I mean, most of us have some pretty crazy dating horror stories. I have a few that are pretty GIANT. Like the time I was asked out by a serial killer.
For a while I was convinced that I was one of those people who attracted “bad” people or the wrong people. Ya know what?! I was 100% correct. It’s almost comical, really. Ok. It is totally funny in hindsight. What isn’t funny is as bad as it was at times, it could have been so much worse.
When I said I thought I attracted some “bad” people, I actually mean that a couple of them were downright evil.
Toward the end of my relationship with my “ex” (the long relationship), I decided I would give church a try again. I had always struggled with it and found that I was more comfortable with pieces from different religions and philosophies vs. committing and believing just one. Ultimately that is where I am in life now and I am very happy and spiritually fulfilled. I forget exactly who invited me to go to church or how I ended up there. I do not regret going. And this is not a bash on churches. Ultimately I decided church was not for me and not because of this story.
I am highly skilled in the art of compartmentalization. That is one of the things that helped me mentally (and in all ways really) survive. I would put things away until I needed them. Sometimes some of the details get lost when I eventually pull those memories down from the shelf. This is one of those times. This story is not made up. This is real. I am a little fuzzy on the timelines but you can actually look this up online if you want more info.
Anyway, I ended up at a church in Reeders, PA. It was different from any church I had ever been to. I am a recovering Catholic – oops. What I meant to say is that I was raised Catholic. This church was kind of a modern, born again type of church but was labeled as Methodist. They had Christian Rock bands and musicians vs. traditional church music. I liked that part a lot. It wasn’t the same as the love I have for the songs we grew up with in church like “On Eagles Wings”. That song still makes me cry. Anyway… I wanted help to get through my relationship issues and some unbiased people who didn’t know us but would hopefully be kind but progressive enough to get it. I thought I had found everything I needed. So I went all in. I started counseling with the pastor. His name was A.B. We talked mostly about my relationship in our meetings. I volunteered at the church (vacation bible school, etc), I was added to the prayer chain. The prayer chain. That one was tough for me because I was still not really fully invested in the whole idea of one religion. I would think about the person they asked me to pray for, think and send healing thoughts with my head, but I didn’t know if that counted as praying. Even at vacation bible school, if a child asked me a question I would form my answer more about others.
Me: “Well, Christians believe yadda yadda yadda”
Kid: “I’m a Christian”
Me: “Well there you go then.”
Anyway, rewind a bit. My first “counseling” meeting with A.B. was in his office in the church. It felt really weird and uncomfortable. I chalked up most of that feeling to just being in a church and about to share really personal stuff with a stranger who I was expecting would not love everything I had to say. There were some other strange things that I noted and tucked away for later. He had this painting in his office that was pretty disturbing. As an artist I tend to notice real art vs. prints and knick knacks. This would have been noticed by anyone. It was a man hanging from an upside down cross. He was bleeding. I asked A.B. about it and he explained it was Saint Peter and that was how he was executed. I looked it up later and found out that many people do actually believe that he died on an upside down cross. Nonetheless, something about this particular painting really disturbed me. It felt evil.
A.B.’s office felt evil.
I know that sounds weird but I imagine everyone in the world at some point has gotten the chills and felt a bad feeling around someone or something. That’s what I felt. A.B. also told me it had been painted by a child.
I met with him a few times. Eventually I stopped meeting with him but continued going to the church. I almost stopped paying attention to him and was more interested in my new friendships.
Then the prayer chain started getting interesting. I am unsure of the order of the two calls (compartmentalizing gone wrong) but there were two and my memory has them in this order.
My ex and I were no longer together and I was living in my new place. I got the call from the woman ahead of me on the chain. I can’t remember her name. She told me the church has had a terrible loss and needs prayer. She then told me that the husband of A.B.’s secretary had killed himself in A.B.’s office. My brain immediately went into detective mode and I had questions that were not welcomed. A man shot himself in the pastor’s office. Um. That is sad but also seems extremely symbolic. That was what my gut told me.
I don’t remember what happened next, I think I stopped going to the church at that point which might be why I also think this second call could have actually been the first.
The same woman ahead of me in the prayer chain called and again told me of the church’s and now A.B.’s need for prayer. His wife died tragically in a car accident. She told me that his wife complained of a horrible headache so A.B. decided to take her to the hospital. On the way to the hospital a deer ran in front of the car so A.B. swerved to avoid the deer, hit a tree and his wife went through the windshield.
At this point I was not even polite with my questions. I was downright insulting about her resistance to them. She could have hung up. She didn’t have to listen. She wanted to make sure I would not discuss my thoughts with anyone else. She said it was not what the church needed. She said it was not what A.B. needed. She said this was especially the case since this is the second wife he has lost tragically.
Are you fucking kidding me?
She proceeded to tell me that his first wife had fallen down a full flight of stairs in their home and died from the brain injuries in the fall. Um. Ok.
I went to the church one more time. There was an informal service that A.B. was holding to comfort and console the church and bring them all together. Part of that was a gathering to support each other and A.B. (It felt like a viewing minus the actual viewing). I can’t explain why I went. Maybe it was curiosity. I mean, I knew the guy was murdering people. I knew it in my heart. But I went to the service. The only part I remember from the whole thing was the gathering. A.B. was standing in one spot in a small room and was sort of receiving everyone the way you would in an actual viewing. People were paying their respects. I was just watching everything. It was bizarre like a horror movie. In my head it was like a demonic ritual. That is not what it was actually like, of course, but it was dreamlike. I realized as I was standing directly in front of him that it was my turn to pay respects.
I said something like “I’m sorry for your loss. Let me know if I can do anything”…something like that.
A.B. grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye and said something like “It gets lonely sometimes. If you ever want to come over and have dinner and talk, I would appreciate that.”.
Remember that chill we talked about earlier. Now multiply that times 100 and add a weird electric, nausea causing feeling.
I don’t think I said anything back. I left the church right after I left that super creepy handholding moment and what I do know is that was the last time I stepped foot in that church.
Take a deep breath…
Maybe a year later, I turned on the news and there was A.B. in handcuffs being escorted somewhere. I don’t know what he actually got convicted of and if he even did. I will probably look it up after I am done writing. Before I did not want to even know. Now I am curious.
And that was it (insert nervous awkward laughter that those who know me can probably almost actually hear).
I forgot about it. Until I remembered and wrote it here.
Crazy. But it could have been so much worse. To those poor women and maybe that guy – I’m so sorry this happened to you. It continues to amaze me how many abuse their power and the trust that others have in them. I feel like I was given this amazing gift of a pretty strong gut that sends me some pretty strong feelings. I have chosen to listen to it over and over again. There were times in my life when I didn’t listen right away. This time I did. It might seem like this was more of a common sense decision vs. a gut feeling and that is probably correct. But haven’t you ever ignored common sense. Maybe during a time when you weren’t all there or really yourself. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as this. Those women didn’t have the knowledge or time in history that I had. For them it was not as extreme. Several things in life have taught me to think things through, be empathetic and not judge. Sometimes someone’s life changes completely based on a single decision. One decision to not listen could have landed me in a much different spot than I am now. Just one decision.