“But, it’s my birthday tomorrow; they’re having a party for me. I want you to come!” My friend, Rey, was pleading with me, not to go to his birthday party, but to his Bible Study. How many times had I already told him no?
“Rey, I told you. I’m a Catholic and I’m happy being a Catholic. I don’t want to go to your Bible Study. Yes, I know there are some nice, college-age people there and it would be good to meet new people but, really, I’m not interested.” I looked back down at the textbook I had been reading just prior to Rey’s interruption. As that night’s on-call student technician, I had to sit at the reception desk of the Radiology Department until 10:00 P.M., at which point I moved over to the on-call room to sleep while waiting for the phone to ring. Rey worked as an orderly during the evening shift so often made his way down from where it was he had been assigned to greet me.
“But, how do you know you don’t want to go until you actually do go? You don’t know what you’re missing.” The brilliant smile radiated from this kind, young Philippino man’s face. “Besides, it’s different this time. It’s my birthday and there’ll be cake and everything.”
”So, they won’t have the Bible Study or some kind of a prayer meeting. Just a party?” Hmmm? Potentially promising place to meet young people.
“Well, no, they’ll still have the Bible Study but there’ll be ice cream and cake afterwards. Please, come!”
“Nope. You may as well stop asking me, Rey. I’m just not going to any Bible Study.” My mind was made up and the grim stare in those narrowing eyes showed my resolve.
“Well, okay, where’s my present then? I expect you to get me a present for my birthday. It’s what friends do, isn’t it?” That smile, how could it get any wider?
“You know I don’t have any money, even if I had time to go shopping after work tomorrow. I can’t give you a present, Rey.” My face relaxed, both shoulders beginning to slump. I really did like this guy. He and my roommate were now dating and he was a hoot to be with. I looked forward to his visits on the boring evenings I waited for someone to need an x-ray.
“Oh yes, you can give me a present. Something I want very much.” The twinkle in his eye added to my anxiety. “There is just one present that will be perfect for this birthday.”
Looking down, I shook my head. “Not going to happen, dear Rey.”
“Oh, I get it; I see what the problem is now. I should have known; I didn’t get it but now I do. You’re afraid to go to the Bible Study. You’re just afraid to see that you might like it and then what? You might want to go back; that’s what!” Rey was bobbing and weaving as he danced around the desk, taunting me… and smiling, of course.
“You’re crazy. I’m not afraid of a Bible Study. I just don’t want to go.”
“Oh yeah? I dare you to go. If you’re not afraid, then go tomorrow night. You can just tell people you came for the birthday party, or you don’t have to say a single word, if you don’t want to. It can be my present so you don’t have to buy me one. What do ya say?” What a fix I’d gotten myself into here. I never backed down to a dare, unless I was illegal or harmful. Was this harmful? Not likely.
“Oh, good grief, Rey. I’ll show you. I’ll take that dare. I’ll go with you but I will not say a word the whole time. You can tell those people whatever you want to about me. But, when it is over and you take me home, I don’t want to hear another word about this Bible Study again! You got that?” He was about to burst with excitement over his long-fought, hard-won victory, while I was wondering what in the world I had done. I was, definitely, not smiling back at him.
Later, stretched out on the top bunk, hoping the phone would not ring to get me out of that bed all night, I reviewed and regretted my conversation with Rey. I hadn’t even asked him what I should wear to this thing. I mean, it was a party but it was also church, kind of. What does a person wear? My mother is still one of those people who would prefer to be over-dressed to being under-dressed for any occasion so I deferred to her attire advice. Dress like I was going to church not a birthday party. No, I had never seen my roommate before she went to the Bible Study with Rey because I was on-call the nights she wasn’t. I would never ask her what to wear because I didn’t want to have that whole area of conversation get started. I’d just dress as though I was going to church and that would be enough. Besides, I wouldn’t be seeing these people after tonight anyway so what did it matter if I wasn’t dressed right?
In less than twenty-four hours, I would have an encounter that I had never in my life imagined. What I was wearing was, so totally, unimportant.
****A New Door Opens, Conclusion… Next post