The basement room I rented from Ms. Bluefield had six foot ceilings. There was a door to the street and a door toward the back of the house which opened near a hot plate and fridge by her washer and dryer--she didn't use the big appliances to save money and I wasn't allowed use--then bending from the waist to clear under the furnace ducts, I reached a bath and the stairs up to her house.
During the first month of my stay in this town, I read that pocket testament daily. I visited a few steepled buildings, but couldn't settle into a religion where it felt like people hid. I visited a priest, thinking a tradition of leadership wholly different from the little I had experienced might have an insight I hadn't heard. He listened carefully to my tale of life on the night streets of American cities and a now growing desire for God from this point in my life. His answer mushed up in my head as psychological banter and theological words. I left his office confused about the parameters of Christian society. Acceptable society and the more colorful levels of social strata where I had lived stretched farther apart. I needed God but could not see clearly to enter a world of glancing eyes and disconnected mental constructs.
July was idling itself away in long hikes. I quit visiting churches and priests. My aloneness was becoming loneliness...again. I read of a commune in Tennessee that wasn't too far and decided my basement apartment would probably be too cold for the winter. I planned a move to the commune but not a date to go. A little more money saved before I made that journey seemed the best idea.
Late in August, my Bible reading had slipped to infrequent, and I was restless for a change. In four and half years of drifting, I had only twice stayed as long as six months in one spot. More often, in about three months time I would reach $500.00 saved, and that was enough wind in my sail to untie from the dock. Walking back one afternoon from my breakfast-cook job, a poster placed by Graceland Christian Center invited me to a concert presented on the universtiy campus. I don't recall anything about the poster other than my attention was drawn by a Christian message that didn't include the word church.
On that Saturday afternoon, I flipped back and forth about going. The stirrings of "go" confronted a high wall of "Don't Go!" The loneliness had four years of failed attempts to connect with others as evidence this would be more disappointment. Such feelings rooted beyond memory in never connecting with my dad. (I asked Mom once, had Dad ever held me as a young one. Without hesitation she replied, "Yes, the day of your christening, he held you in church.") I had been letting a homeless guy sleep on a cot in the basement without Ms. Bluefield knowing. He planned on the concert, as well--something to do. When the time arrived for walking across the street to the campus auditorium, his restless energy overcame my reluctance with a motivation I understood, "Just do it! Why not?"
We climbed the stairs navigating greeters placed about welcoming folks. I didn't want the false handshake routine again, but there was no going further without that social touch. While I looked left, a young man placed himself in my path. Before I could counter away, we were face to face. I reached for his hand and locked on his eyes. My street life had taught me much about reading what people held in their eyes, and intimidating people away when necessary with walls. A genuine, steady look struck my being like a NC lighthouse pierces a night fog off the coast! He never wavered from an honest care held in those lamps of his soul. The light there pulled on the longing in my chest.
I went in ready to listen.