Slyfoot said he was half deaf, half blind, and half crazy, but I didn’t think it was true. People say all sorts of weird things about themselves on the internet to try and make themselves sound interesting, though… I’m not sure all those particular ‘half’s’ are all that interesting as much as intimidating and kinda scary when you are a single mom.
I didn’t know Slyfoot, or Sam as I came to know him later, irl (In real life, for those of you not up on your textspeak). I just thought he was some gamer/hacker/computer geek who was way too into Linux and rosaries. I never really put it all together until we started talking in earnest–and that didn’t happen until after the dream and we were making plans to get married. By that time it was too late. God had already set things in motion.
I couldn’t blame him, I had given him permission. I’d invited him to in a flippant moment. Truth be told, I had practically dared him to. I didn’t think he’d take me seriously though, and I never imagined it would end up the way it did.
It all started, I suppose two years after my divorce. I was in my mid thirties. I had four children, but only the two youngest lived with me, Erin, my daughter, and Josh, my youngest son. My two older boys, Benjamin and Bryce, lived with their father in the same area we had all lived together: Katy, Texas. I lived in the northwest of Houston in a decent, inexpensive (relatively speaking), townhome apartment, struggling as a single mother still having a difficult time with my ex, even two years after the separation.
It was then my father told me to start dating. At this time, my father had been divorced three times and married four times–twice to my mother. I told him I would work on that, with no intention of doing so, refraining from telling him that he was the last person I’d take advice on romance from, or that I couldn’t understand why he and my mother decided to get back together. But… he was my dad, so I thought about what he said, and didn’t do much more than that.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons) we have Wards instead of a Parish. And instead of a parish priest, we have a Bishop. You can’t switch wards or bishops, as some people outside the church do, with some special exceptions which you’ll see later in the story. None of the clergy in the Mormon church is paid.
Temples are not like Ward buildings, where we meet every week to partake of the sacrament and attend Sunday School and auxilary meetings. They are sacred places where ordinances are performed that not only tie us to our families for eternity, but draw a glimpse of heaven a little closer. Only worthy members, those with a recommend, are allowed in the temple. To obtain this recommend, members have to adhere to the Word of Wisdom–a guideline to a healthy, God directed/centered lifestyle–pay their tithing–1/10th of their increase, be interviewed and found worthy by your bishop (the one I said was like your parish priest) and your stake president, who is a little like a Bishop of the several parishes in his district.
It wasn’t long after that that my bishop, Bishop Slack, told me, in an interview for a temple recommend, that I needed to start dating. I laughed nervously and told him that my father had said the same thing. I made no commitments and didn’t do anything more about that admonition than I had my fathers.
When I went into the interview with the stake president, I didn’t expect much small talk. Stake Presidents have even less time to themselves, and more appointments to get to, than bishops. It was a bit of a surprise then, when we started with the obligatory small talk on how my life had been–the trials of single motherhood, how hard that is in a ward full of functional, intact families–that I needed to start dating.
I laughed and decided that I better take the advice before one of the Twelve Apostles called me. I didn’t want to take a chance on getting all the way up the chain to the prophet.
I started to take the idea of dating seriously, and tried to be open.
While I was trying to put together in my mind what I wanted from a potential husband (something I never really did when I was young) I kept writing and stayed in contact with most of my family and friends through email, livejournal (the precursor to “blogs”) or instant messaging.
I was writing a lot at the time. It was a good diversion from feeling sorry for myself in my situation, being angry at the ex, and trying to adjust to being a single mom. I was delving into scifi, something I hadn’t really done before, and my first serious forray was a short story called: A Rock and a Hard Place. I posted on my livejournal and it went like this:
Richard “Rock” Klein
Captains Log 14.10.2665
Outside Uranus (isn’t that ironic)
Kerry Portsmith Station
Docking Bay 24
They say space is cold. But it’s not *just* cold. No one has ever really felt how cold it is and lived to tell about it. We know instinctively that anything so vast and so empty must be cold.
The irony is that all the things we spend time with while in space also make us feel cold and empty. We travel in cold metalic ships from cold empty space to cold empty space.
Machines have no disability like perception. Filled with Artificial Intelligence and hundreds of processors heating up their hard drives, they are still only metal and plastic. They don’t care if they sit in space or in a shipyard for twenty years. They do not desire warmth and companionship. They just exist.
If you have one of those new bioships it might feel a little more like a horse than a cold lifeless THING, but in the end, it’s still a machine. It gives out as much personality and intelligence as an animal and it only lives to fill it’s purpose. It knows exactly what it should be and do. There is no goal for a spaceship to one day be a station. It is what it is and will never be more.
