I have carried around a plague for years. Even though I don’t have leprosy, everyone acts like I do. In biblical days a person with leprosy had to live alone and outside the camp. I have been outside the camp for more years than I can count. It has become a funny exchange between God and me because God knows what is best for me and He knows what happens when I try to lead the parade. But last night I broke free and got to feel NORMAL and I like it.
history of marriage
I have been married about two and a half times. In my three relationships, two out of three did not much like me being around and Lord knows they would never accompany me anywhere. The spouse that did share events and activities traded me in for a newer model.
con men and criminals at mile marker zero
So the days of being single arrived. I am not sure if being single and alone is better than being married and alone but neither deters me. If I want to go do something I go. I have no fear. I have an insatiable curiosity and many things interest me. After being married 20 years the first time 10 years the second time and 5 years the time that does not fully count, I found myself single in Key West. I cut my teeth on Con Men and Criminals at Mile Marker Zero and this is where I went from ‘naïve’ to ‘nervy.’ Those tales will be in the upcoming book by the same name.
the common denominator
I bought a set of 10 counseling sessions with a dear friend who was embarking on his new career as a marriage and family therapist. I had neither a marriage nor a family but I am always learning and wanted to figure out what makes people tick. I had 10 friends, loved ones and ex-loved ones I wanted to examine to see why they were so screwed up. By session 3, it became clear I was the common denominator.
the search for companionship
Malcomb analyzed my current method of trying to find a companion. He told me that sitting at a bar having dinner hoping Mr. Right would sit down beside me and we would strike up a conversation and we would look at each other and say “where have you been all my life” was the stuff romance novels were made of. Instead he told me to try a scientific method of finding a perfect mate based on similar likes and compatible philosophies. Enter eHarmony.
These sites must not ask the right questions because all my matches played golf, watched sports and wore cardigan sweaters. No tractors, no cowboy boots, no yes ma’am. I wanted cows and the “middle of nowhere.” So I switched to FarmersOnly and found the man of my dreams.
I got my cows, I saw the middle of nowhere, and I have a new profile name for Mr. Right…Liar Liar Pants on Fire. And once again I was forsaken. (At least there is enough material for the upcoming book, Moon at 11 O’Clock.)
let God lead
Nothing to do but admit defeat and to seriously let God lead. And so He lead me to a new church plant that had nothing but happily married couples in attendance. The pastor told me to stop the on-line dating sites but not before every Tom, Dick and Harry said all the clever lines like “I like a gal who is not afraid to get dirty but can clean up nice for a night on the town.” Then God stepped in. I was banished to the wilderness for more than 40 days and I hoped less than 40 years.
someone is flirting with you
It is laughable how God steps in to protect me from myself. Those dating sites know how to maintain continued membership. Mine had long since expired when I became obedient to wise counsel and quit using them. Then one day I get the exciting message that someone is flirting with me. Then they send a private message that can only be read if you are a member in good standing. Out comes the credit card and I am good for another three months and I kick myself as I reflect on all the tricks I learned from my days of the Key West Con Men and Criminals and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.
With a renewed membership, I had the pleasure of conversing with Tom, Dick and Harry’s first cousins Tim, Dom and Homer. I am a writer and I have a lot to say because I have no one to talk to. So in all my private emails with Dom and Homer, God made sure my intellect shined and this sent the boys packing. I learned too late if you write more than two lines, you lose them.
This being alone thing has become absurd. Is there truly no one of any age, shape, color or size who might enjoy going with me to dinner, or to listen to live music, or get lost in a corn maze, or hike through the woods. You don’t have to marry me. You don’t even have to pay for the meal. I would just like to find a friend. If such a person exists and they liked to converse and would enjoy reading more than two lines, well that would simply be a bonus and a miracle all rolled up in one.
the last straw
Friday was the last straw. I was going to a concert with two friends who have to like me as they are my pastor and his wife. I am their flock, they are called by God to shepherd me. We were going to see the Steeldrivers at the Vogue in Broad Ripple. This is far off my beaten path. I wanted to visit a new restaurant and make a night out of it. I proposed the idea of dinner earlier in the week and I got no response. This is normal, not for them to ignore me, but in general terms to extend an invitation and get no reply. I could find no one to accompany me to this concert either. This also happens every day in my job, I send hundreds of emails to my client needing direction on things only they have the answer to and zip, nothing, nada.
I tell our own IT department I have been waiting for 13 months for certain program changes to allow me to do my job. I send reminders every few months itemizing the things I am still waiting on and the impact this has on the business. They do know how to write code because they have created an automatic program when they see an incoming with my name on it, the system performs an ‘auto-delete.’
40 days, 40 years, 40 times
I just attended my 40th high school reunion. See there is that 40 number again. The Bible likes that number. In fact, the Bible makes 40 references to leprosy. I had a head injury a few years back and my memory is fuzzy at best. I sent out a number of friend requests on Facebook hoping to connect with some new old friends. So now I have nearly a thousand friends but no one to go to dinner with me. But I digress.
I am getting ready to go to dinner before the concert ALONE. I sent a text this time to Tony hoping he would be out of school for the day and maybe I could just ask them if they would go to dinner with me. After all it is their job to love me. But since they don’t yet get paid, well you figure it out. No response. This is not abnormal with me, just perhaps not very typical of them. I did a search of Broad Ripple eateries as I had not been there in years. Having lived in the south for a number of years, a restaurant jumped out at me which served southern soul food. That’s it, I am going to Mississippi Belle for my big night out on the town.
