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Thursday, March 21, 2019

14: Ex-communicated from a Protestant Church?

            “My oldest brother loved this thing.”  Waiting for lunch, Mindy fiddles with the Rubrik’s Cube Jasmine bought for her from the toy store.  “The problem was,” she adds with a guilty smile, “so did I!”  
“Uh oh,” Jasmine smiles, “What happened?” 
“I was in preschool, and my brother left this toy on the coffee table.  It’s got cool colors and moves in funny ways.  Mine, right?”
“Of course.”
“My brother didn’t see it that way.  He grabbed it out of my hands, yelled some curse words, said he had almost fixed it, and made me promise never to touch it again.”
“Which I’m sure you never did.”
“Right?!” Mindy smiles, “He should have said, ‘Oh, this is a boring tool.  You don’t want it.’”
“Big brothers never think of that.”
“Nope.  So when he was gone, I snuck it away and played with it, and then I put it back exactly where I had found it.  I didn’t know my brother had magical powers.  He had been out of the house, and then came home, and it was placed precisely where he had left it, but he picked it up, scowled at me, and said, ‘You’ve done it again!’”  Mindy chuckles, “I wanted to know if he had an in with Santa.“
“He’s knows if you’ve been bad or good!”
“Exactly.  My brother knew this stuff when he wasn’t even home!”
Jasmine laughs.  She’s always loved Mindy’s sense of humor.  “Your brother will never know if you’ve been playing with this one!”  Holding up her new toy in victory, Mindy exclaims, “I finally get to have one of my own!  Thank you, Jazzie!” 
“To your birthday!  And to Girls’ Day Out!”
After clinking glasses, Mindy gives Jasmine an eagle look from across the table.  You have a story to tell me.”
“Oh no, no, no.  Yours first.  Remember, you can’t stop thinking ‘around’ Justin, so, instead of obsessing ‘around’ him, just put it out there.  Tell me your story with him, start to finish, starting with how you met.”  Might Mindy get so carried away that she’ll forget?
Mindy sighs, reluctantly agreeing. “Of course, ‘Just the way you are’ became our song.  It still plays all the time on the radio, tormenting me, and I listen to the lyrics and think how ironic.  Why couldn’t he think I’m amazing and love me just the way I am?”
            “I know, Mindy.  Romance is so much easier in songs than in real life, huh?”
            “Truth.  In songs, in books, on TV, in movies, and in the theater, they make romance look so simple.  That’s another irony: that’s Justin’s thing – theater.  It was only later that I discovered not only could Justin sing, but he could also dance, act, play the guitar, and, above all, the piano, at which he was especially accomplished.  It was even after learning of these accomplishments that I discovered he played the lead, Tony, in his college’s production of West Side Story.
            “I had already fallen for him before he revealed any of these hidden talents and accomplishments, and these, of course, made me fall all the harder for him.  I then fantasized myself as Maria and let Justin enter his role, for me, of Tony.  That my parents didn’t much like Justin only fueled the fantasy, so the less they liked him  and the more they complained of him, the more deeply I fell for him.  My parents, knowing nothing of my fantasy, couldn’t conceive why their warnings had fallen on defiant ears.  Even their complaints, from my view, reinforced the fantasy, mirroring the irrational prejudices in West Side Story.  “I don’t trust him,” said Dad.  “What don’t you trust?” I asked.  No reply.  Then Mom: “We can’t pinpoint it, Honey.  He sends an air about him that he can’t be trusted.”  Me: ‘Now that’s an unfair judgment if I ever heard one.’ Just like Tony and Maria.”
            Mindy pauses, her eyes welling up.  “Now you’ve done it, Jazzie.  You’ve got me starting to tear up.  I guess I’m thinking more than just ‘around’ him.  I’m stuck in my West Side Story fantasyland.”  Mindy sighs.  “Can we take a break from my story?”  Jasmine pulls a tissue from her purse and hands it to Mindy.  Mindy takes a breath, trying to be brave, and smiles.  “Maybe we can move to yours?  How did Miss Perfect Straight-laced Boots and Buttoned up Shirt get ex-communicated from a Protestant church?  Girl, what did you do?”
            Jasmine can’t stall any longer.  Anything to take Mindy’s mind off of Justin will help her friend.  But how should she answer?
“Uhhhh, be the object of a pastor’s temptation?”
            The silence is palpable.  Mindy’s eyes widen, the revelation clear upon her face.  “That’s why you quit partnering with Davie in Mixed Doubles!”
            The cat’s out of the bag now.
            “You told me you were just too busy to keep up those competitions,” she continues with a teasing glare.  “Right when you two were playing perfect together.  You were so in tune.  I couldn’t believe you’d quit.  I remember thinking it’s too bad you’re both married, since you almost seemed like you were one person playing in two places.” 
Jasmine holds silent, struck by her friend’s insight.
With slow emphasis, Mindy continues, “I’m your best friend, right?”
“I know, I know,” Jasmine replies.  “I didn’t tell.  It’s too much, too big, too confusing.  I can’t even catch my breath, let alone talk about it.”
“I can only imagine.”  Mindy takes care to speak softly and slowly.  “Try to catch your breath with me and take it slow.  When did you notice he had the hots for you?”
“We seemed to share a curious affinity from the start,, almost like you just said, like we were one person divided into two, mysteriously able to read one another’s minds.  On certain things, that is.  Not on everything, of course.  Like not on what we were really thinking about each other.”
“Like he thought you had the hots for him too?” Mindy’s in defense mode for her ex-communicated friend.
“Not quite.  The attraction was mutual, but I’m not sure I’d even call it ‘the hots.’  I mean, that was there, but it was more in the background . . .”  Jasmine’s voice begins to trail off.
Mindy looks quizzical.  “Did I just hear you right?  You had sexual chemistry with him, and that was ‘in the background’.’  Huh?  Girl, speak English.”
As if not hearing her friend, Jasmine slows down her words wistfully, speaking more to herself than to Mindy.  “It was somewhere in the background, behind some mysterious affinity that’s more complicated than sexual energy.”  Gazing out the window into what feels like nothing and everything, Jasmine continues, “I can’t describe it.  I don’t understand it.  But, whatever that was, it was there.  Always there.”
If a picture speaks a thousand words, Jasmine’s eyes speak ten thousand.  Cast out the window far, far away to some remote place, Jasmine’s eyes speak grief, nostalgia, and bewilderment all wrapped up in one preoccupied package.

