Monday afternoon, Brad and I set out on foot from campus to his basement apartment, his hand always on my shoulder or at my waist. Before leaving campus we stopped to kiss in the gazebo at the edge of the lake.
When he was alive, Opa liked to retell the story of his courtship, which centered in part on this very gazebo. “Back in my day, couples who were sweet on one another would go to the Spoonholder to exchange a few innocent kisses. Folks called it spooning back then, you see. Legend had it, if your sweetheart kissed you there three times, you were fated to be married. Your Oma, well she was sorta superstitious about things like that, so I made sure we stopped in at the Spoonholder at least a dozen times before I finally popped the question.”
I smiled at the memory.
“Mmmm … I love your smile,” Brad said. “It might be one of my favorite things about you.”
I smiled wider. “Is that right?”
“It’s true. It makes me feel so good to know it’s just for me.” He took my hand as we exited the Spoonholder. We headed across Lakeside Drive to one of the back streets that led off campus, me chattering about my upcoming birthday.
As we approached the foot of the hill that led to his place, Brad said, “There’s that gorgeous smile again. Ian or Jonas couldn’t make you so happy as I do, right?” He lay heavy emphasis on the names.
I stopped in my tracks. “Why bring them up?”
“Don’t you think they’re interested in you?”
“Ian? No way. He’s just a friend. And I just met Jonas.”
“Forget I said anything. I just don’t like that you spend so much time with other guys. But if you tell me I don’t have anything to worry about, I guess that’s good enough for me.”
He kissed me again, and I responded as passionately as I could as if to prove he was the only guy for me.
“That’s more like it,” he said. “You know, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but some of my frat brothers tease me about not going all the way with you. They even called you an Ice Princess, but I told them to knock it off. Besides, we both know how sensual you really are.”
We both know how sensual you really are. Brad’s words echoed through the rest of the week. Each time he kissed me, each time we embraced, I prolonged and intensified it to prove he was right and his frat brothers were wrong.
In a matter of days, we were back at the point where I had started to get uncomfortable before summer break. While watching TV together one evening in the living room of the German House, Brad’s hand found its way up my shirt. I moved it away, but only reluctantly. The more time we spent kissing and caressing, the more I wanted.
Thursday at Bible study, Sylvie joined Jonas, Breanne, Brad and I. We continued going through the materials Breanne had printed out, and they raised more questions than answers for me.
Was it really possible that gays were hidden in the Bible, and portrayed in a positive light for those with eyes to see them? If supposedly black and white standards like homosexuality being an abomination could be misinterpretations that referred only to temple prostitution or cultic sex or fertility rites, then could it be that it was OK for me to go further with Brad?
How far exactly was too far? Friday I spent all my study time online researching sexual ethics, hoping to find a persuasive argument that would give me permission to go further. Instead, I found an article that could have been written by my high school youth leader Jolene. “The standard is absolute purity.”
I was so far from pure. Not only was I fooling around with Brad, my mind was filled with salacious imagery from the erotic stories I couldn’t seem to stop myself from reading. I continued to ignore the little voice prompting me to find someone to talk with about it. Who would want to hear something so disgusting? Why embarrass myself if it possibly wasn’t even a sin anyway?
Saturday I walked down to the grocery store on Main Street. It surprised me to see Breanne hanging out near Lori’s checkout stand. Were they getting back together?
Sunday Brad invited me to go with him to visit the Catholic church he had attended in high school in Exeter. Jonas Manning was there with his family, his wiry black curls slicked into a part, adam’s apple protruding above his tie. After church, Jonas stood talking with a pretty blonde. I went to say hello, Brad trailing behind.
“Hi, Jonas. Who’s your friend?” I asked.
Brad answered before Jonas could even open his mouth. “This is an ex-girlfriend, Wendy. Wendy, Giselle.”
I shook her hand.
“Jonas told me you were here,” she said to Brad. “Couldn’t stay away from your old stomping grounds, eh?”
“Something like that. Well, we’ve got to go. I’ve been craving omelets and they only serve them in the dining hall until noon.” He pulled me by the hand out of the church as I called out hurried goodbyes.