We try to fill the spaces with ego or warm it with personality. Those of us who spend so much time in space hardly know what exaggerated bravado is. We believe the lies we tell ourselves. We believe all the fantasies we create about ourselves and the things… and people, we love – or maybe it’s just ‘want.’
I’ve given up trying to tell the difference between love and desire. I just want warmth.
We leave a planets atmosphere to be greeted by a sheet of black with pinpricks of light. There is so much empty blackness between each point of light, that space seems cold even without feeling the temperature drop. We spend much of our time trying to make it feel warm and filled.
The ship is cold and empty this morning, but it won’t be tonight. Tonight she comes.
Three years ago she warmed these halls. It was three years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. No one has ever turned me on, out and completely neutroned me like Sam did. We were good. No. That’s a lie. We were slammin’ fantastic. I know how good it can be between a man and a woman.
That’s why I hate her.
You might look at the logs from six years ago and come to the same conclusion I did: She could be a cold hearted bitch.
- .. a cold hearted bitch is better company than an empty starship.
It was just a little story told using the method of narrating from a captains journal, but there was a reply from someone who had never replied to my journal before and the comments after the story went like this:
Slyfoot: Hey, I’m a Sci-Fi fan!
You’ve really got me interested in what happens next!
I really am interested, it’s not just ‘coz it’s the polite thing to say.
Me: I believe you. You don’t normally drop me ‘polite’ comments just to tag my LJ, so I appreciate the attention. (and I’m serious about this story, so it’s good to have someone to help me gauge if it’s still interesting).
Slyfoot: Yeah, keep at it! Maybe you’ll be the next Orson Scott Card. :)
PS: I have a Star Trek tattoo, too, lol.
Me: Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.
Writers, especially unpublished writers, love their readers. So I went over to slyfoots journal to check it out and see what this guy was up to. He was one of Steph’s friends. Steph was my oldest friend on livejournal. We met when I was in high school and she was probably the only person on earth who detested my ex more than I did at that time. She was in the Navy at the time and moved from place to place, making correspondence difficult. I’d set up her livejournal for her so we could stay in touch over the long distances.
I had friended Slyfoot because I was friends with ALL of Steph’s other friends on livejournal. I hadn’t paid much attention to him. My icon was a watercolor painting I did of my eye as a ‘self portrait,’ mostly because it was (I thought) the prettiest part about me and the only good portrait I would ever get or take.
Sam’s icon was a blue infinity sign on black background. I didn’t even really have a picture of what he might look like in my head. Maybe a geek. Just straight up geek. His language was really clear, not full of slang or textspeak, and when he threw in an interjection, it was usually “wow!” or something really basic, so I thought he was probably a pretty good egg. A straight and narrow sort of guy, especially after I perused his journal.
Slyfoot’s livejournal was a mixture of philosophy, debate, humor and rosaries. Rosaries? Yes. Rosaries.
I had never seen anyone so interested in rosaries. Sam (ie Slyfoot)was clearly Catholic, but I had lots of Catholic friends and relatives who never talked about rosaries at all, let alone on their blog. If I did a Google search on rosaries, I could find dealers, makers, crafters and sellers of rosaries, but not a blog all about someone’s personal collection.
Maybe it was a Catholic thing. Something Catholics only talked to other Catholics about the same way that Mormons generally only talked about temples to other Mormons (unless asked about it).
Sam’s journal was a mixture of philosophy, debate, rosary commentary, and humor. The irony of his rosary collection in my eyes, was that his philosophical musings were often so very Mormonesque.
I was taking an internet creative writing course at the time, and Sam’s replies were even more enthusiastic than my writing instructors.
After his first reply to my creative writing post, I was starting to pay attention to him, you can never have too many beta readers, especially ones that LOVE your writing.
The week after he responded to my scifi short, I posted the first chapter in a baseball story I’ve always wanted to turn into a novel:
Baseball and a Red Dress
Being a sports star was everything that Bobby Browne had thought it would be.
He worked his ass off to get where he was. So much so that now he could appreciate the slow and lazy days he wasn’t on the ball field. He loved feeling the adrenaline rush of pre game jitters, the roar of blood in his ears as it rushed through his body, anticipation in his gut between innings and the din of thousands of fans. Hundreds of them would chant his name while he was on the pitcher’s mound. It was intoxicating.
