Shortly after getting back from England, I was back pastoring, preaching week after week, conducting Bible studies, visiting church members, living the dream I had pursued since being an infant. Then by some coincidence, I crashed into Natalie’s mother. The thought of Natalie had haunted me for quite a while; she was the girl that got away. I’ve come to realize that far more guys than I would have guessed have these illusory girls and she was mine. She was stunningly good looking, very bright and because her father had been a pastor, she had these quirky beliefs about God (even if she was dismissive of organized religion). She also had this dramatic flair, an intensity that few people can carry off well. Natalie had spent the last two years in Greece and even so we had stayed in poor but occasional contact. This illusion that she was the one that got away had allowed me to make a couple of phone calls to Greece and she had made a couple as well. They were more intense than was appropriate. She was coming back to PUC and her mother invited me to her welcoming party a few days hence. I went back and forth on it knowing that I had unresolved emotions for her and originally decided not to go. But when the day of it came, I was coincidentally not too far from her house and showed up. On the way there, while pumping gas, a man tried to sell me a dozen boxed roses. I sat there and thought way too long about the fact that I was now thinking about buying roses for a woman besides my wife. I bought them and some chocolate the guy was selling and headed over to the party. Apparently her flight had been delayed so she was not there and I was at some level relieved because I had another appointment to get to. Just as I was about to head out, she arrived and I was the only non-family member there. She gave me a big hug as a greeting and I excused myself almost instantly after saying hello. She walked me to my car where the chocolate and roses still were and I reached into my car and did the right thing…sort of. I handed her the chocolate and took the roses home to give to my wife later.
It was a few more weeks until school started and my sense of obligation to living the dream kept wearing me down and it started draining my marriage as well. Because I felt that I needed to be represented at functions of both churches even when they conflicted, Shannon and I started splitting up more. She would go to one function and I would go to another. Truth is that there came a point where I was so worn out where she was kind enough to go to these functions when there wasn’t a conflict just so I could stay at home to do nothing. Achieving your dream wasn’t supposed to be quite this exhausting was it? No one expected the things I was trying to achieve; I had unrealistic expectations of being the perfect pastor while no one else did and certainly no one including myself thought I was achieving it.
One Saturday night, the first Saturday night after school had started, Shannon and I headed home and I was frankly exhausted. I wanted nothing besides going home and crashing but when we arrived we had a voicemail…from Natalie stating that she was in her dorm room not doing much and wanted to bring a gift that she had brought back from Greece. She came over and the gift was nothing other than a beautifully ornate and elaborate chess game on marble with the Greeks and the Romans as the opposing side. Shannon didn’t play chess then or now so it was clearly obvious who the gift was for. Nonetheless, we set up a chess game where the two of them “together” played against me and in the only time I’ve ever done that, I let them win. They laughed and giggled it up and had a great time giving me a hard time about the fact that they had won. We made some snacks and late into the night we headed Natalie home; I drove her back to her dorm myself and doing so told her that there were just too many unresolved issues between us and it would be better that we kept some space between us. Natalie said I was just too intense about it and relax. I went home and told Shannon the same thing and she said I just needed to let things to and start my senior year freshly. Shannon and Natalie were in the same major and thus some of the same classes so they had decided that they could be friends and here was my wife and the “girl who got away” entering the picture with me being the one who reconciled them. I think Shannon was trying to keep the approach of keep your friends close and your enemies even closer and Natalie was trying to fix the past and keep our relationship to at least be existent even if it wasn’t going to be romantic.
That night was when I “officially” lost balance: having achieved my dream of becoming a pastor was wearing me out, the girl who I had way too many unresolved emotions was back in my life as somewhat of a staple, and my senior year had started with me feeling distant. I’d been in a hurry to grow up and had not achieved it.
A few days later, the poster boy was being once again to fulfill a role. There were a series of chapels that occurred for all the beginning freshmen. They invited various faculty members and a few students to speak at them, one speaker per each of the 10 sessions. It was very flattering once again to be invited to speak and it was becoming very clear that I’d now achieved quite a status on campus by some virtue. In one week’s time, two different departments had asked me to represent the school in a place where only a handful of students had been chosen.
Shannon had an evening class the evening these chapels were held. Natalie came to hear me speak and I talked about the practicality of faith. I went on at some length about how if faith doesn’t result in serving the community, it doesn’t have any point. It echoed JFK’s idea that while on earth, God’s work must truly be our own. Natalie was in the front row beaming and listening contently. Afterwards, we were talking and she wanted to go see this rock where I went to think. The fact that it was nine o’clock at night didn’t seem to bother her and it didn’t register enough with me. I took her out there and in the midst of talking, all the unresolved emotions we had were clear and she made a comment about how she trusted me so much she would be fine if we were both to take off all our clothes that nothing would happen. I was twenty one, married and a pastor and I absolutely should have known better but I went along with it and believe it or not, nothing actually happened that night. Let me be clear when I say I went along with it, I don’t meant that somehow I was innocent, just that I didn’t outwardly began this conversation. For crying out loud, I had violated something sacred by taking her to the spot where I went to commune with God. Natalie may well have been opening herself up because she believed that I had done so.
Within a day or two of that for reasons I can’t explain other than idiotness, conflict of emotions and young adult lusthood, I was now thinking about Natalie quite a bit. She called one night after Shannon and I had gone to bed and I honestly can’t recall how it happened but she ended up coming over and spending the night. She stayed in our bed with us with me in the middle. Again, nothing happened that night but the thoughts that were going through my mind were less than pure and they were shared with both of those girls in the following days (though not that night). If I could control any moment in history, I would have the phone ring than or have someone knock on the door or have a fire. It’s cheap wishing I know but any snap back into reality right there and then would have helped prevent a lot of the mess I was about to dive into. Unfortunately, I had made choices where I deluded myself and started to fade into my own reality. Because of that, a day or two later we were having a threesome.
Many theories have been proposed to me about why I made this poor choice. A friend of mine has suggested that those choices were made easier by Shannon and Natalie both wanting to have a relationship with me and not worrying enough about the other because all three of us had much growing up to do. Another one has said it was learned behavior because I’d gotten away with too much with girls without any real consequence. Yet another’s analysis is that I’d been treated as an exception too long and that here was one more time where I thought the rules didn’t apply to me. One more chime was that I was a complete hypocrite and that this was who I really was and that I was faking the other stuff all along. Another was that it was learned behavior from my family having many sordid sexual tales in its stories. Perhaps, another one chimed in, I got into this because I was trying to sabotage my own ministry because I’d become to troubled and restless within it.
The truth of the matter is I don’t have a clear idea of why this happened in a way I can explain into a neat box. Maybe as the story progresses from here, someone else will be able to figure it out but I can tell you that it wasn’t just about sex with two girls (I’d passed up that opportunity explicitly). No, it was because it was those specific two girls, both of which I had strong emotions towards. It would be naïve to say that the physical pleasures weren’t enjoyable (ie I’m not a drinker but people wouldn’t get drunk if there wasn’t some upside to it as most people aren’t drinking only for the drunken effect). Part of it was immaturity but none of us were so immature we didn’t know better. But on that night where the phone didn’t ring and no one knocked, I had foolishly started a series of decisions that would define far too much of my life.