“I’m not what my father wants me to be… not who…not anything. He hates me. Just like you.”
“I don’t hate you, Tim….” Susan went to pull him back into an embrace but the boy shook his head.
“No…not you….He hates me because I’m just like you….” His voice trailed off as his eyes repeated the same quick inventory. Susan shook her head; wondering what he was looking at. Noorah noticed her expression and her gaze darted back and forth between the two until her eyes widened in understanding recognition.
“Like us, Tim?” Noorah said it softly; no condemnation or proud enlightenment, but instead a calm empathetic near-sigh that spoke to the boy’s heart. He nodded; almost wearily.
“He hates you just the way he hates us?”
“Us?” Susan said and it dawned on her exactly what Tim had been trying to share. It wasn’t at all like the stories she had read or even any of the dreams she imagined for herself nor for Noorah or anyone else for that matter. It was exactly the same pain and sadness and sorrow and almost helpless resign she had felt every single day of her estrangement with her father. It wasn’t about him or her or Noorah only, but about every person she knew who had struggled with the same rejection.
“I’m so sorry, Tim.” Noorah said as she rubbed his hand softly. Susan pulled him close. It crossed her mind to ask him a thousand questions, but he didn’t need to explain himself; he…. the person inside needed a friend to hold that inner being since no one else on the face of the earth would…at least for the present. She asked one question only; an understandable curiosity that she had witnessed in others when she first told her friends who she was.
“What’s your name?”
“I don’t have one….” It was all too freeing and painful at the same time. What should have been a joyous occasion became instead a moment of sad reflection; that feeling of being unworthy and unloved that had never crossed Tim’s mind since he was or had at least tried to be what his father demanded. But there had almost been no time for the newness and wonder of self-awareness as his heart had been crushed by his father’s angry demands.
“I think it’s okay for now if we just call you dear or honey, okay?” Noorah said. Tim looked at her and half-smiled before dissolving further into a tearful renewal mixed equally with sadness and joy.
“It’s okay, honey. It’s okay…”
Love is patient and kind
U.C.C., late February, the student lounge……
Two young women sat with a young man; each trying to look hopeful and while looked apprehensive.
“You …you need to connect, honey.” Noorah smiled, but Tim turned away. Susan reached over and brushed the dark hair from his eyes; it had gotten quite long and almost pretty in an unkempt sort of way. She sighed at the thought that after all this time the girl she had begun to know still had no name.
“Did you contact the therapist about the group support?” She asked. Tim shook his head no.
“My therapist is out of town for the month, but I bet she’d do a sliding scale.”
“I don’t have any money. And I can’t stay at my cousins’ house any more. My uncle and my Dad decided it was best if they didn’t enable my delusion. No job either. He managed to convince my boss that helping me would only hurt me, and since he’s on the church board…” Tim put his head down and barely kept from crying as he continued.
“'Hound of Heaven,' he calls it. I’m being hemmed in so that I stop sinning.”
“That’s a nice adage without a shred of truth,” Noorah said with a frown. She looked away as if to gather her thoughts, but as she turned back Tim had already stood up. He practically bowed to the two before speaking.
“I’m sorry…I’m such a fuck up. I can’t even do me without screwing it all up. I’ve… I’m back home. And I’m sorry…” he turned and walked quickly out of the lounge. Noorah turned to Susan and saw that she’d started to cry.
“I…I feel so helpless…, Noor…. It’s…it’s like watching someone die.” She put her head down and began to weep; mournful with only a bit of hope that the dear one they both loved would somehow be resurrected. Noorah reached over; her eyes glistening brightly through her own tears.
“I know…. I know.” It was small consolation, but it still became a comfort as Noorah squeezed Susan’s hand.
The McKenna home….a few days later...
“We’ve already discussed this, Tim.” Pat looked up from his Bible to see his son leaning against the door frame of his study.
“Dad…please?” The boy plead. If Pat had taken the time to really listen, he would not only have gathered the intent behind the words the boy spoke, but the person behind the intent. He gathered neither and continued anyway.
“Your Mother and I have been going to counseling, and I expect you to join us tomorrow afternoon. You may be nearly twenty, but since you moved back under our roof and you’re still our son? I told you that leaving was going to fail. You just need to trust us, Tim. Stop striving and trust God.”
“I’m…" Tim stammered and Pat put his hand up.
“That’s enough!” Pat placed a post-it between the pages of his Bible before closing it. He reached into his desk and handed Tim a brochure.
“Sexuality and the Christian” it read. A well-intended if altogether ignorant and self-satisfied gesture, as if Pat had accomplished something instead of trying to actually have a relationship. He half-smiled, barely hiding his impatience.
“You’re just confused.” His tone couldn’t have been more detached if he tried. Tim took the brochure and folded it; putting it in the back pocket of his jeans without a word. Pat looked down at his desk as if he was an officer dismissing a subordinate.
The boy had already resigned himself to failure as his father remained motionless and silent. He backed out of the doorway and went down the hall to his room. Opening the door, he surveyed the room. Long idle pastimes seemed to taunt him from dusty shelves and posters. A baseball bat and mitt lay idle against the far wall by the window; still treasured but nearly useless as his body had become weak from self-medication and pharmaceutical adjustments best done with help from a sympathetic doctor. He recalled a favorite movie and laughed at the irony of his own failures.
