Solar Eclipses, Thumb Oranges and My Future Wife

In 1991, I was a depressed guy whose friends had all graduated a semester earlier. I spent the summer working for the Bethany Bible College registrar, Carmine Wilson, sending out transcripts, and filing, and generally getting in trouble for overstepping my bounds. I was lonely, and the summer had been a hot one, for Scotts Valley, anyway. I had roomed that summer on the bottom floor of Burnett Hall with an angry former-Teen Challenge graduate who complained loudly that I wasn’t a good witness for the Lord if I didn’t make my bed every day.

Early that winter, the US had invaded Kuwait. We were mostly sure the war was all about oil, but the war was all over before we had much to get upset about. I spent loads of time in prayer. Maybe it helped. Maybe much prayer stopped the war. Or maybe it was Colin Powell.

The last several months, I had been attending the Felton Presbyterian Church with my friend Carrie Robertson. Since we arrived together (she was the one with a car–a tan Pinto she called Putt Putt that barely ran), and parted together, most of the church assumed we were a couple. We weren’t. She was more like an overly-earnest sister. At some point, I took the role of music director for the Sunday morning services at the church. Due to my background in “charismatic” churches, they were starting a service with a more contemporary feel. They paid me $50 a week.

I read several books that summer, and tried to at least pick up the bestsellers to keep myself occupied. Loves Music, Loves to Dance, by Mary Higgins Clark, and Chutzpah, by Alan Dershowitz. I wanted to make something of myself I guess, because my friends had all moved on, and were doing things.

There was a solar eclipse that summer. We all made little pinhole eclipse-viewing devices. It was sunny. Then the sky went a deep, deep purple, and it almost seemed like night for about an hour. It seemed auspicious somehow, and matched my mood.

Carrie was the last friend to leave, sometime that summer. Her parents sold me Putt Putt. I didn’t call it that. I think I called it Tan Piece of Crap. It had Personalized Plates: “James1:12”.  The verse was from the Bible, “ Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” I kept the plates. Her parents also gave me $25 and a case of oil to take it away. I needed both. Carrie moved to Los Angeles, to be with the rest of my friends.

Then, in August, came New Student Orientation NSO. Every Fall, Bethany hosted a 3-day love fest for new students. I shouldn’t have been so down on it, because it was a wonderful memory for me, when I came to Bethany as a student in 1987, but 5 years later, I was jaded and wanted nothing to do with all the hype. Working for the registrar, I was required to collate new student packets and hand them out to students, so they could select classes and whatnot. We were in the auditorium in the Williams Building, and Carmine hadn’t arrived yet. I was standing there with a couple huge boxes of packets.

A student, entertaining all the others who were patiently waiting, took the stage and began an impromptu bit of standup.  He pointed at me and shouted “Look everyone! It’s Dan Quayle!” Everyone laughed. I fumed. It took me years to forgive him. I was wearing my best suit.

Little did I know, my future wife was in that room. I’d meet her a few hours later.

I was starving. And angry. The cafeteria didn’t charge for meals during NSO so I thought I’d pop in for cheesburgers or whatever. They had recently removed a redwood tree from the corner of the cafeteria. Students were lined up next to the stump, waiting for the doors to swing open at 5 o clock. I was standing on the stump, chatting with Debbie (who was a Resident Assistant and one of the few people in line that I knew) When I met Judi. She was clearly a few years older than the other kids, had close cropped curly hair, and looked, I don’t know, professional. We began chatting there. I knew her brother. When she came to the Campus Days event earlier that year, she had stayed in the room of my best friend Stacey. She was interesting, and smart. I didn’t feel quite so lonely anymore. I chose to sit and eat with her. Or maybe she did, with me. I liked her at once.

An old roommate joined us. It was pleasant at first, but then he got annoying. He was rolling an orange across the table at me. I rolled it back. He rolled it toward me again. I wanted to just be alone with Judi. I rolled the orange back again. Can’t he take a hint? He rolled it toward me again.  I jammed the orange onto the end of my thumb like a giant popsicle. Then I discarded it. I might have discarded my old roommate too. At least Judi din’t leave the table. My old life really didn’t matter. I had to move on. I realized at that point, I wasn’t all that lonely anymore. And I never really would be again.


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