It was two o’clock in the morning and I was locked into mortal combat with Jane’s electric typewriter. My English assignment was due in class at ten o’clock and the longer I looked at the watermark of the blank 100% cotton paper with wove finish, the more I felt like I lost the ability to think, write, or speak in English. On top of the paper was the weight of an abusive boyfriend. I hated life and the one thing I knew I could do was jump out my seventh floor window of Taylor Tower.
Instead of jumping out of the window, I went to our bathroom and got my razor blade from our medicine cabinet. I held the razor against my left arm and made a slit. I watched the red blood creep out of the one-inch line. I don’t recall any strong emotion, other than it felt good to feel something. I carefully, did this again until I ran out of room on my left arm and switched to my right arm. Same thing. Same emotion. Actually, better said, no emotion.
Realizing that I was out of my mind I went into our two bunk bed sleeping room and quietly told Jane that I was calling home and would see her later. I called my dad and told him what I was doing. He listened and answered, “I will be right there.”
I got dressed and put bandages on my arms before putting on a long sleeved blouse. I took the elevator down to the lobby and watched for the Buick’s headlights. I think we drove home in silence. I remember when we got into the kitchen that my dad handed me two pills and said that I would be able to sleep.
Before I knew it, he was shaking my arm and said, “Here, take this pill, it will help you wake up.” He dropped me off at my dorm in time for me to type my paper. Too many of my friends, including my boyfriend, had recently been admitted to psychiatric hospitals. I think this was my dad’s way of saying, “Sorry, but our family doesn’t do things like this.”
Jane and I survived one roommate’s depression and departure and another roommate who envied Jane and drove us nuts. The following year we chose to lessen our drama with roommates and move to South Campus and live together in Baker Hall. I was with the same boyfriend who had just finished his second stay at a different psychiatric hospital.
Realizing that I would never be able to leave this abusive boyfriend, I transferred my junior year to a school out West. His letters and roses kept coming and I almost returned to what I had left to get away from. I didn’t and it was a “rescue” of wild proportion.
The following year I transferred back to Ohio State and became a “townie” which meant I was living off campus. I remember a cold morning with my father shouting, “Come quick!! Hurry!!” I ran to my parents’ bedroom and on the morning news were scenes of a burning apartment building near campus. The reporter was speaking words that landed in jumbles at the pit of my stomach. My former boyfriend had died in the fire.
Weeks before his death I began a relationship with Jesus Christ. No wonder the book of James was my favorite! “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2,3) I easily can recall those years of loneliness and fear before and after this boyfriend’s death. I can only begin to imagine if my older self could have said something to my younger eighteen–year-old self what I might have heard. Possibly, “One day you will be loved and cared for and so many of your hopes and dreams will come true.”
If only I knew then what I know now, would I have been so desperate?
And what if my glorified self, who will one day be in heaven, could speak to me right now at age sixty-six? What might I be told? I suppose, both voices might echo together saying, “You have no idea what you will have to go through to get to where you will one day be!” And you have no idea of the wonder and glory that is yours that has risen in the midst of your darkest moments.”
If you only knew now, a small portion, of what you will one day know, you’d hold your suffering with far more exquisite kindness and awe.
Listen well. Your life depends on it.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of almost 40 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! bs