Friday, April 1, 2011

Part 49: Surprised By Joy

"To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."
-C.S. Lewis

It was a warm, dry January when school started again. The soccer field and Neutral were not their normal vibrant green. Noticeably absent was the daily afternoon shower that usually rolled in between 3:30 and 4:00. Water shortages were already beginning to be a problem around the city.

We took advantage of all this warm weather by playing football, Frisbee and Red Rover after school. The football games were played with no pads or helmets, 12 to 14 players per team, all on the field at the same time. Other than the quarterback there were no set positions, everyone was a linebacker and a potential receiver.
We'd play with abandon, crashing in to each other like some medieval horde, without regard to potential injuries. Clothes were torn, lots of cracked skulls, bloody noses and bruised ribs.

We played Red Rover the same way. One day I was sprinting across the line when I was grabbed from behind. I wrapped my arms around a tree and tried to pull myself across. Someone grabbed one leg, somebody else grabbed another, lifting me off the ground, trying to pull me away from the tree. Then a third person peeled my hands off the tree. I slid down the tree on my face, the bark peeling away strips of skin from my nose and cheeks. Jack and Jaime helped me to my feet. I thought I was down only for a second, but when I got up Neutral was mostly empty, the opposing team having vanished. Where did everybody go?
"Well, you know, people are kind of scared of you"
I didn't know what to make of that, I guess I had been a little intense lately.

Brent was competing in the annual week of citywide
PRISSA games and the whole school went down to watch. Basketball, soccer, track and field events were part of the line up at Burnham Park. Mario Sarmiento and Peter Naylor were especially talented in the track and field events and we whooped and hollered every time they took the field. Peter was from New Zealand and liked to compete barefoot which endeared him to the local mountain men.

After the competitions ended for the day we would wander about downtown, shopping or getting something to eat. Some days there was enough time to catch a movie before I had to be back on campus. We would go as a group and one day I found myself sitting next to my former girlfriend from my very first year at Brent, who now was a Sophomore. Her friends were trying to hook us up, but it was a casual friendship; we hung out together, she made me laugh. That afternoon while watching
The Return of the Pink Panther she reached out and took my hand in hers. Still a little gun shy, I wasn't sure about this, but I was surprised to find that after four years my hand still remembered hers. In that round about way that people do, we talked about going steady again, she wanted to, I was hesitant about entering into another serious relationship. I told her I needed to think about it and promised her an answer soon.

I was one of half a dozen science fair winners from Brent who would be going to the Regional High School Science Fair being held in the town of San Fernando. We loaded up the bus with our exhibits and headed down to the beach. It was anti-climatic for me, I got eliminated when the judges came through during the very first round of judging. That was fine with me, I could hardly concentrate anyway.

That night after supper I walked down to the beach by myself and watched the waves crashing on the shore. I thought about the girl and the decision I had to make, I didn't know what to do.
I was in turmoil, once again thoughts and feelings I thought I had left behind came boiling to the surface. I prayed for guidance, I prayed for peace of soul and mind, I prayed for release from my despair. The wind whipped about me as I paced back and forth in the dark; and then there on the beach a wave of joy passed through me.

No angel appeared, the heavens didn't open up, there was no burning bush, I heard no voices. But there on the sand, by the churning sea, time stopped for a moment and I was left with hope and peace.

In the morning I caught a bus back to Baguio. I was eager to get back home and see the girl. By the time I got to Brent the calm I had felt the night before had left me and I reviewed the pros and cons once again... I was going up the hill towards Ogilby Hall when it occurred to me all of a sudden. I could trust her. She would never lie to me, she would always be there. Walking through the locker room I saw her standing by the book store, talking with some friends. I slipped up beside her and she searched my face for an answer. She must have found it, because she smiled and took my hand.

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