The first time she stood before me, all the reserves of my shyness jumped out of my body and stood in front of me like an armor bearer to defend me against her intimidating beauty. Man, she was the prettiest thing I’d set my eyes on in a long time.
Perfectly formed by the Creator, she was the kind of girl I’d loved to wrap my arms around her on the couch as we watched TV in the evening. My wife, in summary. The only problem would be if she wasn’t a Christian. I was set to only date and marry another Christian.
When she said, ‘Hi’, I stammered my name instead of replying with hello.
“I’m Mary, your new neighbor’s daughter.”
“I’m Jerry,” I repeated. “That’s… um… my father’s woodwork shop.” She hadn’t asked for it. “I help there when I can.” Why tell her, anyway?
As she walked back to their apartment, I saw myself as an incurable goofball. An idiot. Even if she were a Christian, I was unworthy of her. Maxwell, my extrovert, good-looking neighbor on the other side of our house could drool over her and she would giggle at it. If I did, a spank on my jaw was inevitable.
She glanced over her shoulder at me. Must be wondering which rock this bubblehead had scrolled out from.
I returned to the shop.
Papa, with a saw in one hand and a two-by-four in another, looked up as I approached. “Do not awaken love until it so desires.”
My father, no situation was too small not to warrant a scripture quote. I was seventeen, and he’d told me more than once that until I had marriage plans—not wishes—I should wave at girls instead of shaking their hands. Old school.
For hours in the workshop, I had conversations with that girl in a red top tank and denim shorts. Seated on the large stone behind our house, she let her long wavy hair sway to the breeze, and constantly tucked a few locks behind her left ear.
For a month, I saw her every day. Mostly through the cracks in the wooden walls of Papa’s workshop. And I dated her every day too. In my mind.
Then one morning, about 10 a.m., she stood at the workshop’s door. That day she had a ponytail, pink blouse, and a black velvet skirt that stood neatly above her knees.
An electric current jolted my heart and it kicked faster. My wife had visited me at the time Papa was out in town for business transactions.
“Hi, Jerry, are you also a plumber?”
“Well, no, but… um. What is the problem?”
“Our kitchen sink. It won’t drain.”
I might have been dumb about plumbing and sinks, but I could sure dismantle the garbage disposer and reassemble it. Free service would put me in Mary’s good books. If she turned out to be a Christian, then surely, surely, surely, I would date and marry her in the unknown future. She was my wife in the making.
Marching before me on the lawn between our houses, her bare calves sent signals to my body, inviting me to a forbidden feast in my mind.
I looked away, but soon carried my eyes back to those legs. Oh, she had hairs there like me. What a beautiful coincidence.
She wheeled around, hands in skirt pockets. “I’d been expecting you to show me around the neighborhood. But all day long, you stay in that workshop.”
I scratched my shaved scalp and stammered, “I have to help Papa as much as I can before school resume. I’m a freshman.”
“Great. Me too.”
Wow. Another sweet coincidence.
Their living room was spacious, like ours, but scantily furnished. My father was a carpenter, don’t forget.
Her parents, white collar employees, left early in the morning and returned in the late afternoon.
Instead of leading the way into the kitchen, Mary showed me a seat a few feet from the television. The popular romance series Papa had vowed would never air in our space flowed on the screen.
“Where is the sink?” I asked, having decided not to sit.
She grinned, coming too close for my liking, yet the closeness filled my mind with electrifying pictures.
Who in the world would have thought that this charming thing would find me attractive?
“Dear Jerry,” she called my name as though she pronounced sweet cherry “there’s no dysfunctional sink. That was an excuse to have you visit me. I saw when your father left.”
She made me sit down and then swung around and bounced into the kitchen.
My heart pumped blood faster than the organs needed it. My head spun, too. This might be an opportunity for lasting friendship or outright temptation. Which was which, I couldn’t tell yet.
Mary came out of the kitchen with two glasses of juice, the grin on her face more delicious than the yellow drinks. She handed me a cup and slumped beside me onto the couch.
I held the glass at the center of one palm and used the other hand as a lid. Since I lacked the comportment of groomed guys worthy of Mary, I was ignorant of how to drink in her presence. I might embarrass myself more and completely ruin my chances with her.
After sipping her drink, she kept the cup on the table and raced her hand directly to my chest pocket.
I gasped, and she laughed.
“You’re green, right?” she asked.
I didn’t know what that meant, so I chose to reply, “I’m a Christian.”
She cupped my left cheek, turned my face towards hers. “I get it, every Sunday and Wednesday night, you and your father go to church. But I don’t give a damn. I’ve been longing to have fun with you.” She bit the corner of her lower lip and winked.
Different emotions jammed each other in their crazy crisscross through my body. This girl I’d been too panicky to greet now put herself at my mercy? A flood of self-worth rushed through me. I wasn’t an idiot, after all.
My Christian self begged for attention, but he must wait. Mary was too precious to flee. All my yearnings for her throughout the month would not be silenced over flimsy excuses.
As she shifted closest, her hand still on my chest, my Christian self lost his voice. I placed the clumsy moist hand I’d used as a lid on her arm.
Fortunately, my father’s recitations from Proverbs 7 came to my rescue. Suddenly he follows her, As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life.
In a split second, I glimpsed at the outcome of the sin. Regret. Shame. An unquestionable idiot. A slaughtered ox, an ensnared bird.
“No! I can’t do it, Mary. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and my body is the temple of His Spirit.”
“Don’t be silly, Jerry. Your body is no temple of any spirit. Let’s have fun.”
She dug her hands into my sides and sought to hop onto my laps.
I jumped up, inadvertently dropping my glass on the floor. It shattered into more than four pieces.
Without looking back or listening to her pleas, I walked out and slammed the door.
I should have slammed the door of my heart to her the very first day we met.
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