Being surrounded by fans and autograph hounds had become almost normal since his appointment by Sports Illustrated as the “Rookie of the Year” for 1987. The rush of artificial love he got from fans gave him his fix when he wasn’t in a Dodgers jersey. He had ditched his share of gold diggers and sycophants, but his biggest fans were always prepubescent boys with mounds of baseball cards who he was always willing to oblige with autographs.
His life was good. It was a dream come true to work with giants like Fernando Valenzuela, Tommy Lasorda, and Ron Cey.
Today he was on the starting roster. Tying snow white laces into his cleats, he felt the familiar flash of adrenaline and anticipation.
Today they faced the Cardinals.
He picked up his glove and started to head toward the dugout, trying to clear his mind still filled with the memory of the girl he’d slept with the night before. He couldn’t remember her name. She was an actress with blonde hair and perfect breasts. That was as meaningful as he wanted it to be. Adventurous and eager, she knew what to do. He felt no guilt.
As he wiped her from his thoughts, he made a mental note to pick up a new box of Trojans.
His habits had gained him the ‘playboy’ moniker, but he didn’t care. He was doing what he loved. He hadn’t changed. He still had his friends.
His oldest friend Rich was an orderly at LA Memorial, and determined to be a plastic surgeon after his residency. Sam loved when Rich hung out with him. He’d tell all the fan girls exactly how much a nose job cost and if Sam gave the signal, Rich would give the gory details of how it was done.
Before he tied his cleats, he went through a mental checklist. Had he gone through all of his ‘rituals’ for a home game? He called his mother, forgot to brush his teeth, put fresh shoe laces on his cleats. Only one thing left: A kiss from a random blond beauty in the stands. On the cheek would do in a pinch, but it had to be a blonde.
He’d tried a redhead against the Yankee’s and gave up two home runs. He tried a brunette against Houston and gave up a grand slam, which in all fairness to the anonymous beauty would have never happened if Guerrero hadn’t fumbled that fly ball. He wondered what Pedro had been smoking that day.
His cleats clicked on the cement as he walked to the dugout. He could smell the polluted but familiar California air. Smog mixed with the clean smell of freshly damp infield dirt and newly trimmed grass. He emerged onto the field to look for his blonde when a voice caught his attention. He turned toward it.
She’d barely changed since high school. Maybe her taste in clothes was finer, and damn her for wearing his favorite color. She was still petite and classy, and her Dodger blue dress showed off plenty of long leg. His eyes followed her legs down and then up again. No leggings. In school she always looked like Debbie Gibson, with short girly skirts, leggings, and cute little matching hats. He half missed them, but was glad to see more of her legs.
Memories of high school came flooding over him. She’d tried out for the boys baseball team every year. Every year she blew them away. Every year she was turned away. He never understood why she kept trying. It was so her. So futile yet full of optimism. She was perfect and beautiful in the most poetic way possible. At least she was to him.
He never could manage to speak to her. He may have been captain of the team and one of the most popular guys in school, but he couldn’t say a word to Elaine. He could never make his mouth work properly when she was around.
He was popular, wanted, but intimidated by one very curvy, slightly tomboyish, perfectly perfect girl. If only she knew what he thought of her. If only she knew all the times he stood there staring at her as she walked away, her shoulders squared and confident. If only she knew that her smile made him giddy, but she didn’t know and he couldn’t tell her.
He supposed, deep down, he was a coward. He knew that no matter how much richer his father was than hers–he was a Browne, after all–that he didn’t deserve her.
His family may have owned the Browne Lux hotel chain, may have been important, powerful and more influential than a small town politician and his family, but every dirty job and secret it had taken to get there made Sam feel unclean. There were so many dirty secrets in his family that stole any respect he might feel for them.
Aside from that, he knew that he hadn’t come close to earning as much respect from her as she had earned from him.
And then… there was Jay
He laughed at himself, standing there staring at her quiet and classic beauty. This was just like high school. And just like in high school, she hadn’t noticed him.
Ron, the public relations manager glanced over her shoulder at Sam. “Elaine,” he said pulling her around. “Have you met our rookie of the year?”
She turned her big brown eyes to Sam’s. He sucked in a silent breath, feeling like he’d just been punched in the gut. That smile. That bright ass smile that made him feel like there was nothing but hope and light in the world. Her smile faded, but he smiled back anyway.
Ron’s hand closed over her arm urging her forward.
“Actually I have,” she said, extending her hand to him. “Hello Robert.”