As if the silence is too heavy, Mindy may have willed her text notification to beep.  “Sorry.  I thought I silenced my phone.”  Mindy gasps. 
“What is it?”
“It’s from Justin.” 
“Go on.” 
“Just two words: ‘Happy Birthday.’”
“Yeah, what I do with that?  Reply, ‘Thanks,’ or nothing, or what I really want to say?”
Jasmine raises her shoulder, crunches her face, and shakes her head, mystified.  “So what would that be?”
“Uhh, maybe, ‘It’s happy with a text from you!’  Or ‘I’m still screaming mad, but I love you! Let’s go out again!’  Or, nothing but a bunch of heart emojis and those blushing ones that blow kisses?”
Jasmine laughs, “Yeah, that’s it!”
In silence, the girls ponder, wondering over the puzzle of Mindy’s reply. 
A revelation.  Mindy scrunches her face, discouraged and more confused. 
“What is it?” Jasmine asks.
“What if he pre-programmed that text and never took it off?”
“Yeah, he learned when my birthday is, maybe didn’t want to forget to wish me happy birthday, programmed it in, and here we are.”  Mindy’s presses her mouth small and straight.
            “If you were mystified before on how to reply, now you’re really in a fix!”
            “Yeah!” she shakes her head.  “Well, we’re having lunch.  I won’t reply yet.  Maybe something will come.”
            “Something always comes,” Jasmine affirms, “You’ll get a sign.”

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

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