When I was a freshman in high school, I had a crush on N. He was a senior and went to my church. An only child, he had a mild form of palsy that gave him an noticeable limp and a brutal temper which was quick to surface. At the time, I felt drawn to that unpredictable nature. I think part of it was the whole “sick puppy” syndrome. I wondered if I could help him. Shut up, I was 14 and didn’t know any better. I watched Days of Our Lives every day for crying out loud. It worked for Patch and Kayla and Bo and Hope!
My brother was starting seventh grade, which made him old enough to start attending youth group functions, and one night we were riding with N back to the church before choir practice. It was winter and already dark outside, and N decided to do his imitation of a road course racer in his big Ford clunker. He was running 70 mph in a 35 mph zone, and my brother and I were screaming for our lives. N swerved to the other side of the road and asked, “What’s wrong?” We started yelling even louder as he laughed.
We got back to church in one piece, but my infatuation with N pretty much ended right there. Tortured was one thing, but downright crazy was another. I was right to stop feeling anything for him before anything started – although it wouldn’t have gone anywhere anyway. N obsessed over my friend D, who was also the preacher’s daughter. A few weeks after the driving episode, our youth group went to the mountains for a retreat with groups from lots of other churches. D spent the weekend hanging out with a guy from another church, sending N into a jealous fit. My brother and one of his friends were N’s unfortunate roommates for the weekend and witnessed the rage he unleashed on the last night there. He ranted and raved and through a chair across the room.
No one looked at N the same way after that trip. Everyone was just a little wary of him, and he stayed just as angry about everyone else. One night after a gathering at D’s house, N was pissed off once again and went driving around. He took a curve too fast and rolled his car a few times in an open field. Miraculously, he wasn’t hurt, but the incident was kind of the cinch that closed the curtain between N and everyone else.
Today, he still lives with his mom, barely works and blames everyone else for his problems. I saw his mother this spring at a greenhouse where I was buying flowers. She asked how my brother was doing. I told her that he was dating someone and that the rest of the family were keeping our fingers crossed that this girl was the one. N’s mom started talking about how she told N not worry about marriage, that some people just aren’t meant for it. I nodded and went on my way and noted how true that statement was for N.
That ride in his car might have been a dangerous one, but it would have been nothing compared to what could have been. Talk about dodging a bullet!