“Bobby,” he corrected with a tight smile. He shook her hand, looking into the slightly melancholy brown eyes. He recalled the last time he had touched her. The first time he had touched her. It was at school, after she and his twin brother Val had argued hotly over nothing in particular. Bobby had grabbed her by the arms and told her not to antagonize him. He was dangerous. He remembered the fear in her eyes and the sheer frustration of knowing she didn’t understand that he was just trying to protect her. The dimmed smile was evidence she still didn’t.
“You look wonderful,” he said with a small laugh. It was so true. If she had been bright and beautiful at school, she was glowing now.
“You do, too!” she said, giving him a genuine smile as her voice raised in that happy tone that had filled the halls in high school.
“Elaine is the lead singer of Kapaya and the Poodle Bombs,” Ron said grinning.
Each time he saw Ron smile like that, Bobby knew that Ron loved his job. The PR Agent wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “You heard their hit single?” Ron didn’t wait for an answer, just pressed on, pulling away only to touch her shoulder again. “One of the guys in the band said her dream was to sing the national anthem at a Dodgers game.” He grinned again, pushing her arm playfully. “She’s going to sing today.”
The way his hand kept touching Elaine irritated Bobby like an itch he couldn’t scratch.
“Gary just wanted free press seats,” Elaine said smiling down at Sam, but he noticed the embarrassed blush on her cheeks. He noticed all these sorts of cues from women. Blushes, lashes fluttering, touches, glances, hair flips, nervous feet. It relieved him to notice she wasn’t giving any of those cues to Ron.
He remembered how ‘touchy’ she was in school, her hands always doing half of the talking for her. They didn’t move at all now, and Bobby noticed it.
Ron was getting nowhere.
Ron started to sing a few notes from the song and Bobby wracked his brain trying to remember if he had heard it. If it was popular, played at a club or party, he should have, but he never paid much attention to music. He regretted that now. He opened his mouth to ask what her albums name was when the pitching coach barked his name. “Browne!”
Bobby looked back at his coach. Damn! What timing. He wanted to keep talking to Elaine, watching for cues. And… he couldn’t start without his kiss.
Elaine. He looked back at her. She had gone back to talking to Ron when he was distracted with the coach. She was a blonde.
“I need a kiss,” Bobby blurted at her. She turned her attention back to him, her eyes quizzical as her perfect brows furrowed to meet over her unconventional nose.
“You played ball,” he continued. She knew what he meant, she knew you had to have this and that and socks and … whatever. He would keep babbling just to get that “what the hell?” look off of her face. “It’s a ritual. Tradition. Before the game, you know?”
Her eyes lit up in recognition and understanding. She leaned over the railing, pulling him closer by the D on his jersey. He turned his head so she could kiss him on the cheek when her long fingers turned his chin back. His eyes were still opened when her lips brushed over his.
He stopped breathing.
For a moment he forgot that he could have any beautiful woman, single or not, here at the ballpark today. This… This was perfect.
His eyes closed.
Warmth spread from his lips and out through his body. The relatively chaste kiss should have meant next to nothing to him. He’d had hotter kisses from hotter women. But the warmth running through him assured him that this kiss was different. Since he was fourteen he knew that kissing her would be different. He just didn’t know it would be so good.
His life would never be the same. He knew it after the first time he saw her, all tomboyish with a glove in her hand, freckles dotting her nose and he knew it now, even with all signs of the tomboy gone.
“Browne!” The bark of his coach shocked him back and he blinked his eyes, looking into hers.
He could see the soft fog in her big, amazingly beautiful, brown eyes that she felt something, too.
“Don’t leave until I can get back to talk to you again,” he whispered. He didn’t noticed how low his voice had gotten, but he did notice goosebumps raising over her arms.
“Okay,” she whispered back.
Damn her perfect lips and the way they pursed when she said her “o’s”.
He was tempted to steal another kiss, but superstition stopped him.
To lose may be worth it for a kiss like that, but to lose in front of Elaine was something he was unwilling to do. He wanted to kick ass. He wanted her to know he could. He wanted to prove that kiss was a no-hitter kiss. All of that and he wanted a reason to come back and kiss her like a winner.
And that was all there was to it
Sam’s reply to that post was very gratifying:
Slyfoot: Holy crap.
I dunno who you are turning these things in to, but you have a talent for storytelling. I might not be a literary critic, but I’m a voracious reader, and I think you have a knack for making people want to know what happens next.
And I’m not even a huge baseball fan.
This stroked my ego in all the best ways. It encouraged me to keep writing, and help feed that need of constant approval that all writers share.
