September 4, 1995 – Monday – 3:40 p.m.

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Four very special days are coming to a close.  Syndi and I returned from our weekend away about 20 minutes ago.  I just got finished unpacking my clothes.  This entry will probably not be in chronological order, but nonetheless I spent almost every second of the past four days with beautiful Syndi.  We went to Deep Creek with my parents.  We went tubing.  She wore her bathing suit.  We took hikes.  We went and saw three amazing waterfalls together.  I took tons of pictures.  We drove to Cherokee, played miniature golf, rode go-carts, and I spent a lot of money I didn’t really have.  We ate at Pizza Hut and we looked out over that never-changing scene.  She held my hand while we hiked, and whenever we sat down to rest, she would put her head on my shoulder and I would put my arm around her.  We would hold hands while tubing down the creek.  We would make jokes and laugh.

In short, I roamed the playground of my youth, the place I visited every summer for the past decade, with a gorgeous tall redhead who clung so close to my side.  Syndi and I were inseparable.  And everywhere we drove we listened to the same song over and over because she had the single stuck in her cassette player and couldn’t get it out.  So any time in the future, when I hear The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) I’ll think of Syndi and our perfect weekend in the Smoky Mountains.

A really funny moment was when Syndi and I were simply hanging out at the campsite after we had finished tubing.  She was still in her bathing suit.  We were just sitting next to each other on our tubes, and I don’t know, but I guess I yawned or something and my grandpa asked what was wrong.  I said, “I don’t know, I guess I’m just bored.”  He turned around and mumbled, “Son, how can you be bored with something like that sitting right next to you?”  He didn’t mean for Syndi and I to hear that, but we sure did.  We had a good laugh.  But it is a blessing to be seen with such a beautiful woman.  Especially one who spent nearly the whole weekend in a bikini.

So much more happened, but last night as we were coming back from Pizza Hut, we turned to go to the recreation park.  I pulled the car up a hill and turned it around so we could face the sunset.  And there began one of the most interesting conversations I have ever known.  She wanted to know why I do the things I do.  By this she was referring to my Christianity.  And with our hands holding each others and my head on her shoulder, I told her how much I love Jesus and why.  I almost cried trying to explain it.  She held my hand tighter as I continued to talk.  And with my head in her lap and her fingers running through my hair, she told me so many things.  She told me little childhood stories and things in her past.  A life so different from my own.  She told me about Eric, her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, whom she can’t seem to let go of.  He is a drug-addict, and admits it.  And Syndi basically referred to her alcohol as her own god.  Yet, throughout our differences in conversation and beliefs our bodies got closer.  My lips ran across the back of her neck.  And, at one point, I eventually fell asleep with my head in her lap.

Earlier that day, we decided we both needed to take a shower, but the only way to take one is to pay for it at the laundromat.  So, I was in the men’s shower and she was in the woman’s shower.  Syndi finished before me and when she walked to the car, she said a woman came up to her and said, “Your husband sure does take a long time in that shower, doesn’t he.”  She said she didn’t have the heart to correct her, and for a few times that night, Syndi called me “her hubby.”

I asked her why she was with me this weekend and why she spent so much time with me?  Why she seems so concerned with my life?

She said she found me interesting.

Normally, Syndi is not the kind of person I would hang around and she said the same about me.  However, this non-Christian, this “person-of-the-world”, is on my mind 24/7.

For the past few years while at Deep Creek, I secretly hoped to meet a special girl.  And I did.  I met Emily.  This year however, I brought one with me.

I am not any better than Syndi.  She is not any better than me.  Jesus died for her just like he died for me.  She is a child of God who is simply lost.

And I am a child of God, who in the long run, will probably lose her.

July 13, 1994 – Wednesday – 7:12 p.m.

I don’t know where to begin.  So much has happened since my last entry.

Yesterday we went tubing, but then it began to rain.  I found out there was a movie theater in Franklin, a city about 30 miles away.  Jonathan said I could take his car and go.  He wanted to stay and talk to some of the girls from the youth group.  I met a few of them, but everyone I met has been a hypocrite.

The girls who were next to us were very sweet.  They were always smiling at me and staring at me.  They even took some pictures of me.

It feels good when someone notices you.

But they left this morning.

Anyway, I took Jonathan’s car out to find a movie theater in a city I’ve never been 30 miles away.  I didn’t know what movies were playing either.  And Jonathan’s car is very hard to drive.  It’s like you have no control over it.

But I made it to Franklin.  I stopped at a motel to ask for directions and they told me and also pointed out that my tire was going flat.  I took the car to a gas station and put air in the tire, then I found the movie theater.

I wanted to see Forrest Gump, but the only movies playing were I Love Trouble, Wyatt Earp, and The Lion King.

It was 5:05 p.m.  I was going to see Wyatt Earp, but that didn’t start until 7:30 p.m.  So, guess what I went to go see?  You’re right; The Lion King for the third time.

It is the most perfect movie.  It helps me realize why I am here in the world.

After the movie I went to the car, only to discover Jonathan’s battery had died.  I stopped two pretty college girls to help jump me off.  They did and I drove back to Bryson City, happy beyond my wildest imagination.

Why?

I was out alone in a strange car I wasn’t used to, going over mountains and through valleys to find a movie theater in a city I had never been to before.

And, you know what, I did it.

I had to ask for directions, I almost had a flat tire, and the car battery died, but you know what, I made it!  And throughout my upcoming years at college, as I try to make it in a strange land, with a variety of obstacles coming my way, I too will make it.

And in the end, just like Simba, I will be the king I was meant to be.

July 12, 1994 – Tuesday – 9:15 a.m.

I’m finding joy.

There is a huge youth group camped down a little ways.  Jonathan met them.  I’m sure I will.  He says there are tons of girls.

