I told this story almost a year ago, over in Alise’s space. It’s a bit of story I have been thinking about a good deal lately, and I wanted to share it again, here with you. Blessed Feast of the Annunciation, happy birthday, Flannery O’Connor, and all my love to my Alia-joon.
I paced outside the party, pressing the phone to my ear, desperate, the way you are when you’re nineteen and nothing matters and everything matters. My longtime best friend was telling me about going through confirmation class, that she would be a part of the Roman Catholic Church come Easter. I’m not even sure if she was inviting me or asking me or what, but I was grinding my jaw so hard I’m certain she could hear it on the other end of the line.
You see, Catholics, had faith—maybe–but faith misplaced. They were, well, theatrical at best, conjurers at worst, which was most of the time.
I was grieved and shocked, as we had walked similar Charismatic-evangelical-tongues-afire paths together. She was the one I looked to for cues and signals, whose faith shaped my own.
And now she was going somewhere I couldn’t follow. I was already feeling a little lost in my own doubt, but now I felt left to fend for myself.
[You might note, here, the shift in focus, the real place of concern.]
I didn’t go to her confirmation; it wasn’t even a question in my head.
I was so angry at the guy she was dating at the time, this man who drank beer (gasp!) and talked saints (double gasp!) and brought her to this new church. I was sure to let her know.
Then a few years later, I found myself in a pew with a friend who drank gin and talked saints and brought me to a new church.
[She had told me once, patiently, that there was a distinction between doing something for someone and because of someone, but it wasn’t until I saw my own life that I understood.]
The details were quite different, but the scene looks similar. Similar, at least, to someone who doesn’t hear the whole story, who doesn’t even listen well to what she has in front of her.
Several months after I start attending the Episcopal church downtown, I steal a fry from her plate and ramble a bit,
“I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen well. It must have been lonely. I should have trusted you.”
I should have trusted You, too, I added quickly in my head.
We hadn’t talked much about that rough spot past, though we had effectively build a bridge over it. But saying it aloud, pointing to the hurt helped to heal something more whole, more than our other patchworked clumsiness.
I don’t know when the change came. A big part of it had to do with actually learning about the Catholic Church, and I think the rest had a lot to do with my own lonely in-between space of pilgrimage. A few fingers pointed at my would-be motives, a few people handing me distorted images of my transition. The echoes were deafening.
Something about walking a mile in another girl’s shoes.
This story still ends a bit mixed-up, though.
“A Catholic and an Episcopalian walk into a bar” sounds like the beginning of an interesting joke, but mostly it’s just reality as we’re often found toasting to ten years of friendship these days.
We’ve learned to be more tender with one another when it comes to faith, and yet somehow more honest. There’s a good bit we don’t agree on, but that’s the part we submit to Trust. We know we can take it now. It’s a give and take that’s stronger now than it ever was.
She tells me to go to confession, with all her heart; I talk with her about lady-priests.
She tells me about the days she can’t bring herself to church; I tell her about the days all I can bring is myself, to church.
We both talk about weeping at the Altar rail, how much we like Papa Frankie and Flannery O’Connor.
She’s the first person I called to shout Alleluia! to after Easter Vigil, while it is yet dark in the rest of my town.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!
Last month, in a heart-stopping, confusing car wreck, I totaled her Hyundai in the middle of the interstate on a Saturday afternoon.
Her tears streaming, my head swelling, I apologized again and again, dazed.
Alternately, we each kept saying we’re alive, we’re together, it’s OK. We’re alive, we’re together, it’s OK.
As Kevin The Very Nice Tow Truck Man told us,
“Things can be fixed.”
She calls me this week, overly excited, to tell me about the Bluetooth and stick shift and hatchback her new car sports. I laugh nervously, still wincing at the whole ordeal.
We start to plan haphazardly the road trip that will move me to North Carolina at the end of the summer, and I’m a little shocked she is willing to risk getting in a car with me again, that she’s willing to risk any of this again.
I blink my tears into the bright, bald Texas sun, thankful that over the years, nothing that was damaged was irreplaceable, nothing was broken that couldn’t be fixed, nothing hurt that couldn’t heal.