Renee* is one of those people who has passed through my life like a mist. One of those things that drifts in and forces you to focus a bit more than you’re used to and then fades out…and you don’t really think about it after that.
She started attending church near the beginning of our senior year. And boy did she shake things up. Coming from a broken home, she challenged everything, demanded explanations and reasons, posed questions none of us knew the answer to. My boyfriend at the time had helped her take the step into the Christian faith during a small group session and she determined to follow the verse “be prepared to give an answer to anyone” to the letter. She was a ball of energy who had the dream of watching every single person fall to their knees before Jesus.
Her appearance itself didn’t distinguish her from the rest of the world. From us white bread church raised kids, yes…but not from normal people. She had waist length dirty blond hair and huge blue eyes, wide lips, and was a little on the short side. There was a hat perpetually perched on her head which was from a Cannon Beach Kite Shop…a souveneir from a former work place. She was rarely clad in something different than khaki shorts, sandals, and a tie dye t-shirt. Renee ran with the boys, played hard, talked like quicksilver.
We had nothing in common.
She was passionate about her faith – I was passionate about appearing as holy as possible. She cared about knowing the truth – I cared about learning all the pleasures of the world. She was willing to debate an issue until it was thoroughly dissected – I backed away at the first sign of opposition. We drove each other insane. She felt I was passive, arrogant, smug. I viewed her as radical, argumentative, attention seeking. I watched her flirt with my boyfriend before dating someone else. She watched me flirt with her brother while dating someone she loved.
We were dating boys who were best friends. We ran with the same crowd. We always seemed to be in the same place at the same time. Why were we never friends? I can’t answer that question. Right now, Renee is living on the other end of the country, married to one of my exboyfriends. And no, that’s not the issue.
I like to believe that we would be friends now – were we living in the same physical vicinity. And were we to put aside that caution which always seemed a barrier between us. I’d like to believe that the several slaps in the face I’ve received in the past four years have humbled me enough to be a match for her blatant honesty. I’d like to believe that I’m more comfortable with people who are intense in their faith – and that I’m on my way to becoming one of them. I’d like to believe that I’m up to being Renee’s friend…since when she was around, I always did my best to convince her she wasn’t worthy of being mine.
I hold to this unnecessary and very unprovable hope because of one instance in Renee and I’s mutual history. We were given the privilege of borrowing a friend’s minivan to go get lattes. And when I say “privilege” I mean it. This van had leather interior, a kickin’ sound system, power doors, and handled like a dream. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember we talked. And it was good. We laughed, and…felt comfortable for a few moments. In the background, Mack Powell and the rest of Third Day sang out Don’t you know I’ve always loved you… By the time we returned with the van, we were belting it out together. Once we stepped out onto the curb, the walls were up again. But everytime that song comes on, Renee floats through my vision and I wonder what she’s doing. If she’s kissing her husband, or reading her Bible, or cooking her favorite meal of BBQ chicken, or sleeping, or studying, or talking to her adorable brother on the phone. Or listening to Third Day.