what qualities to value in others, particularly potential partners. I learned to not to hold onto a guy who just isn’t interested. I learned to let go. I learned to give and to expect to receive in return. I learned confidence. I became a woman.
After a few years, I decided to go to law school. I applied to schools all over the Northeast, from Virginia to Boston. I didn't know where I would end up. E and I decided to meet up over New Year's, approximately five years after we broke up. I came up to Boston.
There was snow on the ground. Something sparked; I hadn’t predicted that. Soon after, I was accepted to several schools, and the best one was in Boston. I moved back. I felt lucky all the time.
We got married on July 4, 2010. I feel so lucky to be married to my best friend. He was there along, but we weren’t ready for each other until we were.
I love you.
Oh no. Did I say that out loud? Breathing. Is he going to say anything? "So I guess I'll talk to you ... soon," he responded. Sigh of relief. I didn't say it. It wasn't time. Maybe it would never
be. I felt my relief turn to frustration, and good old-fashioned despair. I wondered how I got to this place.
Luke and I were friends -- good friends. We met when we were 15. Was there a spark? Definitely. But I had already relegated him to the friend zone. Teenager Luke didn't have a chance. But it was probably for the best.
Soon he was gone, and needed to be, running from the alcoholic dysfunction that was "home," toward a troubled teen's dream: a life of sex, drugs, and rock n roll. With no authority figures. No direction. He was 17, traveled from band to band. For years I had no clue how he was. How could he be doing?
Just anxious thoughts. I mean, I cared. I really cared, more than I fully understood at the time, but what I now understand all too well since he came back. Now since the timing is all wrong.
Since all my friends say I should be careful, and maybe that Luke is still too fresh. And despite his pure heart, he could hurt me as he heals himself.
So we stay away. We occasionally find ourselves on the phone, at a party, and all the while I'm thinking, Crap, did I say that out loud? Hoping I didn't, wishing I could. So time passed, stupid, agonizing, pointless time. But he didn't go anywhere. His life was changed. And I was so happy that he had somehow not become a statistic. Feeling that contented feeling every time we managed to speak, or somehow found a moment that unspeaking needed to be our own.
Thinking it the night we found ourselves under the stars and he said,
"Pam, I need to tell you something..."
I was suddenly nervous.
"Ah.. you're pregnant?"
Humor was the only way I could cope.
"Way to ruin the moment," he laughed. Oh no, did I? There was a pause... a long crazy pause.
"I think I'm in love with you."
Did I say that out loud? Breathing... Is he going to say anything?
Wait. He just did.