Chapter Four / Back to School
A fifty thousand dollar settlement received from the accident paid in full for Faith's college expenses. I would sometimes joke if she stepped in front of a car again I could have mine paid for.
Faith would respond, "Why don't you step in front of a car?"
"I have a lower pain tolerance," I'd answer.
Our college friends were so relieved to find Faith had made a full recovery from the accident that summer. Everyone was also excited to hear the engagement news. Our friends encouraged an earlier wedding, but we were stable in our decision to wait until Faith's graduation only two years away.
Nothing was stated verbally, but I clearly made the point I was a keeper of my word when I paid off the ring giving monthly installments from my dish room job. It was a good feeling to know within myself that the ring on her finger was purchased through my efforts. The installment plan was only known between Faith and myself. I felt a new level of connection and trust was earned when the final payment was made.
Faith and I continued as friends with walks and talks. We could talk about anything. We could talk about nothing. It didn't matter. The conversation would sometimes cover school issues. I enjoyed the music class, but Faith felt the professor didn't care for her at all. Faith mentioned something regarding playing the recorder. It seemed to me like a silly thing to do in college, since I learned this instrument in fifth grade. Faith was not able to get the right sound out of it and the instructor made her disapproval public within the class.
If anything lit the fire under Faith's moral compass it was the insensitive humiliation of a student for all the class to see. The spark to this deserving protest was initiated when Faith was in kindergarten. Always being a "mover and a shaker," Faith was a foot tapper, a hand raiser, and a rear wiggler when it came to music. After an exciting school assembly, which Faith enjoyed tremendously, her teacher made a comment never to be forgotten.
"Everyone," declared the classroom teacher, "sat very still and did a wonderful job . . . except Faithy."
There it was. The statement that would be the billboard for Faith's lifelong pursuit. She knew right then and there her occupation would be a classroom teacher who would never cause the hurt she felt in that moment. "No teacher should ever say out loud to the entire class that another student was doing something wrong."
That evidently didn't mean Faith couldn't tell her friends about something I may have done to create distress in her day. I can not even recall what the argument was about. It was a Friday night and there was a big competition that both Faith and I were to attend the next day. Having Faith join in these competitions made the trip fun and helped dissolve my nerves. She was my cheerleader even though she competed as well.
Friday night, before Saturday's big event, ended in an argument by the school library. There was loud talking and angry feelings mixed with hurtful comments. Each of us had plenty to say with a final, "Here's your ring," as Faith threw something to ground. Faith left crying and I remained looking at the ground.
"Did she just throw her ring in the grass? I paid for that," I thought kneeling to the ground planning to immediately place my hand on the circle of metal which took so many months of work to acquire. "Why did she do that?"
The ring couldn't be found. I wanted Faith to see me franticly searching. She needs to see me on the ground in desperation with emotional anguish. Maybe that would soften her heart.
Did she think I would just leave it here? I couldn't see anything. It was dark. I didn't have a flashlight. I could get a flashlight. "Don't leave this spot," I commanded to myself. "Don't leave until you find it."
My hands drew through the grass like small rakes. "Oh, here it is. No. That's a pop can tab. It has to be in this general area. It wouldn't have bounced."
Thankfully no one came by. It would be embarrassing to have them help me find the ring my "intended" just threw to the ground. I know I was there for at least an hour. We wore watches then, unlike today. In between the hand raking and the "time out" moments used to fuel my anger, I found it. I squeezed that ring so hard I could feel the impression being left in my hand.
I stood up while my anger was greeted with another feeling; loneliness. "Did she mean this?" I wondered. It was late, but I had to call her.
"Grand Island," someone answered with the name of her building.
"Faith,please," I said.
"If this is Steve, she doesn't want to talk to you," was the answer. "This is Steve, right?"
I think she wanted it to be "Steve."
"Yeah, this is Steve, but just let me . . . " click.
That was it. I was not getting through "The Wall of Protection." Faith had her own team of "yippy yats" who were on security detail obstructing any communication from the cruel "Steve." Like a light switch my anger turned back on. I almost took the ring and threw it away myself. The ring was "saved" when I considered it's monetary worth of more value than it's meaning. The emotional attachment to this object had lessened from the image of Faith getting her swarm ready to sting if I got too close.
"This is crazy," I thought. "What were we even arguing about?" I couldn't remember then and don't recall now.
It was a long night. I had hoped the next day would bring a resolution. It had to. Faith and I were going to a "storytelling" competition and we'd be sharing time together in the van. I depended on her encouragement to help boost my self confidence in order to win another event.
"Grand Island," someone answered the next day.
"Steve, here. Could I talk to Faith, please?" I asked.
"Sorry, Faith is not available," was the response.
"But, we have an event today. I'll just see her when she gets in the van." I said.
"No, that won't happen. She isn't going. Bye," said the voice with a hang up of the phone.
Faith wanted to go to the event with me and call a "truce." Instead, she was told to stand firm from her "team of soldiers" who convinced her to ban me for a week. The "yippy yats" felt I needed to learn a lesson from an argument neither Faith nor I could remember the details of.
My storytelling ability was less than enthusiastic. I did not place on that Saturday. But Faith and I found our place again. The week was up. The ring was returned, never to leave again until a few years later when it was flushed down a toilet. Faith removed it to wash her hands.