Nevertheless, because of the covenant the Lord had made with David, the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David. He had promised to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants forever.
2 Chronicles 21:7 (NIV)
Leslie announced to my humanities class that she was a Wiccan, and I immediately grew suspicious. We would never be friends, because it would not work. I needed to make friends – I had just enrolled in public high school and had a scant few – but desperation could not be the guiding motivation in my quest. She stood on bold feet, never swaying in her stance both politically and physically. Her hair started black but transitioned into purple near the tips, and then there were the thumbholes chiseled into all her sweatshirt sleeves. Her look put me off as much as her personality. I was a strong Christian, with loyalty to God and my church friends, and she was a witch for Chrissake – No. No friendship was possible.
It turned out that we had most every class together – honors kids tended to travel in packs around from class to class – so, I had to be friendly. Soon, my church friends learned of my proximity to a true pagan and questioned me about it. Suddenly, my loyalty to God required me to make a connection with her, to be a good example, to minister to her. Sure, I said. Leslie participated in the theater club, and I had recently joined as well. That, plus the parallel schedules, and some of my new acquaintances crossed over with hers… Sure, I could strike up a friendship – as long as I maintained my loyalty.
It started at a mutual hang out, Apples to Apples and charades served up with soda and chips. Common ground was the best strategy – discuss theater… then talk about classes… move on to God. I mentioned my home life, my Mom, my Dad, my brother, my sister, and she chuckled. No siblings for her, divorced parents, and her father was now a woman. My tongue fell out of my mouth in awe. I had never known anyone like her. I invited her to church, and she said fuck no. She said God was probably a woman anyhow, and she could not be a Christian. You’re all homophobes who are probably gay and racists who lust after black people. I grew shy. She backed off. I backed off. And suddenly, we had lots to talk about.
I played my first game of strip poker with her, though no one in the group had the guts to go completely bare. We all ended at boxers and the equivalent and then redressed with our backs to the circle while others snuck glances. We could not get naked, because then, nothing would be left to do. And there was no alcohol, we did not drink together, so that was not a factor. I had to leave the party early to go to church the next day, so I did not stay for round two.
Months later, she invited me to her house – just the two of us. Hot tub and a movie. We ditched the plan early and made a better one. Let’s drive to the Jersey Shore for the night. So many reasons to say no – it was already midnight – driving curfews – low cash – over two hour drive. But we said yes.
The vacant boardwalk quaked from the lapping waves. We sat on the railing overlooking the ocean, deciding how to proceed. The stars poked brightly through relaxed clouds, and we had two different explanations for their existence. The same with the waves, the rhythm, the tides and the moon, contentment and torment. We argued about science and philosophy, and after minutes or hours, we decided it was both – and no, that was not impossible.
Let’s go fucking crazy. She threw her fist into my spine. Let’s sleep on the sand until the first signs of dawn. We wrestled on the beach. Then we’ll drive home like hungover college students. We shed clothes and swam but had forgotten towels. We’ll be totally blameless. We lasted 45 minutes before the gnats ate us alive and drove back home with the windows down to keep from falling asleep. I was fifteen minutes late for church and forewent coffee. I did not need it. My mind buzzed with the most immediate nostalgia. I longed for a time only two hours passed and feared I would never feel that way again.
I stopped inviting Leslie to church, and she did not mock my faith. The details no longer mattered, because we were so similar. Common ground stopped being a mission and grew from a loyalty between us.
Pastor Hank looked me in the eyes after the second praise break and gripped my hand too hard. Did you drink last night? I hadn’t drank and told him so, but he didn’t believe me but had no proof. He told me he would not tell my parents, and I needed to be careful from now on. I thanked him for his loyalty.