Joseph and I were becoming better friends every day. After history class, he would leap over the desks that separated mine from his and walk me to Einstein's.
He started coming to church regularly, even if it was with uncertainty. With his arms crossed, he would ask questions that he considered unanswerable and appeal to us to explain this God we claimed to know.
"Defend Him!” he would insist.
But his eyes, betraying him, said instead, "Please defend Him?"
After church, we would walk back across campus together. Often, we stopped and lay down in the light of the streetlamps on the steps of the Ramsey Center (where graduations were held) and continued our constantly ongoing discussion of things great and frivolous.
There was a spider who lived in the corner where the railing met one of the poles that held it up. Joseph pointed out that he was a pretty industrious little guy, building his web just exactly in the brightest puddle of light like he did, thereby catching more little bugs than he knew what to do with each night.
We gave him a long ridiculous name that made him sound like a distinguished, learned Viking and made a point to check up on him whenever our travels took us near the Ramsey Center.
One night, I ran into Joseph on campus and he informed me that a mutual friend of ours named Winnie was having a really tough day and was about to suffer back to back shifts in the University Center cafeteria regardless. With all the stress of classes and hours and hours of work ahead of her filled with rudeness from students as well as her boss, it seemed likely she would be feeling near her wit’s end in no time.
Due to his thoughtful nature, Joseph wanted to do something to make her feel better. He asked if I wanted to help, and if I had any ideas.
After some brainstorming, we decided to paint her a picture, and go to the dollar store for plastic dinosaurs and all manner of silly things. We were going for an explosion of cheerful goodness to show her that she had friends who cared that her day was awful.
Excited to execute our plan, we wasted no time in getting ourselves to the dollar store (where we purchased the plastic dinos, sidewalk chalk, silly string, and some star-shaped helium balloons) and then back to his room to work on a painting that we were just certain would turn out to be a masterpiece.
I had never been to his room before. I figured it would be like any other guy’s dorm room. Curtain-less, rug-less, barren walls save for a poster or two of a favorite band or movie.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. This boy had taken great care to make his room as little like a dorm room as possible.
It was warm and, dare I say, downright cozy. He had made the floor look like wood with a few faux-wooden tiles over the bare white tiles of the dorm floor and under tasteful rugs. Sensitive to lighting, he made sure the fluorescents were unnecessary by adding incandescent lamps, Christmas lights, and some kind of crazy multi-colored hippie lighting device with a million or so tiny plastic-y wiry thingies sticking out all over the place that changed colors every so often in a mesmerizing sort of way.
His roommate had decided college wasn’t for him and quit a few days after moving in, so Joseph was the lucky winner of one free roommate-less room. He had made use of the second bed by turning it into a makeshift sofa, throw pillows and all.
There were even houseplants. I couldn't believe it. They were all alive, even. With the exception of my (very guided by professionals) work at the greenhouse, I had never been able to keep a single plant alive. I had once killed an air fern, for crying out loud! Aren't those things supposed to be totally indestructible?
And then, I noticed his art. It was all over the walls. Not solely his own art, of course, but the ones I was most impressed with all turned out to be the ones he confessed were his work.
When I was able to draw myself away from taking in my inviting surroundings, Joseph and I got down to business and did, indeed, create the masterpiece of a painting that we had anticipated. We were so proud of ourselves, painting and wrapping things, laughing at each other when it turned out all bejiggidy.
As I was securing the very last piece of tape, the phone rang. I picked it up and handed it to Joseph. A little conversation, and then he put the receiver on his shoulder and whisper-asked me if it was okay if Azalea came over.
Oh. Azalea. That caught me off guard and I wasn't sure why. I hurried to hide my confusing discontent and nodded yes, that would be fine.
It wasn't 5 minutes before there was a knock on the door and Azalea came in, all bubbly and holding a pomegranate. She asked me if I had ever eaten one before, and I said no, I hadn't, so she proceeded to show me how and decided to bestow the whole fruit on me.
I didn't have anywhere to put it, so she picked up the gifts I had bought and wrapped for Winnie and followed Joseph (who carried our painting) out the door and down the stairs. Azalea wanted to take her car, so I scooted into the back seat and we were off on our way to Winnie's apartment.
At Winnie's apartment, we discovered a locked front door and no Winnie. The three of us decided it best to break in through a window and leave the gifts on the counter to surprise her when she got home. We were in the process of writing her a note when we heard the lock turn and Winnie caught us being sneaky.
There was a giant enthusiastic display of gratitude in which Winnie profusely thanked and embraced Joseph and Azalea for their kindness. I stood trying not to feel left out for a moment. After all, it shouldn't be important to me that I receive credit. The point was that our friend be cheered up, I reminded myself, and she was cheered. So. Yey, right? Success!
Happily, before I could continue my argument with myself, Joseph put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Sarah helped too! We had so much fun!", and I was awarded a hug from Winnie, too.
We piled back into the car and I picked at my pomegranate, thinking that I hoped I could hang out with Joseph a little more before it was time to go back to my dorm. It wasn't to be, that night though. Azalea said, "Joseph, I left my purse in your dorm, so I'm coming up with you. Sarah, I'm dropping you off at your car."
"Oh", I said, baffled, "okay. Bye guys!"
Joseph smiled and waved at me.
I hopped out and headed towards my car. I was hitting a low point. Like an immature teenager, I thought, pouting because I was feeling ... just a tiny bit of rejection. Why didn't Joseph want me to come with them? Was there something going on that I didn't know about?
I didn't want to go back to my dorm. My heart hurt and I didn't know why. I found myself heading straight for the Hanwell's house.
I pulled into their driveway and knocked on the door. I hoped I wasn't being rude. It was awfully late for a family. But I didn't have time to get nervous that I was waking them up before the door flew open. They were all crowded in the doorway, laughing because Banjo had seen my car pull up and shouted , "IT'S SARAH!"
I know this because he immediately told me while Scarlett stood beside him looking comforting just by existing.
I didn't know what to say to explain my late-night drop in, so I just held up my half eaten pomegranate and said, "Azalea came over... she gave me a pomegranate. I don't know why and I don't know what to do with it."
Since the very first time Genevieve and I ever conversed, I have been outrageously understood. There are very few people I've ever been acquainted with who speak my language. Who understand what I'm trying to say when I don't exactly know what I'm trying to say.
Genevieve is one of those people.
She invited me in. We talked. We prayed. Hugs from people who loved me, and I was okay to go back to my dorm.
I wasn't sure that I liked what was going on, or that I even knew what was going on. One thing was for sure though. I was loved with a great love.
The great love of my friends, and the even greater Love of the One who has given me such wildly wonderful friends. To go back to my dorm knowing that... well, I am chronically imperfect. So, it didn't make me feel as better as it should have. But it sure did help.