January 17, 1994 – Monday – 12:46 p.m.

Today is my older brother’s birthday.  He is 19.  

A few minutes earlier my whole body was shaking.  I couldn’t control it.  Ever since I woke up I’ve been thinking of Jenna and Tenielle. Jenna mostly.

Yesterday morning they weren’t at church.  I went to Scott’s after church and they showed up to the evening service.  I had a letter for Jenna, answering the questions she asked me when she wrote me.  I was up on stage and I didn’t have a chance to give it to her.  Shar’s whole family, Sunny, Jenna, and Tenielle all got up and left a few minutes after Shurby began preaching.  At first I was sort of confused.  But I figured it must have been an emergency if the whole family left.  So this morning, I mailed Jenna her letter.

This is what Jenna’s letter said.  It shows her age a little bit, but I still found it sweet:

“Jacob, I think the youngest age for you should be 14.  Don’t get mad at me, but why did you like Veronica?  I don’t think Veronica knows how to act in front of anyone, even though I really don’t know her.  But if 14 doesn’t work, go to 15.  Do you want to go with anybody?  I think Cheryl likes you.  I asked her Sunday night who she liked, she said some boy at her school, but I think she likes you.  Do you think she does because of the way she acts?  Do you still like Tenielle even though she’s 12?  You look like a cherry on the stage, I think it’s funny but not in a bad way.  Please answer this question: when is the last time you cried?  Please don’t lie to me, I’m not going to make fun of you.  Please tell me the reason you cried, too.  Do you know Steve, Melissa’s brother?  He goes with Shar, but don’t tell anyone.  Do you think they are a good couple or is he kind of perverted?  Not that I’m interested but how do you act when you go with someone?”

I answered all her questions.  When she asked me if I want to go with anybody, I said no, because I’m going off to college soon and it would be simpler if I were just friends with that person.  And when she asked me if I still like Tenielle, I said “Yes, I like her the same way I like you.”

And I do.  I like them both.  I enjoy being around them.  Jenna will be 14 in March and that’s only three years.  When I liked Ryan, she was 14 and 15; same with Christi.

But earlier today, I didn’t know what to do.  I want to get close to Tenielle and Jenna, but I just don’t want to get hurt.  

My life is a book.  And I’m writing it down.  I want to be honest with myself and never cover up how I really feel.  But sometimes, I just don’t know how I feel.

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January 15, 1994 – Saturday – 10:30 p.m.

Today is January 15, 1994 and today would go under the category of “One of the Best Days of My Life.”  It wasn’t exactly what happened that made it a good day, but it was more about what I learned.

The only way to begin is with last night, which also ties in with today.

After work, I went to Mr. Gatti’s; mom dropped me off.  Jenna, Tenielle, Shar, and Sunny showed up a few minutes later.  Shar and I split a pizza.  Then Scott showed up and he had a few slices.  Later, Jenna, Tenielle, Shar, Sunny and I played a game.  It’s too difficult to describe here, but we had a blast.

While we were playing, Ryan came in with a friend.  They sat at a table across the room and then a guy sat with them.  For about 45 minutes I didn’t say a word to her, then I excused myself from the game for a moment and went over to her table and said, “I just wanted to say ‘hey’ so you couldn’t accuse me of being stuck up later.”  I smiled.  She smiled back and said, “Oh Jacob,” and I left and went back and sat with the four girls.

Four.

It hit me.  Something was different.  All the other times I went to Mr. Gatti’s it was always with Ryan, Amy, Cheryl, and Christi.

Now, I was with Jenna, Tenielle, Sunny, and Shar.  Retrospect hit me and all the girls noticed something was wrong and kept begging me to tell them what I was thinking.  Jenna and Tenielle mostly.

The five of us joked about everything.  I never did tell them though until later.  The evening was great fun, but then we had to leave.  Sunny’s parents came to pick them up and they said that they needed a ride tomorrow to the door to door ministry shindig.  I offered to pick them up.  Sunny’s mom gave me directions.

They left.  I went with Scott to his house and Kevin picked me up from there later.

We went home and soon, morning came.

We picked up Marcus, like we do every Saturday morning, (unless he’s staying the night), and we drove to Sanford.  Cheryl showed up at Band Practice.  I was supposed to leave at 10:00 a.m. to get Jenna, Tenielle, Sunny, and Shar.  I didn’t leave until 10:30 a.m. since Kevin and Marcus took the car to get something to eat.

Well, I’ve never been in that part of Lee County before and I got lost.  When I finally found their house, I discovered that they somehow conjured up another ride and had already left because they didn’t think I was coming.  Well, I drove back and when I arrived at the church, I saw Tenielle running out to explain everything.  Jenna and Shar followed.  Sunny didn’t come.

We all had a good laugh.  We then went in and prayed for a while and then head out into the city to spread the Word.

Dear God…I saw poverty today like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  And I complain when the hot water in the shower runs out.  It made me thankful.

Very thankful.