At that point I figured it was probably time to get to know him. He was obviously a great judge of writing and anyone that wanted to read what I wrote was worth regular contact. I jumped onto his livejournal and took a look around.
I added him to my instant messenger list on yahoo and we started sporadically chatting. He asked if I was interested in meeting him if he came out to Houston. I said sure, after all, I was still trying to at least go through the motions of being open to dating, as per the directions from all the patriarchs in my life. I didn’t think anything would come of it. Sam wasn’t a member of the church, though he seemed like a very attentive Catholic. He smoked. He drank coffee. He was a bachelor. Those were all very big strikes against him.
It didn’t really matter in any case. I posted a ranty, upset post about my ex husband and my oldest sons being ugly to me and Sam stopped talking to me. I hadn’t noticed, really. I just thought it was one of those things. People make plans and they don’t follow through. I always followed through when I made plans, and I never made promises I wasn’t pretty sure I would be able to fulfill, but I knew that wasn’t the case for everyone. At this point in my life, I really didn’t expect much of men. Men had let me down many, many times.
All the good men were married, of course. That was okay at the time, because I was still single and I was getting plenty of attention from the other males in my life. It was no good envying the good families in my ward, I would just try to be happy with what I had. It wasn’t too bad at the time.
The professor was kissing my hand, the good friend was taking me out to lunch and telling everyone how impressive I was, and I even had an old friend from high school masturbating to my short stories, making sure to call me and tell me about it when he was completely stoned.
It was more attention than I had when I was eighteen, even though I wouldn’t have even thought of dating any of the men currently paying attention to me when I was a young, virginal Mormon girl.
I obviously was an idiot at eighteen, because I married the first man who told me I was beautiful. The irony is I don’t think he ever liked me. He didn’t believe in true love, and he told me later in our marriage that he married me because he thought I would make a good mother.
He told me I would never find anyone to date me at my age (in my mid thirties) before we got divorced when things were going badly. Well I showed him. I dated plenty of guys! All of them horrible disasters.
I dated friends. One of my first dates repeatedly told me about the evils of masturbation, and no, that wasn’t the old high school friend–what was it about me that made guys want to talk about tossing off, I have no idea–which pretty much put an end to both our dating and made the friendship a little more awkward after. I didn’t feel too upset about not hitting it off with him. He was from Gyana and I think we just were having a clash of cultures that I didn’t care to try and resolve. He was tall, black, athletic, terrific accent with a deep voice, and handsome, but there just wasn’t enough between us to make me interested in getting deeper and pushing past awkward conversations that might be perfectly normal in other countries and to people who were self medicating.
I decided that was a balk. It didn’t really count. It was just an accident of timing.
My good friend who lauded my writing at a lunch date at Chili’s went with me to an action movie and had I known there was going to be a sex scene, and I was going to feel like this was the last thing I wanted to be seeing with this particular friend, I would have picked Disney flick instead. I realized, as I inched away from said friend during the very hot scene, that I could not think of him that way.
That professor that kissed my hand, I had a massive crush on. He was a music business professor. He was smart, witty, obviously had a great job, and drove a Mustang. Plus he loved music. Win, win, right? Wrong. I found out why he was single when I we went on the date. We couldn’t use his car because it was full of uncorrected paperwork from school. Looking inside his nice black Mustang, it was clear he didn’t have a file system, not even boxes. Everything lay on the seats. So we took my little four door Chevy Malibu.
We went to my company’s Christmas Party, where he used all my drink tickets (I’m Mormon, so I wasn’t going to drink). Didn’t dance with me at all, kept flirting with other women, asked them for cigarettes (even though he didn’t smoke) and then had the nerve to ask me for a couple of dollars to buy something at the bar (probably a drink for some other lady). My mental recap was something like this: Single professor at a College asking the single mother for money while flirting, getting drunk and ignoring his date? Will I repeat this? Um. No.
I tried online dating after that, going straight to LDSSingles.com. I had my requirements, of course:
1) Return Missionary (RM in church lingo)
2) Full time job
3) NO bachelors
From everything I heard from other friends who were in a similar situation as I was, bachelor’s just couldn’t handle the kids and instant family, and it seemed best to just stay away from that.
I met a guy online. He made me laugh. He made me feel like I was pretty, witty and desirable. He was a return missionary. He had kids of his own. He was working full time as a trucker. My ex was a trucker, but I couldn’t possibly write off all truckers because my ex was an arse, could I? Of course not.