“A league of MY own,” he thought as he placed his hand on his chest, evoking an odd and guilt-ridden feeling. He closed the door behind him and walked to his bed. Sitting on the edge he removed his Nikes and gazed at the only homage to his existence. Clear polish was better than none at all, wasn't it?
His hand went to his face; never fuzzy to begin with, he found that his cheek was smooth and soft. And what could have brought only a small comfort instead sent waves of shame throughout his being. He sighed deeply before throwing himself onto his pillow, where he wept until he fell asleep.
Saturday night…Nomhagen Park
A solitary figure walked up to a bench by the large pond. The young woman teetered slightly; owing more to her condition than to the heels of her boots. She sat down and pulled a bottle out of the paper bag sticking out of her large purse. She unscrewed the cap and took a long swig; her eyes watered and she spluttered a little before swallowing the rest of the mouthful. She looked around and noticed that it had gotten dark; much later than she had thought when she ventured out to the liquor store. She stared at the bottle and sighed.
“Good to the last drop,” she said to herself as she took another draught. She wondered if the clerk’s preoccupation with her was due to her dress. Clothing or the one clothed, it mattered little as she took another swig; longer and slower, the sting was lessening with every swallow. She stared at her lap; her skirt had ridden up and she found herself oddly lucid enough to be glad at the choice of dark leggings. She sighed once more and looked around; her head felt heavy and she blinked as if to gain focus on what was becoming a very dark night. Sighing one last time, she lay down on the bench and began to sob softly….
A while later...
The ambulance doors were swung wide open, awaiting their precious cargo. Two women had just placed the young woman onto the gurney and rolled it quickly to the back of the ambulance; shoving it in. The young cop continued to hold the girls hand before stepping out. It was the first kind act she had experienced in a long time. The girl moaned as the gurney slid sideways and banged into the cabinet lining the left side of the vehicle.
“It’s okay, honey…it’s okay…” the older of the two said; almost motherly. The girl looked up from her stupor; the drugs happily had little chance to take a lethal effect when she had vomited on the ground by the bench. She had actually tried to grab the bottle of vodka from her backpack when she passed out. The cop happened upon her about an hour later and called dispatch.
“What’s your name?” the younger of the two asked with a half-smile; relief gladly expressed after seeing too many young men and women in the back of their ambulance. The girl looked up, confused.
“What’s your name?”
“Tttt….” The girl gasped in a hoarse whisper; her throat already raw from bile and alcohol. The older of the two leaned closer; her ear almost touching the girl’s lips.
“Tttt….” The girl said weakly before she turned her head and began to cry softly.
“Sonofabitch!” The woman looked at her partner as the ambulance pulled out of the park and into traffic. The other woman stared at her in question until she finished.
“Her…” she paused, shaking her head; there wasn’t much that she hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years as an EMT, but this was a first.
“Her…oh damn...his name is Tim….”
The next morning, Faith Chapel, Scotch Plains
The church almost seemed to sway at the lively music from the singers on the platform. Liz McKenna sat in the front row; one seat over from the center aisle. She breathed out a heavy sigh and looked to her left at the empty chair. She shook her head; confusion mixed with guilt mixed with only a little self-justified assurance as she wondered about the lie she had told Pat about Tim's absence.
One small fib about his absence paled in the shadow of the mammoth lies to herself about her own family; she didn't even know where Tim was for starters and it probably didn't really matter to Pat. She barely noticed as he stood up and walked to the platform and nodded with a smile at the worship leader. The young man nodded back and stepped off the platform and down to the front row, sitting opposite where Liz sat by herself.
“Isn’t God great?”
His exhortation was met with nods and shouts of amen throughout the congregation, oblivious to the drama being played out in their midst. Liz looked up and squinted; a questioning expression that Pat missed entirely as he began his sermon.
“It says in the book of Matthew, ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’” More nods and quieter murmurs of amen; agreement was a good thing, wasn’t it? He continued.
“We have not because we ask not….We can go to God for anything because he’s our Father, and he cares about us.” Liz bit her lip and looked away; ashamed and scared. Pat continued.
“But asking for just anything isn’t in his will, unless what you ask for is his will also. You can’t just go to God with a shopping list and expect to be satisfied.” He held up a medium sized pad and pointed to the writing on the page.
“And if you’re doing what is contrary to God’s will…his written Word… you’re not going to get what you want or if you do it won’t make you happy at all.” He smiled with a bit of his own satisfaction over how well his sermon was going.
Liz put her hand to her face and covered her eyes for a second; that foolish gesture we all do when we hope that when we remove our hand that everything will appear normal and good. She pulled her hand away only to see her husband’s self-satisfied half-smile as he actually stared at the empty chair next to Liz. Her eyes followed his gaze and she looked at the seat beside her before getting up and walking to the side exit. Instead of trying to get Pat’s attention, she stared back at the empty chair; the not-knowing was the hardest. She sighed deeply before walking out as Pat continued.
“’Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.’”
She heard his voice echo as the hallway speakers broadcast his message. She stopped in mid-stride and balled her fists up in frustrated anger; not at Pat but at the irony that accused her and convicted her as she remembered her only child and wept at his absence.
Next: Love never gives up
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.