On a snowy night in December, I looked up from a short story written in German. I couldn’t remember anything from the last few pages. I sighed and rolled my head around to relax my shoulders. Stretching out on the bed, I let the book fall across my chest.
How long had I been rereading the same paragraph? Dr. Eberhardt had assigned the selection for German class as an example we could study before crafting our own compositions, the semester final project. From what I struggled through so far, the story seemed interesting, but I couldn’t get lost in it like tales in English.
It was after ten and my eyes were heavy, but my mind was too full for sleep. The infighting in CSF had only gotten worse, and attendance sharply declined. Would the group survive the internal controversy? Too, I wondered how could I repair things with Kirsten, who hadn’t spoken to me since my birthday. And most importantly, what was I going to do about Brad?
We’d come closer and closer to having sex, and I still didn’t know if I was ready. In the heat of the moment, I told myself that God didn’t care what we did. But if I really believed that, why did I always feel so guilty after we fooled around? Then again, if we’d done “everything but,” as Brad liked to put it, what difference would it make if we did this one more thing?
I set the book on the adjacent desk and scooted off the bed. I took out a notebook. Perhaps I could channel these swirling emotions into the cathartic release of writing. Once the words hit the page, I could walk over the fears and worries they represented like Alice in Wonderland did to the deck of cards. Maybe I could even use my German-English dictionary to turn it into raw material for my assignment.
A bleak wilderness covered with impenetrable shadows stretched before Mathilde. She picked her way through the thorny landscape, but no matter how carefully she moved she could not avoid the stinging pricks that wounded her heels and scratched her calves. Behind her was a frozen land, cold and deadened with snow and ice. Past the brambles were the shifting sands of an endless desert, a land different from the one she had left but no more alive.
I smiled grimly at the melodrama of those sentences. Even if I could begin to translate such drivel into German, I wouldn’t make Dr. Eberhardt read one thousand words of that. I crumpled the page and threw it away.
I dialed Brad’s number. “I’m so stressed I can’t think straight,” I said when he came on the line. “Do you mind if I walk over to your place and just hang out for a while? I could really use a shoulder massage and some mindless TV to help me unwind.”
Of course he didn’t mind. As I walked the streets of Elkridge, I sang my new favorite show tune from Jekyll & Hyde, giving a bravura performance to the trees. A nearby community theater had put on the show and Brad had surprised me with the soundtrack after taking me to see it the week before. “Bring on the Men” had caught my ear. Each note rang out in the clear wintry air. I relished the bawdy, naughty fun of the lyrics. Life was so much sweeter when I embraced my sensual nature.
It was suddenly all clear. My pleas for protection from temptation and redoubled efforts at purity never worked, not because I was a worthless, wretched sinner, but because God simply didn’t care whether or not I got hot and bothered. God created me with the ability to become aroused. It didn’t matter one whit to Him whether it was because of a dream I had, a story I read or the way Brad touched me. Maybe God even smiled at me delighting in His creation. The Bible’s warnings against fornication and lust must have been for another time and place, to protect a fragile and backward society.
The line of thought was growing more compelling, but I still felt misgivings about letting Brad have his way with me.
Brad met me at the foot of his street, handsomer than ever in his Elk River letterman’s jacket. We walked hand in hand the rest of the way toward his basement apartment, snow crunching underfoot. He took my coat, sweater and gloves and had me sit in front of him on the floor. He began to massage my shoulders.
“Holy stress ball, Batman, you really are tense. Why don’t you take off your shirt so I can really get into these muscles here? There now, just relax and let it out. What has you so worked up?” he asked.
I sighed. “It’s CSF. I hate to see what’s happened to it. Everyone’s taking sides with Becky or Ewan, and attendance is way down.”
“It kills me to see you like this, so down, so tense. Why don’t you just quit?”
“How can I quit? I made a commitment to them.”
“You’ve done more than enough for them, is what I say. It’s kind of overkill to have twelve Cowhands or whatever anyway. It’s no big deal if you lose one resume builder, right?”
“I guess,” I sighed.
“Here, why don’t you come and sit on my lap so I can reach these knots in your lower back better,” Brad murmured in my ear.
As soon as I landed in his lap the massage was forgotten. We slid into a series of passionate kisses that ended with him lowering me to the couch. The lyrics from the song I’d been singing echoed in my head. Why wait another minute?
“Hmmm?” came his muffled reply as he started to nuzzle my neck.
“Let’s not stop this time.”
He pulled us into a sitting position and held me at arms length. He searched my face as he took my hands in his. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, babe.” He kissed me tenderly and led me to his bedroom.