Chapter One / Finding Faith
"Well, Steve. Have you made a decision?" the recruitment counselor from Sioux Falls College questioned.
I had, but it was a big step. I'd be leaving my home of Minnesota and travelling to an unkown location where I knew no one. The theater department was a pull and the scholorship was both flattering and helpful. I'd need to finance the rest. The books, the tuition, a loan which would need to be paid from an unkown source of income.
"Sure. I want to go. What do I do next?"
"Fantastic. Sign these papers and I'll get the next few things ready for you. Congratulations, and welcome to Soo Foo Coo."
Perspective of time has always played with me. Months flashed by like days and I was in the car with my parents on the campus hearing,"This is it," from my dad. Indeed it was. Now what? I didn't need a long good-bye. My packed bags were on the grass and the back of their car moving away from me made it clear . . . I am here. I think I stood frozen in the moment only to move when I consciously told myself, almost out loud, "Go, do something. Don't just stand there. You look like you don't know what you're doing."
I was always an actor. Constantly trying to appear confident. My thoughts reminded me I was only a slip up away from someone seeing through my performance. With acquired skills of a smile and practiced body language I became amazingly competent in hiding the real "kid;" unsure and uncertain.
"Are you new? You look new," came a voice from behind me.
I had hoped she couldn't see my heart beating quickly because I most assuredly felt the pounding in my throat.
Body language . . . pick up a bag of luggage to give the impression I'm on my way and knowing where that way is.
"I am new. How 'bout you?" I asked.
"I got here yesterday. It's going to be great. Are you in this dorm?"
"That's the one," I said with a smile and a nod.
I thought, "Did that look real? Did I convince her? Which dorm was she talking about anyway? There are two buildings close together. It doesn't matter. She just might think I misunderstood which one she was talking about. I'll just head over to this one."
With another small "don't overdo it" smile I said, "Catch you later." But what if she wanted to talk longer? Maybe she wanted me to be a friend. "Do you want to do something in an hour? I could meet you over there," as I pointed to another building which looked like the library. I wasn't sure.
"I'm here to study. I'm not here to make friends, and I'm not planning on dating anyone. Bye."
"What's your name?" I asked and then wished I hadn't. She already made it clear we were done.
"Marilyn, but don't remember it. I'll be in the library most every day."
I barely made out what she said since she didn't bother looking back while the words of "I'm not interested" poured out. I wasn't interested either. Just thought it might be nice to hang with a person to help give the appearance that I fit in and already knew a few folks.
"Okay. Whatever," I contemplated. "I guess I should look at a few papers in my bag from the school to figure out which dorm I'm in." I was shaken but not totally "shook" by my first encounter. I could do this. Just keep moving.
Days and weeks passed. I snagged a job at the school cafeteria doing dishes. It was fine for me. Something I could do on my own without much need for human collaboration.
Classes the first semester were okay. My past school record of "not such a great student status" was later explained by a needed therapist when I reached 19. Some sail through childhood with memories of adventurous events and heartwarming people. Some don't. I was a "don't." The cumulation of unpleasant situations and traumatic encounters created safety mechanisms which blocked out the ability to remember a variety of events.
God didn't create a troubled past to help me build a strong character. But I know God can use anything in our lives to direct us to productivity for His purpose. My lack of memory developed a strong competency for creative thinking. And the need for approval drove me down the path of theater where immediate praise is delivered after each performance. I was a very creative theater major at Soo Foo Coo.
My first "theater" class was in the second semester. I was very successful in "oral interpretation" in high school. I knew this class would offer positive moments in my comfort zone. The title for this class always gave me a "really?" We are going to interpret, or put our "take" on a piece of writing in an oral way. So, basically, we're going to read something in a manner in which we think it should be read. Possibly with enthusiasm, or not. Maybe a character voice or two, and of course; out loud. That's the "oral" part. What sense would it make to stand in front of a group and have them watch me read silently? Call it what it is; story telling. Simple. Anyway, I was good at it.
I noticed quickly one member of the class enjoyed my sense of humor. It didn't take much to get her to laugh. We enjoyed each other's company and often sat in close proximity when riding the campus van on the way to competitions. Surprisingly, she expressed genuine "congratulations" if I won an event; even if she didn't place. Faith and I, without direct intentions of doing so, became great friends.
I never had a sister. I never dated in high school. Faith was my first female relationship experience. We were not dating, but enjoyed each other's company. However, I made some major mistakes.
On the way to a "story telling" event in Minneapolis, I had a stroke of silliness. Faith was several seats back with her girlfriends. Sitting alone, I fancied to have a seat companion. Blame for the next event will be placed on the way her hair was combed or her selected apparel for the day; possibly a combination of both. In my innocence I pictured her as a cuddly puppy who most certainly would like to be favored with my attention. It was just a small whistle. A, "one, two, three," little whistle commonly used to call over a cute little dog.
"Did he just whistle at you like you're a dog?" her seat mate questioned.
I didn't. Not like a "dog." A cute puppy needing attention. My whistle was an expression of endearment, not belittling.
"Did you just whistle at me?" Faith asked.
"Like a cute puppy," I tried to explain feeling there was no hope for recovery.
Another friend behind Faith barked out, and yes I use the word "barked" with full knowledge of comparison to a large fearful breed, "He's calling you a dog. He's says you're a dog."
Faith didn't bother to clarify further or support my good intentions. She didn't see my good intentions. The only information heading into her ears for her mind to sort through was that of yipping comments, "Don't take that." "Who does he think he is?" "Can you believe it?" "We're all just dogs to him?"
Rays of light were not beaming through the roof of the bus, but my face felt sun burned all the same. I was an expert in bouncing back from social mishaps. But the combination of so many ill intentioned comments toward my behavior brought all of my recovery resources to a complete stop. I sat frozen facing forward only imagining what advice was being given to my friend. My only friend on this trip. My friend, Faith.
Arriving at the hotel everyone brought luggage to their rooms which was followed by a restaurant decision. The eating destination was held as a secret. The girls ran off before I could join them. Since I was the only "story telling" guy on this trip, the rest of this evening was to be spent alone. Why would Faith allow the "yippy yats" to convince her my expression was cruel, uncaring, insensitive, malicious, and unfeeling? I'm sure all those adjectives were tossed around. Once "yippy yats" begin, their bark only gets louder. The volume becomes so intense as to drown out common sense.
"What's wrong with a cute puppy?" I went to bed.