Chapter Two / The Accident


Faith and I continued as friends throughout my first year in Sioux Falls. Many journeys took us on walks to various locations since a car was not in our possession. Movies, shopping, talking, and laughing consumed our time together when not in class. The laborious task of studying did not often interfere with our schedule since neither of us spent much time doing that.


"Do you have anything else in your wardrobe?" Faith wondered.


"What do you mean? What else do I need?" was my comment while taking a glance at the day's apparel. It all looked fine to me. I had these pants since high school and they still fit.


"Maybe we could find a few things at the mall. It's up to you," she clarified.


It didn't sound up to me. But good friends try to help one another and evidently there was potential improvement with pants.


"Sure, I get my check from the dish room this Friday." It wasn't a big check, but enough to find a few selections with Faith's nod of approval.


There was a natural growing closer in our trust in each other. We weren't dating in the definition of a mutual agreement in which our association could lead to something more. This gave a freedom when we were together without future expectations or attempts to "win one over."


In addition to college credits successfully earned, I ended the first year with a new friend and several pairs of pants. The summer was going to be spent at home in Minnesota. Faith ended her second year, being one year ahead of me. She was also going to spend her summer in Minnesota with relatives, not far from my location. We didn't speak of or specifically arrange for any type of summer connection. Our intent was to say "hello" again when returning to Sioux Falls.


Faith worked as a waitress in St. Paul. It was brought to my attention she was in an accident when getting off the bus to continue her walk home. Excited about playing tennis with friends, she quickly walked across the street not judging the distance and speed of an approaching car. Faith was too slow and the car was too fast and they greeted each other with a "thud." Faith flew over the hood and onto the street.


Throughout the 1970's and 1980's "ambulance service" was replaced by "emergency medical service" to reveal a change in simple transportation to a system that provided medical care. Faith's care fell in between these two levels of service. She later described the intense pain as the ambulance attendants placed her in the vehicle. The first attempt should have been to stabilize her to prevent any movement of her head, neck, or body. Where was the neck brace? Instead, just a simple lift to the cot and in the ambulance she went.


At the hospital Faith was clearly indicating her level of needed treatment with screams and expression of extreme pain. An attending nurse stated, "Mam, if you don't calm down I'm going to need to cut off this uniform."


"Cut it off," Faith screamed. It was only a ten dollar waitress uniform which could be easily replaced.


From being told to "calm down" to the discovery of broken bones including a fractured pelvis, it was clear the medical staff did not correctly assess her degree of injuries on their first encounter.


One day, during Faith's three week hospital stay, I decided to pay her a visit. My feelings for Faith had moved beyond friendship. I wanted to step into her room with a grand theatrical entrance. The hallway would begin with a dim light increasing in brightness until a form could be seen walking through. My heroic and romantic arrival would be surrounded with music giving the message of being able to save eternity in a container so that I could spend it with the one I loved. To accomplish this I would have Jim Croce following behind me singing "Time in a Bottle." I didn't have money for this, but my theatrical background gave me an idea. I'd dye my hair from brown to black. It would give me more of a dramatic and important look.


It was too expensive to have the process completed by a professional. How hard could it be? They sell the boxes. I bought a Clairol's one-step hair color for deep black. My mom correctly questioned, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I was sure. I needed to make an impression. There had to be something new about me when I entered her room. I was going for a serious, impressive yet mysterious look. I should have found a dark-gray canvas trench coat, but went instead for something more permanent.


After the smelly messy process the deed was done. Yup. It was black. But wait. There's a weird "other" color that shows up when the light hits just right. "Why is it purple?" I wondered. It must be the lighting. I went to another mirror in the bedroom. Same thing. Purple. It's clearly purple. "Mom, is my hair purple?"


"I knew you shouldn't do that," she reminded me. "It doesn't always work."


There's always a solution to solving a problem. I believed the answer was in another meaning for the word "solution" . . . "Can't I buy another box and try it again?" I asked.


"That could damage your hair," she answered.


"It's already damaged. What am I supposed to do?"


We decided to make an appointment with a professional. The salon informed the safest procedure would be to wait several weeks before any new chemical could be applied. I wasn't going to wait that long to see Faith, so I headed to the hospital in hopes it was possible for the purple to not be a prominent distraction. Maybe she wouldn't even notice it.


I greeted Faith with a, "How are you doing?"


She said, "Every day gets a littler better. Is your hair purple?"


There it was. How long did that take? Not even a minute in and the purple became a problem.


"Yeah, I was trying to go a deep black and it didn't turn out right."


"You did that to yourself?" she laughed. "At least it won't last forever. It will grow out. By the way, this is my mom and dad."


What? Where? Oh, the two people who just walked in. "Hi. My name is Steve."


Faith's dad shook my hand while looking at my hair. He said nothing. Faith's mom just smiled and did not shake my hand. I guess moms don't shake hands of guys their daughters know. I was not informed of the rules. It was awkward. I tried my best to be conversational. I consciously made every attempt to be impressive in my decorum, maturity and intelligence while sporting a bizarre head of purple hair. Faith's parents were polite and never mentioned the color. They later excused themselves for lunch and left to eat in the hospital cafeteria.


"So," I said. "Would you like to spend some time taking it easy at my house when you get out of here?"


I have no idea why I said that. It just happened. I think I wanted Faith to know I cared about her situation. Suggesting Faith recover at my parent's house came out of my mouth before my mind had an opportunity to process the consequences of such an intimate offer. I hadn't even asked my parents. Faith and I were just friends. She had never met my parents. The words could not be taken back. I waited for her decline of my ridiculous invitation.


"That sounds great," she answered.


"It seems late? Is that what you said?"


I knew what she said. It was very clear. "That sounds great." But I gave her an "out." She could change it to "It seems late," if she thought that's what I heard.


Faith said, "That sounds great. That would be fun. Did your parents say it would be okay?"


She was sticking with her original acceptance of my invitation. "Of course. They would really like to have you there."


My parents had no idea. I couldn't ask them now. I just had to tell them Faith would be staying with us for awhile. I couldn't even think of how embarrassing it would be if my parents said, "No." But, for some reason, they had no problem with it. Faith was a visitor in my parent's house for several weeks after she was released from the hospital. She had her own room and we spent a lot of time talking and laughing just as we did in South Dakota. I felt so comfortable being around her. She laughed at my jokes. I loved that I could make her laugh. There was something very special when we were together. I discovered the beginning of a new road.


"Mom," I said one morning before Faith was up for the day. "I want to ask her to marry me."


"You hardly know her. You said you were just friends."


"I've known her for over a year. What's wrong with wanting to always be with a friend? I'm going to ask her. She can say 'no' if she wants. I'm going to get a ring."


"Well," my mom pondered. "I don't know what money you have for a ring. Get a pretend one from K Mart. That way, if she doesn't want to get married you wouldn't have spent much money anyway."


Mom was right. I didn't have very much money. And I knew Faith wouldn't care about the cost of a ring. She wasn't like that. I could find something out of a Cracker Jack box and she'd think it was cute and funny. That's why we were so perfect for each other. Our relationship was about one thing; we liked to be together. I went to K Mart.


Chapter Three / The Ring

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