Saturday, January 2, 2010

Friday Night As Usual

The trip had been a hastily thrown together idea in the past day or two, with hurried phone calls and text messages, mostly. Through some scrambled organization on the last minute and in between skirmishes of Battlefield 2 over the internet, myself and a few of the other guys from the church group decided we would take advantage of the New Years break and go out someplace that Friday night, probably out to eat and possibly spend the night at a friend’s. Mostly just to enjoy ourselves, hang out, and otherwise rock the house on the weekend. A perfect idea for any crazy group of teens.
I think I dashed out of my house, shouting hurried goodbyes over my shoulder, somewhere around four that afternoon. Parked in the driveway, engine on, was a small, white car that looked as though it had come over with Noah on the ark and was about on that level of tech, barely holding together. I smiled faintly. That was definitely John Herson’s* car, a twenty-year-old good friend from church who lived a few minutes away. Technically not a teen anymore, he still qualified as one of our crazy bunch, however…though he would never admit it to anyone, even himself. I could see him hunched over in the driver’s seat from my front porch as I ran down.
Sam Herson, his younger brother, my age, and one of the best friends and guy I knew, got out to greet me as I reached the back door of the tiny, study little vehicle, shouting a, “Hey, what’s up?”
I waved back as I hurried into the car, already pulling my jacket closer. North Carolina January weather was pretty brutal sometimes to people who hated the cold like I did. “Not much, you?”
“Same!” He shouted back, his friendly countenance and smile causing me to do so too. Sam was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, always in a good mood and almost always ready to talk and laugh about anything at all, the exact opposite of his older brother, John. The two made quite a comic pair together in that way.
As I got in and we backed out, I found John in one of his better moods. “Hello!” He managed with a warm smile as he backed up, and I nodded. Both brothers had the same dark, longish hair and eyes, fairly similar in appearance. As different as north and south in personality though, and both of them knew it.
The plan was at first to return to the Herson’s house for a little while, to wait on a few more young guys from the crew to let us know if they would be there or not, and to figure out exactly where we were eating.
On the way there, frantically trying to stay warm, we talked about anything and everything, from music to cars (or the lack of them for us broke seventeen year olds), people to places to politics.
By the time we reached the house of the two brothers and their family, we were ahead of the schedule and had an hour to burn, more or less. That was not a problem in the least. We would certainly find something to do in that time. I said hello to Mr. and Mrs. Herson who were kind enough to let me come over for a short time, and right there in the hallway entrance, I think the three of us spent almost three quarters of an hour trying to reach a decision on where to go to eat. Yes, very sad.
The problem was this: Sam, being an upbeat guy like he was, was always ready to do whatever everyone else wanted to do to make his friends happy. That was, UNTIL he decided he wanted something in particular, and then nothing would move him. John, the older, more serious and composed of the two by far, also was kind enough to guests and ready to go wherever…as long as it was NOT wherever he DIDN’T feel like going. As for myself, I was probably a bit of both, altering off between wanting one place or not caring whichever when it dragged on for a while.
You can guess the problem.
Even before we had reached any kind of agreement, all still in high spirits, John decided to go and check some online errands while me and Sam generally hung out by playing a bit of music for ourselves, and more discussion and what the absolute bomb-of-a-place-to-eat would be that night. It still is a strange thing that between both of those brothers, nothing can be decided, but every time I’ve talked to tall, lanky, good-natured Sam alone, who is still one of the best friends I could ask for, we were always easy to reach any kind of piddling little agreement. Me and Sam got along far better than me, Sam and John did. I still don’t know why.
When we returned back into the main room to bother John a little more, who was sitting at his computer desk while Mrs. Herson began her family’s dinner in the kitchen in the next room, I passed his screen and glanced over at what he was doing, hoping to strike up a little conversation with him while we waited to set out.
Then the words caught my eye, in the chatroom box he was studying.
“I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I read his post, ‘I’m not a Christian…’”
That definitely got my attention, and eyes narrowed, he leaned in closer over his shoulder.
“What’s this?” I asked quietly.
John turned to me abruptly, smiling slightly in welcome, but his eyes were far more serious.
“Oh, hi.” He nodded, and then turned back to the screen quietly. “It’s…well, a friend.”
I sighed slowly. “Someone I know?”
“We all know him. It’s Stephen.” He replied slowly, his face grim.
Stephen…I thought for a moment. He wasn’t a friend of mine as much as just a bare acquaintance, I remembered. Having been in our church about a year before my own family joined, I had barely known them a few weeks before they moved to Raleigh. The most I had talked to him at all was in a few online matches of Age of Empires back in my serious gaming days, and that was barely.
As far as I had known though, he had been Christian. He had obviously been in our church, graduated from our VERY Christian HS group, and certainly seemed able to talk soundly enough about God, faith and Theology, all the usual good signs. This really did surprise me.
“…Really?” I said grimly, and watched John continue his IM conversation with one of the other church group guys, who I knew well enough to know he was telling the truth.
“Yep.” John replied, “It’s pretty sad…he was getting into the habit of using some serious language, and got some weird ideas in his head…but just only a few days posted on Facebook in some argument that broke out. ‘I’m not a Christian.’”
Sam, who had been elsewhere getting ready for our leaving, came up behind both of us and caught enough of the conversation to know what was going on. He tapped me on the shoulder, and quickly told John it was his turn to go get ready.
“Yeah, you didn’t know?” Sam told me as both of us sat down to check emails, and set up a prank email attack on a certain ‘Pat Hetic.’ “Well now its a big mess, but, umm...” He paused for a moment, as if sorting out his words. Sam had always been one of long, ‘dude’ lingo. “Yeah, well, I used to know him a lot, ya know…yeah, back before you guys joined the church.” He informed me.
“But he was a believer? Or at least professed to being one? Claimed to be?” I pressed, intrigued. Now I could see a skeptic backing out, but never before had a seen a fairly devout young believer just suddenly sell out and turn into a religion hater as nasty as an athiest.
“Oh yeah, totally, at least that’s what he said. I mean I would’ve as soon seen John go haywire as Stephen…” He replied in his quick lingo, “But yeah, took everyone by surprise. Its weird huh? His own brother I knew a long ways back, and he’s still one of the best Christians I know!” He shook his head.
I nodded, sighing grimly. That just didn’t make sense.
When John came back into the room, managing a small smile for the sake of our planned outing for fun, he jingled the keys and put on his massive, brown coat. “Let’s hit the road, gentlemen, we’re head for the new pizza place in Hickory.”
I stood up, already ready as Sam scrambled for his last minute things. “New place?”
“Yeah, a new pizza parlor, set up New York style just downtown.”
I raised an eyebrow and chuckled. New Yorkers in Hickory, North Carolina. Surprise indeed.

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