She walked into the room, threw her bag on the floor, and sat on the couch, her feet tucked beneath her. She belonged to the largest sorority on campus, you know the one – “Girls want to be us, your boyfriend wants to date us”. Yes, that one.
Heather was so beautiful. She had strawberry blond hair that flowed down her back and she carried her height well. Girls really did want to be her, and their boyfriends probably wanted to date her.
She came to my room almost every Sunday night, to study for American Sign Language. We had taken 3 semesters of ASL together and had become frequent study partners, giggling at the terrible acting in the silent video we were forced to watch each week. Back and forth, we’d practice our words, sentences, and eventually paragraphs.
But on this night, she didn’t come to study ASL. She sat down on our green, tattered couch, and without the usual “how are you, how was your weekend” banter, she asked me why I cared about her. She asked why I chose to study with her, when I had “bible study friends” in our class. She wanted to know why I would let her in my room with her “damn” and “f’ing sign language” comments.
“Uh….. I don’t know. I just like you?? I think you’re funny and we have fun together.”
“Am I your project? Are you trying to “save” me?”
“Heather! You know me better than that! I’m not that kind of person. I just thought we were friends. Why are you asking me this now? We’ve known each other for almost 2 years…”
“I went home this weekend (Cleveland) and I was telling my mom about you. She said you were only my friend because you wanted me to know Jesus. She said you didn’t actually want to be my friend, because no one actually wanted to be my friend. She said I was your “project”. God, my mom is such a bitch”.
And I started to cry. Big, wet tears streamed down my face. I had grown to love this girl, this seemingly spunky, fun, outgoing girl, who really didn’t think she was actually worthy of real, genuine friendship. I couldn’t speak because I didn’t have the words to say. She had, in fact, started as a “project”. Yes, I wanted to get to know her so that I could invite her to bible study. I wanted to share my Jesus with her, not because I felt bad for her, but because I cared about her. But she went from being a “project” to being a real friend in a very short amount of time. I couldn’t admit this to her. She would be mad and I would be embarrassed. I already was embarrassed. I had been called out on my evangelism, or lack thereof. I still don’t know.
“So, my mom was right. You DON’T care about me. How could you do this to me!? I thought we were friends!”
“Heather, we are friends. I don’t know what to say. I do care about you as a person, I think you are a sweet girl, and I appreciate your friendship. There isn’t anything else I can say. You know me, you know how I am. This isn’t fair of you to assume….”
I had to stop. It wasn’t fair of her to assume that she was right? She WAS right.
She grabbed her bag, stormed out of the room, and didn’t say goodbye. I sat on the same green, tattered couch that we’d had some of our best conversations on, and mourned the loss of my only real non-“bible study” friend. I couldn’t defend why we’d become friends in the first place. She’d been hurt too much to hear my side of the story.
The semester was over the next night, and she made sure she changed her schedule so that we weren’t in the same class during our final semester of ASL.
Many emails and attempted AIM conversations later, she graduated.
I never spoke to her again.
I don’t know where she is, or who she is, but she taught me more about Jesus in the short time she was in my life than any of my “bible study” friends. She was real, she cared real, she loved real, she exemplified real. And I didn’t.
And I will never, ever forget the pain that not being real caused her. And the pain that it caused me.