Truth is I was afraid to go. After all this time, who knows whether or not I would just be bringing more conflict in an already terrible situation. I didn't want to be the face of regret, the reminder of bad times and unhappy situations.
And I didn't want to face Them.
"Them" being all the other church people I left behind when I bolted out of there. They were all swarming around Z now, I just knew it. No doubt she was surrounded by a buzzy hive of do-gooders, who on any other given Sunday probably took issue with her haircut, or her worship style, or her offbeat sense of humor. Six months from now they'll be the same ones trying to set her up with "a friend of ours, he's just your type." But for now they flitter around invading her personal life and vie for the empty spot in the pew where her husband used to be.
Thinking like this is bad for me I know; the angry current that zips up my spine and quickens my pulse is one indication of that. The urge to fight them all off and send them packing is another. But I would do this for Z, I would protect her, stare down the pushy, nosy no-goods and send them running for cover. I'd let her scream and swear and throw things. I wouldn't raise an eyebrow if she stayed in her pajamas all day - again. I'd make her soup and bread - not that she'd eat it. But I wouldn't make the mistake of bringing her foods she hated, like Chinese, or flowers that aggravate her allergies and weaken her already vulnerable state.
I know her. And I'd know how to take care of her. This is what I tell myself. But that was four years ago. Before the veritable ice age that's elapsed since the last time we looked one another in the eye.
So I didn't go. And I pretty much felt like toilet bowl scum about it the whole time. Praying, I asked Jesus to forgive me for being so small and cowardly. As earnestly as I knew how I begged God to be God to Z, to be an all enveloping Presence and Source of strength and grace and peace - words that sound so hollow and ineffectual on paper - but in spirit are the only sustenance for such dark times.
Then I did the cheesy thing and sent a card. It didn't say much, nor did I add a lot to the sentiment. But I did include my contact information. Bug and I went down to the post office to mail it off in person. Just walking over to the stupid mail slot scared me to death. Where on earth would this lead?
Some days passed and she sent me an email. Mr. F was the one who saw it blink into existence at the top of my Inbox.
"Z sent you an email'', he said. Everything seemed to dangle in mid-air. I had written; now she had written back.
My turn again.
So I wrote back. "No," I said, "I can't imagine what you're going through." "Yes," I said, (and here I just about held my breath as I typed) "I'd like to see you too."
That was several days ago. Now I check just about every hour on the hour for a response. I hit the Get Mail button relentlessly, as if the command didn't fire correctly the first time. Stupid software, I tell myself. It didn't connect. It must not have connected. Maybe the mail server is down? Try again. Nothing. Nada.
Did she have a change of heart? Did I say something stupid? Is she okay? There are a million questions and no answers, and my nerves are fraying at the root about it. But there's nothing to be done.
Just wait and pray, pray and wait.