Saturday, September 25, 2004
First Encounter
"What the hell am I thinking?"

This is the thought that grips my brain as I ramble down the dorm steps. It's about 8:30. I've been working since about noon, and it's time for a break. I have my keys in one hand and a Pedro the Lion bootleg in the other. I have this habit of carrying my keys in my right hand. I just seem to forget I do have pockets for them. The question does not register at all to my feet that have set their course posthaste for the administration building. Of course, my feet never were much for thinking.

Last week I learned that the Nicholasville bowling alley isn't the greatest spot for holding group conversations. One-on-one conversations, however, work just nicely in the eclectic cacophany of booty music and clattering bowling pins. Thusly, I also learned that she started her job this evening at the switchboard in the administration office. I knew from a brief previous exchange that she was a fan of Pedro the Lion.

Surely, she would appreciate the bootleg CD, no? Surely, she could use some company at the end of her shift, no? I mean, who calls the Asbury 800-number at 9 pm on a Friday? And that administration building is a pretty spooky place at night when there's not a soul to be seen. The lobby is populated by blank-faced, staring busts and portraits on the wall that may as well have been stolen from a Scooby Doo haunted house. Then there's the mural on the wall with the Mark Twain looking guy shooting thunder bolts from his fingertips all Harry Potter style. Bottom line, it's not exactly the place I'd want to be spending my Friday night.

Still, this is not a person I know extremely well. We had exchanged a couple hellos in passing. The bowling alley exchange had been the first since a brief conversation during orientation. I am not usually this forward. Just what am I doing?

The atmosphere between mixed company is an odd beast at the seminary, to say the least. There was something unnatural about the interaction between guys and gals at my Christian undergrad school. I daresay it was unhealthy. The campus emanated this obsession with being coupled up and married. One could not cross the school grounds without knowing that was married or quickly moving in that direction. The attitude seemed to be that this would be the last place one would ever be around Christian singles. Ever. The outbreak of weddings immediately following graduation each May was ridiculous.

To be honest, I expected this same warped attitude of Christian singles at the seminary, and I was not looking forward to it. But it is different here. Still weird, but different. Still unhealthy. Immediately upon arriving on campus there are comments flying left and right about gals being desperate and guys being on the prowl. Everybody's looking for a spouse. This is great just great. These are not rumors, either. You can pick these people in crowd. It is kind of funny sometimes. Mostly not, though. More sad. One would think that the future Methodist leaders of the world have a better grapple on how to deal with their brothers and sisters in Christ and move on from the Junior High Dance Syndrome.

Maybe it's because of the disproportion of guys to gals, or of the married guys to the "seekers." Or that the ladies that are here are educated, career-minded, independent gals, while some of the guys are nursing unfulfilled expectations from their college days. Or maybe that pretty much everybody attracted to a seminary struggles with some degree of anti-socialabiltiy as their own personal El Guapo.

Anyway, everybody knows Creepy Seminary Guy. He's more a type than a specific individual. He's the guy who walks up to a crowd of mixed company and zeroes in on one lady and ignores everyone else in the group. I am serious, it happens. I was at a church function with another guy. This girl I had seen on campus, who I had thought was kind of cute, comes over to talk to us, and the first thing out of her mouth is how you have got to be wary of those weird seminary guys. What are you supposed to say to that? "Uh, yeah, we try to stay away from them, too."

So this is my stigma I am up against. Not just Pedro's own personal demons, but now there is Creepy Seminary Guy. Those are the hurdles to leap just to initiate even a friendship with the opposite sex. I can count on one hand the times I have chatted with this young lady, on maybe three fingers, in the last month. I am tracking her down at her job, cornering her where she cannot run away. I am Creepy Seminary Guy. Why am I doing this?

I cannot really tell if that is her at the desk. The hallway is too dark. It throws me off my planned witty entrance. She recognizes me first and smiles. It is not a suprised smile. But not like she expects me, either. Just very natural. As if my being there in an empty building on a Friday night should not be out of the ordinary.

We talk until her shift is up at 10. Never an awkward moment. She is in the counseling program. She went to Greeville College where she studied counseling. She is an only child. Her step-dad is a Methodist minister. She goes to the Wilmore Free Methodist Church. She digs indie music. She's in Kingdom, Church and World (but not my section). She's playing intramural tennis, and she's a bit apphrehensive about that as not enough ladies signed up, so she is paired against guys. I offer to play her sometime if it would help her self-esteem.

Smooth, I know.

I walked with her back to her dorm. I did not ask. It just seemed like a natural progression of the conversation. She seemed to genuinely enjoy the company.

I did not feel like Creepy Seminary Guy at all. Because I am not.

Rather, I walked back to my room buzzing with that feeling of not having gone wrong yet.

posted by Peter at 2:22 AM
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