It was a three-by-five index card with thin blue lines and a thicker magenta header.  On the blank side someone had written “Are you happy?” in black calligraphy, slightly left of center.  I found the card resting on a chalkboard tray in Manchester 245.  Sitting in the room, waiting for statistics students who never showed, shuffling through Stephan Grappelli, Sound Tribe Sector 9, and Matisyahu while working problems for complex analysis, I convinced myself the answer was yes.  But I wasn’t sure. 

* * * * 

There’s a student who I first saw this summer, cruising back and forth from the library on an electric wheelchair.  He drove his wheelchair slowly, calmly, and wore his isolation like a crown.  With dignity, and pain.  He never smiled.  He was outside the caf the other evening, and I did a double take.  A girl behind his wheelchair was talking to him, but that wasn’t the odd part: what didn’t make sense was that she was moving twice as fast as the other walkers, while simultaneously arguing the merits of a particular fantasy card game, and with no apparent need to pause for breath.  And then I saw her feet, planted firmly on the back platform of his wheelchair, her hands gripping the seat as they whizzed by.  And he was still looking straight ahead, calmly, almost unmoving.  But the faintest thread of a smile was twitching at the corners of his mouth.  When I see him on campus, he’s not driving slowly anymore.  

* * * *

The Post Secret guy came to Wake Forest last night.  I’ve seen some of the books, but never followed the website.  We got there 15 minutes before the talk, and ended up standing in the back row of a crowd of more than 600 people.  He showed postcards that hadn’t been published in the books, and talked about the idea of secrets, and then invited people in the audience to share their own secrets.  And a girl in front stood up, and told about how she’d tried to kill herself the year before, and how her sister had saved her, and how she’d never told anyone that it was thanks to her sister she was still alive.  And then I realized I knew her.  That it was Nina.  We sing together in choir.  Her sister is my friend Becky.  We go to daily Mass together.  And I didn’t cry.  But I think my heart tried to turn inside-out.  I think I presume that I would be able to sense that kind of unhappiness.  Really, I just don’t know.

* * * *

I finally turned the romantic-relationship part of my life over to God two weeks ago.  20 years of being attracted to girls (yes, it started that early), and it’s taken me this long to give up.  Taken me this long to say “I don’t know what the crap’s going on here, I don’t know what I need, and if I’m perfectly honest I don’t know what I want.  I need you to show me these things.  I don’t care how long it takes, and I don’t care what needs to happen.”  Those are dangerous, scary, scary words.  I’m gritting my teeth right now.  I’m clenching them the way I did when I wanted to stay angry at my father as a four year-old.  When I desperately wanted and hated his hug simultaneously, when I would push away and hit at his arms before finally breaking down and crying in them.  And he would say “Did you really want to stay mad?  Did it really make you happy?”  And I’d squeeze my fists and say “YES!” and he’d smile sadly, sidewise, with eyes that seemed to look far beyond me, far away to a place I did not understand.  Then he’d look back, straight into my eyes, and say “Is this better?”  And I’d lose my grip and rest in his arms, and sob.  “Yes,  this is better.”

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