We were in the park, smoking cigars.
He was talking to me about her. She was beautiful. (And she was; she was stunning.) He was talking about loving her, marrying her. Someday. Someday slanted though, tilted close, someday could be next month. Would they elope? I took a drag. My second cigar in my life. Bitter. I liked it because I loved him. That’s how these things go, I think.
He was my best friend.
(I emphasize the past tense.This was the moment when it broke. This is the moment when after a year of doing ministry together, a year of him with guitar and me with Word, a year of loving people, a year of thinking we were called to something, it hairline fractured. Just enough.)
He told me that he might maybe just sort of could be sleeping with her.
And might maybe just sort of could be it didn’t matter that he was.
They were in love. That made it alright.
(With God? With me? I was uncertain.)
They were in love. That meant he could keep doing the ministry thing.
In the bushes, saying it was just because we had worked out before, that I hadn’t eaten that day, that I inhaled the smoke of the cigar instead of holding it in my mouth. I made a rosary of my lies as I hid the reason, the overwhelming feeling that my world was tearing, that I didn’t know what to do or say.
I’ve never had a cigar since. I think that says something, at least.
“Where are you?”
My professor calls me when I’m at the turn on the highway that points me home. I’m an hour from campus. I inform her of this. It’s Thanksgiving break. I’m skipping my last class. Not her’s, someone else.
“I can’t do it.” I am clipped in response. She already knows that I can’t do. She knows that I have been his roommate for the past four months, how after the announcement in the park, everything else broke too. She knows that I had tried, poorly, to keep things loving, how he had stopped going to church altogether, how he hated me when I said I was considering attending the Episcopal church–You like all that stand up, cross yourself bullshit?–he asked me that once, in the Mexican diner off the corner of the church with the billboard that said Jesus had a fishing story too.
(An aside, a few decades ago, my mother was the senior adult coordinator and leader for that church. It was before they had a sign that talked about Jesus and fishing stories. Strange how our worlds circle back on us.)
“Come back. Go to class.” She was insistent. I said nothing. “You have to come back,” she pushed. “You have to come back, because there will come a point in your life when it won’t be packing your car and leaving campus. You’ll be looking up flights to Paris, packing bags, and running from your life. You have to stop fleeing to Paris.”
I pulled over. I sat in silence for a few minutes. I turned my car around, headed back. She made me Moroccan for lunch. Well, in her way. She microwaved a frozen dinner and handed me a banana. It was, in its ordinariness, one of the most formative moments of my life.