We made plans to meet in person. I was really excited, and I felt pretty good about myself. This was it, I thought. This would be a *real* relationship. Before we had a chance to speak on the phone, he told me in an instant message chat that he had something really important to tell me.
I braced. I honestly thought he would tell me that he had once been a woman or something crazy like that given my recent experiences with men, but it was worse. He told me he wasn’t divorced yet. He said he owed back child support. His checks were being withheld until he was right with his support. He told me other things and I realized that I had just fallen for someone EXACTLY like my ex husband.
That’s when I gave up.
I didn’t pray, I just shouted it to heaven, my hands outstretched. “I obviously suck at this,” I said. “YOU can pick my next husband.” I was talking to God, but I didn’t really think he would listen. I just wanted him to know I had given up on dating. I stopped trying and I told my home teachers, Brother Ward & Brother Chamberlain, that I had given up and told God he could pick my next husband.
I thought I was smart.
I thought I was witty.
But God is smarter, wiser and he proved it to me by trapping me in the middle of a maze of my own design.
I had a dream.
Dreams are rather important in my family, and to Mormons in general. Sometimes they are just dreams, of course, especially those ones where you have to pee and sit on the toilet and can’t go, or all your teeth fall out, or worse, you end up naked in front of people at work.
But sometimes… they are important. Very important.
Jacob dreamed. Joseph was a dreamer. Isaiah. Prophets in the Old and New Testament. Sometimes that’s the way that God talks to you. It’s not always clear what he’s trying to say, but it always seems pretty clear that he IS trying to talk to you.
That’s what my dream was. I had it three times. I know when I dream something more than once, I will keep having the dream until I tell my dad or one of my brothers about it and get some feedback on it.
I called my dad on the way home from church with my oldest son, Ben, my daughter Erin, and my youngest son Joshua all in my wonderful Silver 2006 Chevy Malibu.
My dad isn’t very talkative. He usually answers my calls with “What’s up, Princess?” and that’s the way he answered while I was driving down Woodway toward I-610 in Houston. I remember it like it was yesterday.
We aren’t really much for smalltalk, my dad and I, so I got right to the point.
“Dad,” I said, “I had a dream. In this dream I was in the Bering Building, where my Ward meets. You were at the door, handing out umbrella’s saying: “If you go outside, take one of these. It’s stormy outside,” opening the door for everyone as they left. Josh, or a toddler that looked just like Josh, was playing with skittles or MnM’s, picking them up off the floor in the chapel. I was sitting in the foyer and Ken (my ex husband) was arguing with me. I decided to stop talking to him, but he kept on arguing with me until my bishop came to him, Bishop Harris, and whispered in his ear. I don’t know what the bishop said to him, but Ken left. Then the missionaries came to me and said, “Robert is looking for you. You need to get in touch with him.”
When I was finished telling my father the dream, he told me to let him think about it and he would call me back to tell me the meaning, so I hung up with him. It was then I noticed the look on my oldest son’s face as he rode in the passenger seat.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“Dad had a dream where your bishop talked to him,” Benjamin said, looking a little bit shaken. “He told him that it was the end and it was time to leave.”
“Wow,” I said. “It must be an important dream then.”
We drove back home, got out of our Sunday best and later my father called back. He had interpreted the dream to mean that it was important to stay connected to the church. He said Ken’s influence over me was at an end and Roberts was about to begin. Robert was looking for me, not just looking for me but already in love with me-or interested in me. He said I already knew this person. He said it was a person I had met through missionary efforts, or someone that would be influenced by the missionaries there in Houston.
It all seemed to make sense, though I didn’t know anyone named Robert except a guy at work who I definitely wasn’t going to get involved with. We went to lunch once or twice together–this Robert at work–and he never looked me in the eye.
I was tired of being alone. I was eager to get over and through this phase in my life. So I started looking for Robert…
How we met, by Sam:
When I first met stephcon, I was an agnostic. In case you don’t know what “agnostic” means, basically an agnostic doesn’t know whether or not there’s a god. And a lot of agnostics, including me, don’t think that anyone else really knows either. An agnostic can be a believer or an unbeliever. At that time I was slowly drifting toward unbelief.
Anyway, stephcon (Noelle’s friend Stephenie, from high school) seemed to like and relate to the posts I made in the agnostic community on LiveJournal. LiveJournal is a social networking site where people can post ‘journal’ entries, making it rather like a diary that you share with other people. My online name was (and still is) “slyfoot.” In around 2005 or 2006, stephcon and slyfoot became friends on LiveJournal.
