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Henry Harris is telling me about his ‘religious rollercoaster’, a. k. a. the many religious schools and churches he’s attended. The funny thing is that pretty much the only Christian denomination not included is United Methodist, which is my branch of Christianity.
“You oughta come to my church should you switch again,” I say, somewhat jokingly.
“Where do you go?” Henry inquires.
“First Methodist, downtown.”
“That’s quite a hike for not having a car, but if I can find a ride, then I’ll keep that in mind.”
Wow, he certainly didn’t treat that like a joke. I smile, but not just about that. Henry Harris went to my high school during our freshman year, then transferred to another school the next year after having a difficult freshman year. His whole life has been something of a rollercoaster, with his parents’ divorce and living apart from his sister since that time. It’s a different kind of hardship from what I’ve experienced, yet still I know I’m not alone in having dealt with major trials in life.
Come to think of it, Monday night Bible study isn’t in any way a harbor of loneliness. There are usually at least twenty people who show up, and ten of us-Landry and his roommate/best friend Jack Ullman, Joel, Diane, Ellen, Karen Wilder, Henry, Neil Monroe (my ex-boyfriend), my friend and fellow author Carl Greensburgh, and I-are regular attendees. We’re a tightly-woven tapestry, a unified matrix in spite of all our differences.
Today is Monday, April 21, 2008, and it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t even been a month since Maxwell’s been gone. For some reason I don’t know, it seems so long ago that I broke down inside the funeral home, yet it doesn’t feel that long since I told Landry about my past. Slowly but surely over the past three weeks, the original sadness that came with losing Maxwell has been diminishing, and I’m becoming the optimistic, upbeat, quirky Arlene Millicent again. The innocence, shelter, and escapability that characterized the quality of my life won’t ever return; however, my freedom to question the world as I see it, to challenge myself, and to dare headlong into the next moment will never change. Plus, I have a lot of friends to accompany me on the journey.
Carl joins me and Henry outside the Bible study room.
“This constitutes praying?” Carl speculates.
“Our conversation pertains to religion,” I assure him, using a flirtatious tone in my voice.
“I suppose it works, then.”
The three of us proceed to continue with conversation casually, like it’s just another Monday and we’re killing the time between prayer hour and Joel’s call to order. I love the way it feels to just be myself.
The group is beginning to disband after Joel’s speech and a good forty-five minutes of eating and celebrating Karen Wilder’s birthday. Now it’s just me and Diane and Ellen and Henry and Carl, and Diane and Ellen are clearing the table while I chat with the guys-after all, I’m the biggest flirt out of all the girls in the group. And it’s hilarious right now because I can tell that Henry is really digging my attitude. Contrarily, Carl is pretty laid-back with reactions.
But I know that Carl cares for me. My favorite way he shows it is when he comes up to me and throws his arms around me without ostensible reason other than that he’s my friend. He’s the king of nice guys who don’t finish last, and his easy-going attitude keeps his spirit free.
I could seriously go on for hours and pages about my friends. They’re the tattoo artists of my heart, the unforgettable people who grace my life.
“Are y’all ready to go?” Diane asks. She has the room key in hand.
As we leave the room, Henry invites me to watch a movie at his apartment. It’s nearly nine o’clock and my mom will be picking me up shortly, so I have to decline. But I promise myself that I will say yes the next time he asks.
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version
"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation
The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.
"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"
"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls
Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.
Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"