Part 4: My Short-Lived Life at Being Perfect (More on the Inspiration for Jim from “My Life as I Knew It”)
Although my first trip back to New York was a blast I couldn't wait to get back to Orange County to see Jim. In Life, As Is Brianna hops into her car as soon as she gets back from the trip and drives directly to Craig and Roseanne's to see Jim while he's working and they kiss for the first time. In real life I was never that bold. I couldn't even get the nerve up to call him. He did call me, though and from then on we spoke every night for at least and hour. My parents weren't happy about this as Jim was considered a bad seed within the church; until now he didn't attend meetings regularly and never went out in the preaching work and worst of all, he wasn't baptized. In the JW faith, if a member is not baptized and shows no interested in doing so they cannot be classified as an actual, serious member of the JW's and should not be looked at as someone to associate with in a friendly manner, much less in a dating scenario.
Needless to say, I couldn't have cared less about any of this. Not only did I not have any long term plans to stay in this religion but Jim was an all around great guy who I liked a lot. He was never in trouble with the law, he wasn't a drug user and didn't go around hurting people. I wasn't about to start judging a person by how often they went to church or preached "the Word."
Rumors started spreading through the congregation that we were interested in each other during one of the weekend assemblies that took place twice a year. (No, it wasn't the one where I did the skit of the girl who practically ruined her life by getting a job and moving out of her parents house; this was before that.) If you haven't yet read part two, the JW's have assemblies a couple of times year where about ten or more congregations meet at a hall to listen to lectures (or talks) about their doctrine, armageddon, etc. They're normally about two full days long.
He and I were spotted by a lot of people simply talking and laughing with one another but, as is usually the case, bored people like to talk and stories get exaggerated. What made things worse was the fact that since since Jim hadn't been involved with the church for some time, he was doing a lot of catching up with other members he hadn't seen in a while. Since some of these members were female, word started getting around about what a supposed player he was. Imagine that? A good looking nineteen year old kid who enjoys talking to girls! Maybe he was flirting, maybe he wasn't; at this point, we were teenagers simply getting to know each other. However, that type of behavior is not acceptable in a strict religious organization that allows dating only for the purpose marriage and not for fun. I had no idea if things would go that far with Jim, I just wanted to enjoy whatever it was we had going on.
It was during this weekend when Jim learned that I was related to the head of our congregation (the Presiding Overseer). I'm not really sure what he thought about that as we never discussed it. I'm sure he wasnt very comfortable with that, though. Not only was my uncle very well known within the JW organization, as I mentioned previously, but he was also a very intimidating presence. Not a warm person, to say the least. I never felt comfortable around him as he had the vibe of someone who could snap at any second and with only the slightest provocation. So even though he was family, I made a habit of keeping my distance from him. When it came to my budding relationship with Jim, there was no doubt in my mind that he and my aunt were going to contribute to everyone elses objections and possibly make the situation worse between me and my parents who would unequivocally start riding me harder about this.
Jim and I spent more and more time together as the weeks went by. He had a great sense of humor, was a huge animal lover just like me, and awesome kisser. The first time we kissed each other was after his mother had me over for dinner. When he and I walked out to his car in order to drive me home at the end of the night he leaned and kissed me. I'm not going to lie, I didn't want the night to end. I don't know how long we stood by his car making out but the next day he told me that his family teased him mercilessly when he got home. Apparently, there was a long time lapse between the time we walked out of the house and when they heard the car engine start. During that drive home I sat close to him and he had his arm around me. He told me how his weakness was having his chest rubbed. Of course, I did that to him every chance I got.
The last time I saw him was at my parent's home. At this point I felt as if my parents were relenting a little; maybe they were opening their minds and allowing themselves to get to know him a more. Whatever the case may have been, I was happy that it looked as if I would be able to spend more time with him without being harassed. Oddly enough, I have a tough time remembering what exactly what we did the night that he was over. All I remember was at some point he and I walked down to the pool in the gated community where I lived and we sat on one of the beach chairs with a towel wrapped around us because it was chilly that evening. Looking back we must have told my parents that we were going for a swim when we actually just wanted some alone time and they were ok with that because who would crazy enough to have sex in a public pool surrounded by apartments overlooking it. (I'm sure there are some people who would do that but what are the chances?)
Anyway, we sat overlooking the pool and talked about our future; the different places we wanted to eventually travel to, how we hoped to someday own a home with a big enough yard to have all types of animals running around. At this age we had no interest in kids, that would be far into the future, if at all. The colder the evening got, the more we huddled together to stay warm. I do also remember that after he went home I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the night.
We spoke a couple times after that evening then two nights in a row went by without hearing from him. On the third night I called him and he wasn’t himself. He uncharacteristically snapped at me a couple of times and when I called him out on it he blamed his mood on not sleeping well the night before. I didn’t see him at the meetings and then another week went by without hearing from him. I decided to try calling one more time. He relayed to his mother, who answered the phone, that he’ll call me back in half an hour. We never spoke again.
I never did find out what happened on his end, although I sometimes wonder if my family, especially my Presiding Overseer uncle, had something to do with it.
(c) 2014 Brenda Thornlow
Brenda Thornlow was voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015. She is the author of the new fiction series My Life as I Knew It; the short story, The Revolving Door and A Godless Love. Available at Amazon. (Link below)
Follow Brenda Thornlow on Facebook
Life, As Is
Available for Kindle and Paperback
© 2014 Brenda Thornlow