Sunday, April 28, 2024

Not Even Not Zen 351: Biomythography - Note 92: Strange Bedfellows, Part IV

Strange Bedfellows, Part IV

Revival Unvisited

"So can we go somewhere?" I said. "I mean, together?"

Normally, it was hard for me to ask girls out. We stood in the swimming pool in neighboring lanes, though, and I was aware I looked trim and strong - at least the strong part. She leaned toward me. She had been flirting with me for a month. She seemed to enjoy pressing her breasts up against my chest or my back.

As a summer swimmer, she was fine. She had a good looking body. Her face was nice, too, blue eyes, brownish hair, and a smattering of freckles. Better, she had been grabbing onto me, pretty aggressively, at every excuse for the past two weeks. This was a case of me liking her but not having a crush, yet. Meanwhile, she had a crush on me that even I could see.

It seemed safe to ask her out.

"Where?" she asked. I had expected an outright 'yes' but she posed a reasonable question. Her open-mouthed, expectant smile was real. She kept leaning closer. We almost touched. It was me who leaned back a bit.

"A movie?" I guessed. Leaning back let me look her in the eye.

She nodded. A moment later, though, her grin faded. "I"ll have to ask my parents."

"Okay, yeah." It should have been an obvious thing but I hadn't expected it.

"They haven't let me go on a date before," she explained.

We were both fourteen. I hadn't thought of it as a date but that was partly because asking for 'a date' seemed paralyzing. Now I guessed she was right and a date was what I wanted. There was nothing wrong with us going out, even if our parents had to drive us.

Besides, we'd be alone at the movie, at least. And theaters were dark. I might be able to get a kiss before the show. Or after. Or something, anything. She would have to find a way to ask her parents, first. I had never seen them at the swim practices but from her talk about them, I knew it would be difficult.

Three days later, as I read a book in my house, the phone rang. My mother answered, as usual, The tone of her voice softened after a few seconds. I could tell she was speaking to someone she knew. Out of curiosity, I stepped out my bedroom door and walked to the foyer. My mother put her hand over the receiver.

"It's for you," she said.  


"It's a girl from swim team."

By the time I accepted the phone, I knew the voice to expect. She had never called me at home before. I was happy to hear from her, though. The sweet inflections of her speech sounded like her flirting in the pool. We exchanged friendly gestures for a few minutes before her tone grew more serious.  

"I talked to my parents," she said. "They don't want me to go to a movie. But they said I could ask if you'll come to the revival tent with me next week."

"What's a revival tent?" My heart sank. After I asked the question, I felt like the answer couldn't be good.

"You haven't been?" I could practically hear her eyes growing wider.

She spent a few minutes describing a baptist tent revival to me. Her minister was a hell-breather of sorts. His sermons were long-winded and strong on the element of damnation. At the end of it, we would all get baptised again. Well, for me it would be the first time.
It sounded awful. I tried to find a polite way to say no and I think I succeeded. She realized I wasn't baptist of any sort and she tried to make conversation about our different religions. My memory of our words is blurred, though, by my swirl of emotions and concentration outwardly on her feelings, inwardly on my awkwardness and, oddly, on my determination.

There was no way I would be willing to go to a revival tent. And it was not a date.

Later, my mother would tell me the girl had been very brave. I hadn't realized it until my mother mentioned it but, of course, it must have been tough to make the phone call. When we saw each other next, the girl and I did talk about religion, just a bit, but she blushed and changed the subject. Within a week, we were back to flirting again although at a bit of a remove, emotionally. She had to concede I was not a soul she was going to save.

She was the first young lady to offer me romance at the price of religious service. But she was not the last. Later, another high school girl would try to save me and, later, another. And after college, another. Although there should have been more temptation, I could never bring myself to pretend to any religion. Instead, I learned to be more out-in-front about who I was socially, sexually, and religiously. Although the best part of that had to wait for college.

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