At the time I was interested in Christian “apologetics” which essentially means a rational defense of the faith. It has nothing to do with apologizing or being “sorry” about something. But instead of arguing “for” Christianity, most of the time I would argue “against” it. Like I said, I was drifting more and more toward unbelief, and I was not shy about letting people know I didn’t really believe in Christianity.
But around 2006, a friend named Pam in the apologetics community on LiveJournal really got me to thinking. I felt like I missed something really important in my life. And I remembered how much I loved the Narnia books. I remembered how much I loved Aslan. And if you pay close attention to the Narnia stories, you can see a lot of parallels between Aslan and Jesus Christ.
And… I missed him. At that point I didn’t really miss Jesus, but I missed Aslan. To me, Aslan was the epitome of goodness, and I associated him strongly with faith. I associated Narnia very strongly with heaven. And since I missed Aslan and Narnia so much, I broke down and asked God to come back into my life.
Now from an atheistic point of view, this simply is not rational. There is no logical progression between “I love Aslan” and “I believe in God.” But I decided to make an intuitive leap, what Kierkegaard calls a “leap of faith.” And I decided that even if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected, I would try to live like He had been raised from the dead.
Do you remember Puddleglum from “The Silver Chair”? When the witch was trying to convince the children that there was no Aslan, this is what Puddleglum said: “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
Well, that’s how I felt when I asked Jesus to come back into my life. My head could not decide whether it was reasonable to believe in God or not. But, in my heart, I really wanted to. So I decided to live like Aslan (and Jesus) was really alive in my heart.
I was really aimless at the time. My life didn’t have much of a direction, and I didn’t really have any goals. I was living on Social Security and I didn’t care about being rich. I did care about making progress in my life, but to me success or progress had nothing to do with becoming richer. I also had a lot of nervous breakdowns. I was diagnosed as schizoaffective, which was supposed to be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. But although I didn’t realize it, I was also causing myself a lot of problems due to obsessive thinking and poor sleeping habits. At that time, the Internet was my whole life, my whole world, and it was pretty much the only thing on earth that I cared about.
I re-joined the ‘christianity’ community on LiveJournal. There were a lot of arguments in there, but I would usually try to tell jokes to lighten things up. I still didn’t think anybody really knew if there was a God or if Jesus was still alive.
One odd thing did keep eating at me, though. Many years earlier, a travelling “prophet” had come to my parents church, and I had been there. The “prophet” delivered a prophecy over me, which I could not really hear or understand at the time. So I asked for a transcript of the prophecy. It was really interesting and it said that I would be established as someone of influence. It said that I would be known as a “father” in the house of God: not just a physical father, but a spiritual father. I thought it was a good prophecy, but I wasn’t really sure I believed it.
In around 2006, a random stranger on LiveJournal sent me a message. She said that she was a friend of stephcon, and she had added everyone else on stephcon’s friend-list so would it be okay if she added me? I said ‘sure’ without really thinking about it, and added her back. Her LiveJournal name was ‘swampfaye.’ And that’s how slyfoot met swampfaye.
At first, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to swampfaye. She seemed very negative and bitter about her divorce. She was also very upset and hurt that her two oldest sons had effectively shut her out of their lives. At some point I gathered that she was Mormon, and although I didn’t know a lot about Mormons, I was pretty sure that it wasn’t “real” Christianity (whatever that means).
But one day one of swampfaye’s posts caught my attention. It had nothing to do with her divorce or being Mormon or anything like that. She posted a short story. It was a science fiction story about a spaceship “captain” named Rock, and a woman named Samantha. I was intrigued by the story. I really like science fiction. I liked it so much that I even got a Star Trek communicator tattoo. So that was what really made me decide to ask her if I could chat with her on Instant Messenger. She said okay.
We didn’t talk a lot. Every now and then, when I had nobody else to talk to, I would send her a message. I found myself babbling about all kinds of far-out science fiction ideas, like parallel realities and the Q-Continuum from Star Trek, Next Generation. She was really fascinated by the “prophets” on Deep Space Nine. While we didn’t really seem to have much in common religiously, I noticed that we would both mix our science fiction ideas with our religious ideas.
I remember the first argument I had with swampfaye–whose name, I learned, was Noelle. The argument was over the Oracle of Delphi. I argued that the Delphic Oracle was simply making vague prophecies which could be interpreted in more than one way. But she argued that God could call people from non-Christian religions to be prophets too. And since my favorite author, CS Lewis, had said something similar, I grudgingly conceded that she could be right, even though I still think that the Delphic Oracle was a phony.
