Friday, May 29, 2015

Literally Fascinating Mennonites

Saturday morning I sat on my balcony and watched the sunrise as I enjoyed my usual instant coffee. I thought, “I am twenty years old now and I like it.” I even noticed things I hadn’t before. I thought, “Why haven’t I sat out here before?” My balcony was the perfect place to watch the sunrise.

I dragged a thick blanket out there, spread it out on the floor of the balcony, made myself another coffee, and brought my workbooks and dictionaries out and started working in my homework. I had a hard time concentrating -- my thoughts just kept going back to the night before and how much I enjoyed myself.

I used the birthday card I got from George as a bookmark, and once in a while I just stared at it with a big smile on my face. I thought about how scared I had been of him and how I could have been so wrong about him. Mark was the one who I thought was the good person because the way he looked, but he was turning out to be the creep.

I got overwhelmed thinking about how I would figure people out and how the heck I could learn to know which ones were the good ones. I wondered, “How many more great people might I be missing out on because of the way they look on the outside?”

Once I a while I thought, “What if my mom finds out that I went on a motorcycle ride with George?” I had to work really hard not to let that suck the joy right out of me. I reminded myself of what I had learned the week before. That I could think about things the way I decided to, not the way I had always thought I should.

I had to work really hard to pull my thoughts out of all the scary “what ifs” and get my attention back to all the learning I had ahead of me. I convinced myself that I had to get better at reading books and that would help me figure out the rest.

I spent all morning working long and hard on the workbook my teacher sent home with me. I decided I needed a break and put Enigma on, lay down on the blanket, and closed my eyes and embraced the warmth of the sun on my face. I fell asleep and had the most amazing dream about George.

I was so tempted to go over to his place I had to work really hard to keep my thoughts on the books. To distract myself I thought, “Now that I know how to use this dictionary, I can learn anything that is in it. All I have to do is find whatever I want to know.”

I wished that I could learn more about my “nerve” condition so I looked up the word “nerves” in the dictionary. I understood about half the words that explained it, but I got a sense that it might be something different altogether and my condition continued to be a mystery to me.

I decided to put that aside for the time being and continued to work on my school work for the rest of the day. I didn’t even clean my already-clean apartment even though it was Saturday.

Sunday morning I tiptoed down the stairs to get the newspapers and cut out five articles and wrote down the five w’s for each of those articles. I practiced spelling the words and continued to work in the workbook until it was done.

I felt so good and accomplished when I closed that book. I closed my eyes took a deep breath and thought, “I did this.”

By mid-Sunday afternoon I started feeling really stiff. My neck was sore from looking down at a book for so long. I decided to go for a walk and tried really hard not to remember Jake Dyck and the smell of his breath, but that was hard work. I noticed some of the leaves turning yellow. It seemed like everything I was looking at was more beautiful than it had been before.

I picked a few yellow leaves to take with me to remind myself that change could be beautiful and a good thing, especially for me. I kept a close eye on my surroundings remembering Mark and that I might have really pissed him off.

I was still tempted to go visit George. I wished I could continue asking him about so many things I was curious about. Since the motorcycle ride and asking him about his teeth. I felt like I really could ask him anything.

I wanted to ask him if he really thinks that I grew up in a bubble and if he could explain why he thinks that. When I approached the front door of the building I heard a motorcycle pulling up and it was George. I turned around as he walked toward me.

“Has Mark stopped by or called you back or anything?” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“Okay good, I was worried about that,” he said.

“Would you like to walk with me to the store and grab a cold drink?” he asked.

“Ahh… sure, I would love to, but only if I can ask you some more questions,” I told him.

“Absolutely,” he answered.

We walked to the store, he paid for our drinks, and we walked to a park nearby and sat down at a picnic table. He took a sip from his drink, pulled his fingers through his hair, looked me right in my eyes, and winked as he said, “So what would you like to ask me about, Anna?” I couldn’t think let alone speak English after that.

I forgot what I was going to ask him and just said, “Thank you for the bookshelf. It’s perfect, I love it.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie. Now, what were you going to ask me?” 

“You distracted me, and I forgot what I was going to ask you,” I told him.

“Oh yeah? How so? Tell me about that how am I distracting you.”

I turned all red from head to toe and just looked at his hands as I asked, “Ahhh, what did you mean the other day at the walk-in clinic when you said that I grew up in a bubble? Can you explain that a bit more?”

“Yeah, about that. I am sorry, I thought about it later on after I learned that you take everything a bit more literal than I am used to. What I meant was where and how you grew up is like a bubble because you stay within the colonies and you don’t learn much else than what is happening right where you live. Am I right?” he asked.

“Ahhh, yes, you’re right. That is how it is. How do you know about that?” I asked.

“I read a book about it,” he answered.

“You read books about Mennonites?” I asked.

“Yes, I do.”


“Because it is so fascinating that so many people choose to live like that.”


“So you thought that I thought you actually grew up in a real bubble?” he asked.

“Ahhh, sort of. I thought of ways I could explain to you that there was a lot of flat wide open-spaced land and we could see endless mountains. I didn’t think it was like a bubble at all, but I thought you probably wouldn’t get it,” I answered.

He laughed so hard he choked on his drink and I was thinking, “My homework for tonight: lookup fascinating and literal.”

All of a sudden it got really windy, the leaves started blowing all around us, the clouds rolled in and it started raining. We got up and threw the drink containers in the garbage and started walking back to the apartment.

About halfway home it started pouring down but we just kept walking like it was sunny and warm. By the time we got through the front door, we were completely soaked. We parted ways. I went home, put dry clothes on, wrapped my hair in a towel, and checked my messages.

Sure enough, there was a message from Mark, “I see that you are spending a lot of time with George. Is he your boyfriend now or what? If you think that that is going to keep me from calling, or looking for you, you're sadly mistaken. I miss your face, babe. Call me back, I mean it.” 

I didn’t erase the message. I thought, “As long as he doesn’t come over . . . oh crap, I hope he doesn’t come over.” 

I continued with my learning. I looked up the word ‘literal’ in the dictionary and it made a bit more sense to me -- I had a bit more of an idea of what that meant. I sat there and processed everything. I was beginning to get what he meant by living in a “bubble.”

My phone rang and I got scared right away and thought, “Oh no! I don’t want to answer it, what if it’s Mark? But it could be my mom.” So I picked it up and said “Jo?” (“Yes?”).

“Hello, Anna?” said a really deep voice. Click here to continue reading my story.

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