It wasn’t until an assembly that I turned into a bad friend and said something I’d regret forever.
“I had sex,” he confided. “Do you think I’ll go to Hell?”
Instead of really listening or showing empathy, I regurgitated something I’d heard about unbelievers in church. “Yes…. You’ll go to Hell.”
His face fell in disappointment and so much sadness rested there, as if he’d expected far more from me. And I cried later—when no one could see my tears. I couldn’t stand the memory of hurting someone I respected so much.
Time passed. Some kids started calling me “Bible Girl,” a condescending term because I carried my Bible everywhere and read it until the cover fell off.
Not long before I graduated, my life spiraled out of control. One Monday morning people talked as if I couldn’t hear. “Did you hear about Bible Girl? … Elisa lost her virginity.”
I put my hand by my neck and tried to calm my breathing. Their judgement stayed behind me, though, as I deliberated over what I’d done. Hot tears split across my cheek as I heard another kid. “So, you aren’t a virgin,” he said, then winked at me.
I could hardly see anything. The ceilings and walls pulsed closer. I couldn’t find a way out. I had irrevocably ruined my own life….
I’m still not sure at what point I saw B.H. after this, but I’ll never forget his words. “When you find yourself,” he’d said, “it’ll be a beautiful thing. There’s so much inside to be proud of. Who cares what you’ve done? Who cares what people think? The real you, beyond those stupid mistakes, that person is beautiful and that’s the person I hope you’ll become.”
I didn’t deserve kindness—especially from him—despite that, he showed compassion when no one else did.
My twenty-year reunion is in a couple of weeks, and it’s brought back a lot of memories. I’ve honestly been terrified to attend until something amazing happened on Saturday…. B.H. came to Idaho from back East!
In 2020 he discovered that I have cancer. His gorgeous mom has even helped me at the hospital. I never imagined all of this would transpire or that my dear childhood friend would come and visit!
We talked like no time had passed. And after over 20 years, I was finally able to apologize for the cruel words I said so long ago.
“Elisa, even back then I didn’t take it to heart. I knew you too well.” And then he went on to explain how happy he was to see me—to see how I’ve turned out. And instead of saying, “When you find yourself,” he said how great it IS to see the person he hoped I would become.
“And you’re everything I always knew you’d be!” I said, pride in my voice. Sure he’s married a gorgeous woman and become incredibly educated and successful…but that wasn’t what I meant. B.H. never lost sight of what really matters: showing kindness and compassion when people need it most. Even now when I’m struggling not to die from cancer, he decided to come visit, entertain my family, and give us an unforgettable day.
I’m so grateful for friendships that withstand the test of time and for people who are so fiercely good at heart that they always stay themselves, unhindered by experiences…and regrets.
I’m actually looking forward to the reunion now. I’ll have to let you know how it goes. It’s time to forget about the hurts of the past and just move forward to a hopeful future.
For more about this time in my life and how I ran away to be a street musician in Hawaii, check out “Bible Girl.”
Photo by Sarah Chai from Pexels