A few people got saved, one baptized in the spirit.  A wonderful, wonderful, time.  There is nothing like sharing the gospel.  I love it.

We all ate pizza back at the church and had a service.  I took the three girls back and we had a wonderful conversation.  I told them what I was thinking about in terms of Ryan and the other girls I used to spend a lot of time with.  They were thankful I was with them.  I wish I could live through that conversation again.  There was more laughter and joy in that short drive than I’m most experience in a week.

I took Shar to her house and Jenna and Tenielle to theirs.  They live in a trailer park.  The trailer itself isn’t that bad.  When we got there, Jenna gave me a letter she had written to me the night before.  And their mom gave me $3 for gas money…I accepted.

We said our goodbye’s and I left.  While I drove off, I saw Jenna come outside in the bitter cold and wave goodbye.  I waved back and drove on.  In the rearview mirror, I saw her standing there waiting until she couldn’t see my car anymore, then I’m assuming she went back inside.

I smiled.

When I got back to the church, the skit group met and we got stuff cleared away.

Then myself, Kevin, Marcus, Cheryl, and Sherry and her sister all went bowling.  I won and then the three girls left while I watched Kevin and Marcus play a game in the arcade.  While there, I saw so many people acting “worldly.”  Praise God I’m a Christian.  I can be myself and take off my mask.  Everyone always seems to be performing for everyone else; trying to get attention; simply being too loud.  It’s like I’m the only one who is aware of who I am.

We went home, and I read Jenna’s letter.  I’ll try to write in here later.

The reason today was so wonderful was because it was so simple.

Right now I’m going to call Brandon; Mom said he called earlier.

And I’m going to end this wonderful day by talking to my wonderful friend who moved across America more than a year ago.

January 13, 1994 – Thursday – 10:02 p.m.

I took my Computer Applications exam this morning.  That is the only exam I had to take.  It was easy.

I got home around 10:30 a.m.  Later today around 5:00 p.m. I called Wayne to ask him for Jenna and Tenielle’s phone number.  I wanted to see if they were interested in Skit Group.

Wayne forgot their number, so instead he gave me Shar’s number.  I called her and guess who was there?  Yep.  Jenna and Tenielle.  I talked to them, I asked Jenna for her number, she gave it to me.

They didn’t know about the VIP thing (it’s the after ballgame thing at Mr. Gatti’s), so I told them and invited them.

I told Jenna about skit group, but she said, “I’m not an actor.”

I should see them tomorrow after work.

 

January 12, 1994 – Saturday – 10:00 p.m.

Ninety days of my senior year are over.  I have 90 more to go.

And then…well…you know.

At church tonight, Jenna and Tenielle and Shar were trying to get my attention while I was singing.  They got it and I noticed they were trying to make me sing louder.  I did, but they said later that they still couldn’t hear me.

Ryan was there tonight.  I said very little to her.  I miss her in a way.

I looked at Jenna a few times while I was singing.  She was looking at me.  She is a beautiful girl.

Right now I’m listening to the Power of One soundtrack.  I first heard all of this music last spring.  Just hearing it makes me feel the warm air.

I found an old letter from Veronica yesterday.  She wrote that she felt crazy because she wanted to see me and couldn’t.

Things have changed.

Big time.

There is another one of those “After Ballgame Parties” at Mr. Gatti’s this Friday.  I remember the first one.  Danielle’s dad must be a thief.

I want it to get warm again.

We have skit group practice this Saturday.  That is shocking.  We are also doing another one of those Door to Door ministry things.

Ninety days.

Five months.

The summer.

Should I put it in low gear and slowly slip away, or should I put it in high gear and have a blast with everyone and then leave with a snap of my fingers?  I have a closet full of junk, memories and stuff that I have to clean out before I leave.  The day I do that will be a painful day.

January 9, 1994 – Sunday – 10:59 p.m.

The day did contain some hurt.  It hurts to think about it.

When I came into church this morning, I saw two beautiful girls:  Veronica and Sherry.

They hugged me and said, “This is our last service here.”

It hit me all at once.  All this stuff got to Shirley, so now, she is leaving too.  And taking her family, my friends, with her.  They weren’t even staying for the main service.  They were leaving after Sunday School.  I walked them out to their car and I probably hugged Veronica and Sherry ten times each.  Sure, I’ll see them again.  But it won’t be the same.  They told me to visit anytime.  And I will.

Other than that, the day was good.  The service was great.  I talked to Jenna and Tenielle a little.  It was nice.

Ryan and Amy were there in the morning.

Ryan is still beautiful.

Veronica is still beautiful.

Christi is like a shadow of the past.

These three girls meant so much to me.  Where are they now?

I recall all the events in my mind.  All the talks.  All the walks.  The innocence.

I wish I could go back, but life doesn’t work that way.

Yesterday is yesterday.  And tomorrow is still a day away.

I’m afraid I was right when I said that life is simply a collection of greetings and farewells and the love you share in-between.