I met some girls who are camping next to us.  They were eleven though.  I couldn’t believe it.  They didn’t look eleven.  Needless to say, I backed off.

We’re going tubing today.  It’s still raining, but we have to have fun some time.

See ya!

June 16, 1994 – Thursday – 8:28 p.m.

Dad hasn’t said anything.  I’m pretending like nothing has happened.

For Deep Creek this summer it doesn’t look like many people are going.  Everyone is busy and working.  We’ll see.

Tomorrow Dad and I are going to King’s Dominion.  I’m disgusted with him, but life goes on.  It is his problem, not mine.

I miss home.  I miss church.  I wonder if Jenna and Tenielle have continued on without even noticing that I’m not there to hug them.  I know Tenielle probably has; she has Kevin.

I hope Jenna is missing me and thinking of me.

Since I’ve been up here, I’ve realized that I can make it away from home.  It’ve got everything settled for college, I believe.

When I signed Jenna’s yearbook last Thursday I wrote something along these lines:

“As you know…in the past I had strong feelings for you, but through it all I’m glad we remained friends.  Although I wanted more, I knew it could never be more wonderful than each time I saw you smile.  abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.  U and I were both happy with the alphabet just like this.  Elephant Shoe!”

She didn’t read it until after I left.  When I hugged her Friday night after graduation, I could tell that she had read it.  She seemed to appreciate it.

Then Renee smiled at me.  It’s so true.  Another girl always comes along.

Up in Banner Elk, I can assure you that another girl will catch my eye and perhaps even my heart.  It will happen.  I am human.  I desire to love and be loved.

But that story hasn’t begun yet.  It’ll begin in a few months.

October 11, 1993 – Monday – 6:05 p.m.

Today is Columbus Day!

Wup dee do!

About thirty minutes ago I returned from the mountains.  It was cold up there.  It is difficult to describe what I’m feeling now.

Today Jonathan and I took a college day.  We both went to visit Lees-McRae.  We left at about 4:15 this morning and he let me drive while he slept.  I drove about half way.  We ate at McDonald’s and then Jonathan drove the rest of the way.

We had an appointment to talk to the admissions counselor at 9:00 a.m.  We had about an hour and a half to kill when we got up there, so we drove around on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Jonathan hadn’t been to the mountains in about eight years.  He was amazed.  It was nice there, in the area they call the High Country, but nothing can beat the Smokies.

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In the Smokies, the main attraction is rafting and tubing.  Up there in Banner Elk, it is skiing.

Once we arrived at Lees-McRae, everyone at the admissions office treated us like royalty.  We felt so welcome there.  This absolutely beautiful young woman showed us a video and talked with us some.  Then another beautiful girl gave us a tour.  The college is simply amazing.  Nearly all of the buildings are built of stone and the fall colors were super bright.  It is a gorgeous campus.  I liked it a lot.  And everything in the town was in walking distance.  Pretty important since I’m sure I won’t have a car.

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We went back to the admissions office and talked with a guy named Robert who teaches in the Performing Arts Department.  He answered a lot of our questions.  Jonathan later told me that he was gay because of the way that he sat and crossed his legs, but a lot of straight guys do that.  Anyway, it was a nice visit and it looks like we will have to go back later to audition for a scholarship.

I’m excited!

Yesterday at church I was a little down because I knew the very next day I would be visiting the place where the next four years of my life would probably take place.  My excitement made me realize that I only have about ten months left and then I will be gone.

I’ve been attending my church for nearly six years.  It seems like I’ve been going there for ever.  It seems like I’ve known Ryan, Christi, Amy, Cheryl, Scott, and Marcus for ever.  That church is all I’ve known for so long.  These friends are all I’ve known for so long.  Ten months is not enough time to say goodbye.  I’m a little afraid.

Yesterday, I was playing the piano after the evening service and Cheryl and Ryan came in there.  I was alone in the children’s church room before that.  They came in and told me about the clown troupe they want to form to go to visit kids in the hospital.  I found out that Ryan’s name is not Sunshine, but it is Happy.  She is always both of them to me.

No telling what my name would be.

Cheryl and Amy were telling me that everyone is going off to college and youth group isn’t going to be the same anymore.

Daylight
See the dew on a sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses wither away
Like the sunflower, I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day

There is a city near Lees-McRae called Boone.  Jonathan and I drove through there.  It was much bigger than Banner Elk and felt a little like Sanford.  Sanford itself is not special to me; it is the people that live there.

Memory
Turn your face to the moonlight
Let your memory lead you
Open up, enter in
If you find there the meaning of what happiness is
Then a new life will begin

I’ll never forget September 14, 1991.  That was when we went to Carowinds and Hank was the youth pastor.  Brian rode with me and Ryan and a friend of hers were in front of us.  Brian kept messing with Ryan’s hair.  It’s been years since I’ve seen Brian.  For all I know he could be dead.

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember a time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

There were rough and sad moments too.  Like Jonathan and Christi at San-Lee Park.  I don’t want to go through that again.

Burnt out ends of smokey days
The stale cold smell of morning
A streetlamp dies – another night is over
Another day is dawning

It was a blast last September when we went to see Carman in concert.  And Marcus and I selling doughnuts at Wal-Mart.  Simple things that mean so much.

Daylight
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

And look at me now.  Look at today.  I know I’m leaving, so why am I trying so desperately to hold on?

When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

I wonder if there will be a girl up there at Lees-McRae whom I’ll think about like I think about Ryan.  In a way I don’t want it to happen, but I know that it will.

Sunlight through the trees in summer
Endless masquerading
Like a flower as the dawning is breaking
The memory is fading

Touch me
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with a memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is
Look, a new day has begun

This Happy Sunshine will set.  It won’t be around forever.

Another girl always comes along.