I programmed the GPS and was puzzled at the route it chose. It did not seem I was on my way to Broad Ripple but I went anyway. I had time to kill, no one to meet up with, so I packed a book and arrived at my destination. I walked in and discovered I was the only white person in the place. This is certainly not an issue for me. I had just attended a 4 week seminar on people of color in the Bible at the invitation of a dear pastor friend of mine. I was the only white person there too. I am very used to being a fish out of water. I don’t have the outward signs of Leprosy but I feel the effects of it just the same.
hot water cornbread
I had the best meal ever. Miss Dee was my server and she had worked there for 18 years. She explained to me that hot water cornbread did not have milk or eggs. It is cornmeal and water fried in a pan. I don’t ever meet a stranger. I converse with everyone. My best friends work in restaurants. I show up and they remember my name, they treat me like a rock star. They do not see my leprosy or at least they overlook it because I tip well.
About the time I am cutting into my smothered chicken I get a text from Nancy from Tony’s phone asking if I still needed to talk. Ha! I told them No as I was just wanting a dinner companion and since I was well into my meal, I was sure I could finish it ALONE. Nancy was devastated she had forgotten to reply to my invitation earlier in the week and Tony was devastated to learn he never knew he was even invited in the first place.
in search of fall color
We arrived separately to the concert with time to kill. Tony and Nancy are trying everything to make it up to me. I tell them not to worry, this is a way of life for me. I said “take this as an example, I posted my testimony on Facebook and unbelievably some people actually read it. I had one person go so far as to place an encouraging word on my actual blog site (which is a big deal for a writer.) Being flattered beyond all reason by the kindness of this person, I sent him a message of thanks. He lives in Nashville, he is a Christian writer. I don’t really know him but he is one of my 1000 friends on Facebook and he graduated in the same high school class as my first husband.
When I went to message him I saw where we had this in-depth written conversation four years ago. I did not remember this. Wow he could actually write more words than me. A conversationalist…except we have not spoken again for four years. I told him I was a photographer and was going to Brown County on Saturday in search of fall color. I said that friends of mine were playing live music at Big Woods in Nashville. I asked if he would like to meet me there. I also asked to see some of his writing. I got a single sentence that said “send me your email address so I can send you some of my writing and then it said I am considering meeting you in Nashville.”
Considering. He knows I have Leprosy. He should have just said no. As the clock struck midnight and the end of the concert was near, I wondered how long it would take to fully ‘consider’ my invitation. After all, I was leaving for Brown County and Nashville at the crack of dawn the next morning. I checked my email and he had sent me two chapters from his book and he wanted me to read it before he met with me the next day. He gave me an in-depth assignment and since he wanted my feedback, he considered all the options and hazards and by some miracle, he agreed to meet, in person, face to face, over dinner with live music.
the book review
I was so excited about reading his work. When a writer asks another writer for candid feedback, there is a protocol which is followed and you need to be very honest when honesty is asked for. I am editing the content and flow of another book right now and it is exhilarating and those candid comments are being used to make that book spectacular.
I stopped at The Story Inn (appropriate name) to enjoy a wonderful lunch and to read the first two chapters in his book. I had to pull out my red pen. God, could I just smile sweetly and tell him it was wonderful and yes I would buy the book? No, of course not, I had to be honest. Here was the first person who agreed to go out to dinner with me and enjoy some live music and I have to open our first face-to-face conversation with candid comments on his book. Writers and musicians have very tender hearts.
He was a professional and a gentleman accepting my critique and suggestions. With a sigh of relief, I learned another author had made similar suggestions as me. We had dinner and I introduced him to my musician friends. The boys in the band, oh wait, they have expressly stated they are not a band, They are called CPR Revival-we ain’t a band. And just so you know, C is for Chris, P is for Pablo and R is for Ralph Ed. Might be good names for an online dating profile except they are all happily married. Those guys (who aren’t a band) are always teasing me because they know about my leprosy. I once asked Pablo if he could find me a date and he asked if I had any preference if it was a man or a woman. This shocked me to such a degree I went home and cried. Really? Once again I have digressed… I am having a blast, the food is delicious, I am sampling the craft beers, I met the owner of the restaurant and my friend is truly appreciating the original and humorous stories from my musician friends.
professional triangle player
And then the boys (who are not a band) ask if there are any professional triangle players in the audience, with no response, they asked if there was anyone who wanted to learn, with no volunteers, they called me by name to join them on the stage. All the color drained from my face. I have heard them play a hundred times and they never once asked me to join them. The first time ever I have an actual dinner companion, they call me to the stage. I still had on my hiking boots, I have no musical abilities except appreciating well played music, I sing off key and I doubted I had any rhythm, but I played that triangle for all it was worth and it was wildly exhilarating. And to my horror, my new friend was taking my picture. There is a reason I am always on the back side of the camera!
how normal feels
He had this posted on Facebook before I got home. He made friends with the songwriters and asked me to come to Nashville the next time they played. He even walked me to my car which was a half mile away. I had experienced a miracle. This was what NORMAL feels like. A friend willingly met me for dinner, we had meaningful conversation, enjoyed the food and libations, sang songs about an invisible dog named Spotless, an El Camino and Casey’s Ridge (which has nothing to do with what is in Casey’s fridge.)
And then he sent me the next three chapters in his book.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan shedding the leprosy for one glorious night out.