At the start of July, "Rex" sat in the front row week one of my Speech class. Beside him sat "Regina," whom he never met. They met. They fell in love.
I did not know this. I taught them both, they both did well. "Rex" acted more confident, an ex-Army man who served in Korea his full stint and then, feeling he had not done enough for his country, signed up when the Army would not take him on again with the Marines. He volunteered to go to Iraq. There he fought for another tour of duty. He came home with a love of the Korean language and culture, and its food. He enrolled in college a year ago.
"Regina" stayed quiet. Her first speech, as the one in which a classmate after having interviewed a classmate then the next week tells the rest of us about him or her, may have indeed been on "Rex" and vice versa. I recall both learning of his decision to re-enlist and his knack for Korea, and of her reformation from being a self-described "party girl" with a sudden and irrevocable decision to accept Jesus on the spot one Sunday morning and the complete turnaround that had kept her without a moment's doubt ever since-- for I asked her about this conversion in Q&A-- on the straight and narrow.
The two students, a couple for themselves, but two classmates to me even as I stood a few feet in front of them unable to tell the difference that apparently that first week set them in quick pursuit and embrace of each other as fellow Christians seeking a direction together as well as on their own, did well in my course. "Rex" had no real problems at all; as with many veterans-- and that class of a dozen had three veterans of the current war-- he had learned how to control himself and project himself and motivate himself. "Regina" I could tell suffered from shyness and reticence but in Public Speaking: Speech 275 there's really no choice but to get up and try out your skills. She did fine too, considering her more retiring nature.
I saw "Rex" the next session, for every two months the whole cycle starts incessantly, one reason for my hair rapidly turning grey and my nights often ending up half-sleepless as I teach late nights and early mornings now. He sat across the street from the entrance, talking on his cellphone happily. I passed and waved. He paused to announce he'd been chatting with "Regina," and that they were a close pair now who'd found each other when the introductions had been made that first session. I congratulated him, and them. I'd meant to post a short entry about this on my blog when I'd found out a bit more about the match that I had unwittingly made, my first.
A few weeks ago, I had to pull up for an unrelated matter that course's archived Speech electronic discussions that make my courses able to be compressed, for we must teach in the classroom and on-line to accelerate them. I noticed, as both "R's" had the same first letter of their surnames before, that after they did too. But "Regina" now bore the same surname as the name above hers in the electronic system. I guessed that they had already been married, and I admit I was surprised. It seemed a bit fast even by the standards for good Christian couples, but as the book I'd been reading the other day tells me, "Why We Love," about brain chemistry and romantic triggers (I'd been advancing in cynical if Socratic fashion with my literature class as we studied "Othello" about how nature traps us into procreating only so we can pass on our genetic material and then die off before using up too many precious resources: I figured I'd better read up on my pet theories or lack of), a substantial minority, nearly a third, of couples do believe in love at first sight.
Well, this evening, rushing off to teach, I passed "Rex." He was at the deserted front counter of the office, and I asked if he needed help. I sought such from a back room, and meanwhile congratulated him effusively as I verified that he's gotten hitched. He thanked me, but I soon regretted my enthusiasm. Instantly, in fact.
As we waited at the counter, I listened to ten minutes of sadness. "Rex" had come to the front counter to arrange, this being finals week, some paperwork. He had to take a final exam scheduled Monday late, and this then created a logjam in his grade getting entered and he needed some red tape severed. The reason this delay had prevented him from coming to school Monday? "Regina" had a meltdown and moved out last weekend. She was bipolar and near-schizophrenic. She had been taking medication. For four years, she had not been in any relationship. She'd lived with her father and stepmom after her turn to religion had brought her back home; they immediately had taken her in when she renounced her profligate ways and they never had asked her for any other explanation nor had they shown any surprise.
That point in a follow-up to a speech she had given on a personal experience had moved "Rex" deeply. Perhaps that's when he might have been attracted to her. That class she took was the only one she had last summer, as she neared the end of her B.S. in computing. Before that, she had lived with a father, stepmother and that woman's three adult children. Now, with marriage and a child on the way, she had taken steps, giant ones, towards a college degree, independence with a young husband, and being a mother.
She suddenly fought with "Rex." On waking up a few days ago, she began violently accusing him of cheating on him. (I thought I saw the shadow of a black eye on him.) She demanded spare keys that he kept to her stepmother's place. Concerned, "Rex" took her to a psychiatrist. He asked her to talk with him privately, and then "Rex"s was called in. Asked if she had anything to say to him, all she wanted was to leave and move out. No reason. Also, another reason why "Rex" took her to see him: she was already pregnant. They had married in Vegas on Sept. 7th-- he proudly recalled how they'd driven there in his Corvette-- and "Regina."
A few nights ago, she moved out. Her stepmother had already placed her things from her old place in their garage and had changed the keys so "Regina" could not move back in to her family's home. A brother had already taken over her old room. "Regina's" family wanted her to leave school before she finished. They insisted that she work as a nurse. They resented her recent independence. They feared her sudden decision to marry, and they'd now again all turned somehow on her.
Her stepmother called "Rex's" mom to tell him that "Regina" had left a change of address with the post office. He cannot reach her directly. She now tells them all she'd spent Monday night at a hospital and had a miscarriage. "Rex" suspects this may be an advance cover story for an abortion she will carry out, but as one Christian talking of another for whom her beliefs drew them together so quickly, he told me near tears that he cannot believe that she would do the wrong thing. Concerned for his child as well as hers, he also fears a condition that the unborn may inherit from his mother. Recall that "Rex" met "Regina" about three-and-a-half months ago.
He concluded by referring to the lesson of the patience of Job. I apologized again for my ebullience before I had heard his story, for of course it was as unexpected and tragic and unfathomable as that of that biblical sufferer. What I thought would be a ten-second, polite, if warm exchange of greetings turned a ten-minute litany of woe. I remembered my own despair and utter horror when I lost one whom I had trusted, long now thankfully ago. I understood more than I spoke.
Theological distinctions, when someone speaks of their trust in God at times when the abyss opens beneath, matter not. Today, earlier, I received news of two deaths, a nun who taught me (badly in my case given my performance) high school chemistry and her colleague, a priest who taught me religion and English. I commented via the agora of today, FaceBook, that I'd keep them both in my prayers. This is simple respect, like returning a Merry Christmas to a passing, cheerful adherent, when it's no time to speculate on the veracity of the Incarnation. Likewise, I do accept that I will indeed keep these two teachers of mine, and now others who linger behind in a grieving world, deep in my mind, or soul.
The patience of Job, that's what "Rex" told me he'd have to have now. "Rex" simply asked me in conclusion: "pray for me." I promised him I will. Perhaps you will too. And, I may add, "Regina." He never spoke against her the whole time. He still is paying off the rings that she returned to him a few days ago.
Image: "patience & Job"=Steve Jobs books, or "patience" in photos personified. "Book job patience" finds little improvement. #3 is "Getting a Clerical Job" and cats and Little Leaguers loom large. I figured I'd end up with this by default or fall back from the Tate. William Blake (1757-1827) "Job, his Wife and his Friends: The Complaint of Job." circa 1785.