I really did not ‘connect’ all that much with swampfaye other than our talks about science fiction. I even felt like there was something that put me off about her. I felt like we had a clash of personalities, that we didn’t really ‘click.’ But at that point I was pretty lonely, and I was pretty sure that Noelle wasn’t faking being female.
One day while Noelle and I were chatting online, I blurted out that I was interested in coming to visit her in Houston. At that point I really was. But I was poor, and a trip to Houston would have cost me a lot of money on Social Security, and I wasn’t really sure it would be worth it. To my surprise, Noelle said it was fine if I came to visit her.
But as I continued to read her LiveJournal posts, I stopped wanting to visit her. I didn’t want to get involved with a bitter divorced woman. I had already had a relationship with a divorced woman who had been very bitter toward her ex, and I didn’t want those kinds of problems again. So, I didn’t really make any plans to come visit Noelle.
But one day (and I’ll never forget this) Noelle sent me a message that really pierced me. It was a desperate cry for help. She ended with this line: “I can’t do this alone!”
Well, if she couldn’t do it alone, I thought, then maybe she was looking for someone to do it with. And if that was the case, why not me? And I seriously began to think about visiting her again. I wanted to see what she was like in person, because sometimes people seem different online than they do in real life. You can’t always learn everything about a person just from the words they write.
I wondered if she was cute. At the time I thought she was blonde. I don’t know why. The only picture I had seen was her icon, which was of an eye. Sometimes I would feel like that eye was looking at me, straight into my soul, straight into my heart. It was kind of spooky.
Religiously, I had begun to evolve. Although I had converted to Catholicism in 2002, I didn’t really feel very Catholic. My roots were Pentecostal and Assembly of God, but I thought there were many erroneous teachings and practices in those churches. I was trying to find out which was the “right” Church. Not just the right church “for me” but which one was closest to the truth, if any.
At that point I had gotten interested in the Eastern Orthodox and their practice of hesychasm, which is a lot like meditation. I was particularly interested in a book called “The Way of a Pilgrim” and the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer was very simple: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I would pray that a lot.
I noticed that when I did chants, mantras, or repetitive prayers that I would start to feel better. I would use rosaries and mala beads to keep track of how many times I had prayed or said a mantra. I even managed to quit smoking for about 3 months just by using my prayer ropes and mala beads. I really felt like I was connecting with God, or the Universe. At any rate, I usually felt more serenity when I practiced prayer and meditation.
But I was still unstable mentally. I would hear voices all the time, or think that ‘presences’ would come into my head. I don’t like to think about it, but I was seriously mentally ill.
One day I thought I was talking to “God” only “God” looked a lot like George W. Bush. “God” asked me what I wanted, and I said “I want a wife.” Of course I didn’t really know if this “George Bush” presence in my head was God or not. Anyway, I told “God” that I wanted a wife, but at that point I wasn’t really thinking of anybody in particular.
A couple of weeks later, Noelle told me about “the dream.” She can tell it better than I can, but it is the most important dream in our relationship. It’s the one that brought us together. In the dream, she said that someone named “Robert” was looking for her. Her dad had interpreted this dream, and said that this person was already in love with her.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. But then I realized something: Before I had been adopted, my name was Robert. I almost didn’t tell Noelle this. I sort of felt like if I told her this, I would be manipulating the situation. I remembered that she said she couldn’t “do it alone.” And I was lonely. By that point we really liked each other, and I think we were both looking for some kind of confirmation that we belonged together. So I told her that before my name was Sam, it was Robert.
I still remember the golden chills that ran up and down my spine and moved like tendrils of electricity throughout my scalp. This was a very powerful moment for both of us. Noelle was stunned, because it seemed pretty clear to her that her dream had been leading her to me. And, at that point, I believed it too. I really did. I know it’s not “rational” in any terms that an atheist would accept. Even most theists would probably dismiss it. But, to us, it seemed very clear that God was bringing us together.
I also told her about the prophecy that had been given to me many years before. All of this seemed to point to us belonging together. When I try to think about it all “rationally” I can pick holes in it. But I think that sometimes our intuition can lead us better than our rationality can. Sometimes the heart is wiser than the head.
So we began to make plans to get married. Neither of us wanted to have a long, drawn-out dating period. Around this time I asked her for a picture. And, yes, we had talked about me flying out to Houston and getting married before I even knew what she looked like! So she sent me a picture, and my heart melted. She called the picture “A Smile For Sam.” It was the most beautiful smile ever, and it was just for me. It is still my favorite picture of Noelle.