I want so bad to get to know Jenna and Tenielle.  But I’m scared.  Whoever says “hello,” must one day say “goodbye.”

I don’t want to get close because my day to say goodbye is coming in eight months.

Goodbye to everyone but my God and my Book of Days.

 

January 8, 1994 – Saturday – 10:47 p.m.

The day is over.  This day contained a lot.  Too much.  So much it hurts.

It hurts…

Somebody take it away.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m.  The day began.  I showered and got dressed.  Then at 7:25 a.m., I left for Sanford.  Marcus did not come with me.  He had other stuff to do.

I prayed on the way to church.

This morning the praise and worship band went to Shoney’s for breakfast; as they do the beginning of every year.  We made some changes in some stuff and went back to church to practice.  It doesn’t really affect me, since I’m just a backup singer.  Cheryl wasn’t there this morning.

Practice was over around 12:30 p.m.  I then went to Veronica’s house.  I went by to see them because they haven’t been coming to church as much as they used to.

Today, I’m afraid I found out why.

I watched a little of “Drop Dead Fred” and then Shirley asked me a question, “Jacob, do you know the whole story of why Christi’s family isn’t at church anymore?”

I said, “Well, I’ve talked to Christi,” and then told her our recent conversation.

Then she told me that she talked to Christi’s mom in Roses a while back.  She explained it all to me.

It turned out…I didn’t know a thing!

I will not go into detail, but Christi’s Dad and Pastor Steve were always at odds with each other.  Therefore, Steve had been hurt and he could never receive anything from them.

Then Pastor Steve and Christi’s mom talked and got into an argument.  And Pastor Steve was in the wrong in what he said, but he has his opinion.  So Christi’s family and Ryan’s family would hang out together and just talk.  Pastor Steve accused them of having secret meetings in which they were talking bad about the church.

There is obviously a lot more to the story, but to sum it all up, Christi’s family was kicked out of the church.

And that is why I haven’t seen much of Ryan and Amy, or of Veronica and her family.  They still come off and on, but not regularly like before.

I ate lunch with Shirley and Veronica and then I left.  I stopped by to see Scott, but he was at work and wouldn’t be at youth group tonight.  I got all that information from his mother, who was headed out the door when I showed up.

So, I drove off.  I thought about going to see Christi or Ryan and Amy, but I wasn’t sure.

Truthfully, I was scared.  I didn’t want to face the present.  So, instead, I went to visit them in the past.

I went to San Lee Park.  Earlier in 1993 the youth group was there one day and Christi and Ryan were practicing their skit which they choreographed and performed to The Power of One soundtrack.  

I remember last spring when I watched them.  Christi had a pair of cut off jean shorts.  They were cut so high the pockets were hanging out of the front.  I sat there on that fresh soft green grass so many months ago and I watched those two girls dance.

Today, I walked through the cold winter air onto that same patch of grass.  I looked down and became very aware that the grass was dead.

The grass had died.

I walked around some more and thought about everything.  Then I asked myself, “What am I doing here?”

Suddenly, I knew the answer.  I want so much to hold onto the past, but I can’t.  It is dead.

It died like the grass.  The brown, dry, ugly grass.

I left San Lee Park.

And I decided to go to Wayne’s house.  It was around 4:45 p.m.

I stayed there.  I was going to take him to youth group.  While there, Jenna called and I talked to her and Tenielle.

They are my friends, nothing more.  We had a nice conversation, and then we went to youth group.  Their mom’s transmission messed up, so they couldn’t come to youth group.

At youth group, we prayed and learned and had a great time.  Cheryl was there and she said that her and Ryan had gotten in a fight.  She didn’t tell me what about.  

After youth group, I took Wayne home and then I went home.  Once I got here, at 10:00 p.m., I called Ryan and Amy and talked to them both.  I miss them so much.  Ryan told me about their fight.  It’s sort of major, but I’m sure they’ll get over it.  It was just a misunderstanding.

They said they would be at church tomorrow.

As will I.

Another Sunday.  Another service.  Hopefully not another day of hurt.

January 5, 1994 – Wednesday – 10:46 p.m.

Well, another day is over.

I got a haircut today and I bought some typewriter ribbon so I can continue writing Challenger’s Deep.  

At church tonight, I blushed while I was singing.  After church, Wayne said that Jenna, Tenielle, Shar, Sunny, and Rebecca were talking about me and Shar said that every time Jenna and Tenielle are at church, I turn red.

Well, I suppose there was a little truth in that.  I don’t know why I blush so bad.  It’s just how my skin is.

I went to play the piano in the Missionette’s room and all the girls plus Wayne and Cheryl came in later.  Cheryl noticed how red I was and she said, “Jacob, do you like one of those girls.”

I basically didn’t say anything.

The whole time Tenielle was just looking at me and smiling.  Wayne said that I like Tenielle, but she is twelve and I…

Oh, it’s nothing major.

I just want to be their friend.

Hmm.