Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead

Day 81 – Wednesday, 30 Jan

The bible study started at seven. The routine for a Wednesday evening was to wait for the van to First Christian, and then spend the evening at that church. So instead of being at the courthouse for five thirty, I went to the youth center.

Pastor Cook was already there. I pitched in to help arrange the room.

"Hi, Conrad. Are you here for the study?"

Now, Pastor Cook and I had already talked about me attending the bible study. He was concerned that Maria wanted to attend the study, but wouldn't with me there. My perspective was that I was attending the church, and had been invited to attend the study by Ben Fields. This was to prove a contentious issue.

"Yes. I am. Ben and I were talking last night, and he invited me to come."

"Have you thought about what happens if Maria comes in?"

"Stan, I can only take responsibility for myself. If Maria comes, that's great. Maybe it even opens a door for us to start talking; I don't know. But there's no reason for me to stop being here just because Maria might show up.

“Ben told me Maria has not been coming to the study, so I’m not expecting there to be an issue." I confess I was a little edgy with Stan (Pastor Pear).

"I thought the order of protection prevented you from being in the same place as Maria."

"No, that isn't what it says. For starters, it only says to refrain from doing certain things. It's only the insane court system that has chosen to reinterpret refrain as meaning prohibited.

"In the case of meeting Maria somewhere around town, the only requirement in the order is that I don't approach her. I don't have to leave, and neither does she. We're just not supposed to talk to each other."

"That would be pretty difficult in a bible study, don't you think?"

"Yes, Stan, I do, but what do you want me to do about it?" I was letting my anger show at this point, and my voice was raised. "I'm attending this church; I'm part of the congregation. Are you telling me not to come to the bible study because someone who is not attending this church, and is not part of the congregation, wants to come? In fact, if Maria attends church at all, it's at Immaculate Conception, and you know that."

"No, no. I'm not telling you to not come. I just think you should give it some thought, that's all."

We went on arranging the room for a few minutes before he spoke again.

"How are you getting out to PADS this evening? It's at First Christian tonight, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. Ben said he would give me a ride.

"Last night, when he asked me to come, I said I couldn't unless I had a ride afterward. He said not to worry, that he would give me a ride. So, here I am."

That ended the conversation between us for a while. Other people started arriving, and there was general conversation. There was always coffee and some sort of snack laid on for the study. People stand around chatting until Stan asks everyone to take and seat so the study can start.

The youth centre is a large, open room. There's a stage at one end with an area in front that gets filled with chairs for events and church services. Then there's a small conversation pit on one side of the room, and the rest of the area is taken up with bar-height tables and a galley kitchen.

I was standing at one of the tall tables speaking with another member of the study group when Maria arrived. She had stepped far enough inside for the door to close when she saw me. I nodded to her, and she walked back out the door.

Before the door had completely closed, Pastor Cook was at the table talking at me in a clearly angry tone. The color had risen in his cheeks, and he was almost growling when he said, "What are you going to do about this?"

I was a little stunned by his vehemence. "What do you want me to do about it? I can't make her stay."

Stan continued in a heated tone, "You know she wants to come to the bible study, and you know she won't stay as long as you're here. This is not the place to try and work out your differences."

My voice was clear and definite by this point. I wasn't quite angry, but I was offended, and refused to be put onto the defensive. This reminded me a lot of being in the high school play, only I wasn't hurting anyone this time. This time, I was behaving responsibly. I had considered my options, had been given an opportunity and means to attend the study, and decided to attend.

"Stan, I'm not here to try and work things out with Maria. I'm here because I was invited to be here by a member of the congregation."

"But you told me you were here hoping to talk with Maria," he claimed.

"Yes, I've probably said something like that. Is that why I'm here? No. If Maria comes, and we're able to talk, that's a good thing, but it isn't why I'm here, Stan. I'm here because I'm homeless, and have nobody to lean on. I'm hoping that being here, and being part of this congregation, helps me get through the situation I'm in."

That seemed to take a bit of the wind out of Stan's sails. He was, after all, a pastor, and growling at someone during the time for a bible study wasn't what he wanted to be doing.

"Well, okay. As long as that's not the reason for you being here.

"I still think you should give more thought to whether this is the right thing for you to be doing. Maria has been coming to the study for a long time."

"Okay. But Ben tells me Maria has not been coming to the study lately. That's why I felt safe in coming. I know she attended occasionally while we were married, and I came with her a few times, but, again, Ben told me she hasn't been coming lately. So as long as I have a ride out to First Christian, I'm fine with being here."

 Stan and I had already talked about this a couple of times, and I had thought it settled. Having to defend myself for accepting an invitation to the bible study was unsettling. I thought this conversation would settle the issue, but it didn’t. It would be settled soon.
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