That same night, the night that I flung my broken spirit onto the carpet of the hotel and it was quietly dismissed as an irritating stain, Lucas found something incredible. He found his old journal. The way he said it confused me. Had he packed it and not known, had it been stuffed into some secret pocket of his suitcase and zipped away for the past year? Or had it been forgotten in this very hotel? I imagined it feeling lonely and gathering dust, being walked on by the red ants that inhabited the boys’ rooms, holding unspoken truths.
He didn’t talk to me about it. He walked over excited, holding it up with a smile. But it was Karah that he sat with later, talking in hushed voices. I wouldn’t have listened, but they sat right outside my room, and I took more than a few trips back and forth between my sleeping bag and the hallway that night. I could hear her saying, “Yeah, I miss how close we were, too.” I stiffened then, feeling that acidic sting of ignorance, of “not knowing”. The feeling that makes me want to become invisible, to lash out with my dissatisfaction.
I don’t think I would have done anything. I had already been ignored that night by a number of people I thought would be responsive. I let myself keep walking. I went to bed, wrote in my journal. I went to the bathroom, washed my face. I went to bed, organized my suitcase. I went to the kitchen, got a cup of water and ignored Nate as he tried to figure out why I was so angry. I went back and forth numerous times until the little groups of people had turned into one large group again and the chaos of multiple loud conversations reverberated on the wall of anger I’d put up. I calmed myself. And I went to Lucas.
“So, what’s that?” I asked, indicating the journal in his hands, even though I’d been there when he found it.
He didn’t mind. “Oh, it’s my old prayer journal, I found it. Wait… didn’t I tell you that? Oh well.” He laughed at himself, half at me, his tired eyes lighting up momentarily. “It’s just so weird… to see how much I’ve changed in the past year.”
“Yeah?” We edged away from the throng of people, towards the wall.
“I used to be such a cool person.”
“You’re still a cool person, kiddo.” I briefly put a hand on his shoulder.
“No, you don’t understand.” I did understand. But I didn’t want him to think I was eavesdropping. “I used to be… you remember. I mean, I started crying reading through this.” He started laughing at himself again, eyeing the journal pensively.
“Can I see it?” I asked, taking my hand out of my pocket but not reaching just yet.
He glanced at me cautiously, and held the journal closer to his chest. “I was going to let Karah read it first.”
I shrugged. “She’s in the shower. I can give it to her when she gets back. You have to go to bed anyways.” He had tried to go to bed earlier in the day, multiple times. And yet, he didn’t want to be out of the loop, and had resolved the problem by setting up his sleeping bag in the main room, getting no sleep and being talked to by everyone—mostly me.
“Oh…,” he said softly, and after a moment’s hesitation, handed it over. “Just be careful with it.”
“I’ll guard it with my life,” I said with a pseudo-solemn tone. I gave him a quick hug goodnight and went to bed.
I realized, first absently, that I was alone for the first time in several hours. And then I remembered why I had previously been alone in the room. I was hiding. I had been angry. No one wanted to have a normal conversation, everything was a secret. So I snuck into my bed, listened to two of the girls have a secret conversation that they didn’t think I was hearing, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I was alone. I was alone for two hours in that room, my anger rising and falling with each peal of laughter from the other side of the door. No one came to look for me. No one even noticed I was gone. No one said a word to me until it was time for dinner.
It was that two hour period of angry, heated sleep that I decided I needed to say something to the group. I thought bitterly about how well that had turned out.
And then I decided to get my mind off of it. I flopped down onto my sleeping bag and flipped open the journal. On the inside there was a pocket, stuffed with scraps of paper, and I pulled them out delicately. The first was a yellow strip of legal paper, a list. I scanned to the top. “Miracles on mission trip 2006.” I scanned to the bottom, catching familiar phrases like, got through the highway fires and Martin giving up the bottle. I turned the paper over to see another list, called ‘Bad things that happened.’ There was one item. I don’t even remember what it was. It wasn’t that bad.
The second piece of paper was a continuation of miracles, so I slipped them back into the pocket and began my quest for the old Lucas in the forgotten pages of his journal. I was terrified of what I would find. It was a tangible piece of his soul, a fleshy part of his spirit that he’d left bare for me to scrutinize and weep over. I couldn’t bring myself to read complete sentences. I felt intrusive. I caught fragments of thoughts, words about talking to Ray, lines scribbled out in blue ink. The first few pages had short lists at the bottom. They were prayer requests, from the old prayer meetings we used to have at Karah’s house, singing for hours and dancing in the street, going around the circle talking about our troubles and triumphs, laughing up a storm until ten o’clock when the neighbors would start to complain. My name was mentioned on every page, next to some painful thing that was now just another memory or a scar.
He had been faithful. True, Lucas was now faithful to a ghost of himself. But the letters marking those pages described a young man full of innocence and righteousness. He spoke of learning to pray and listen and wait, of the girl back home he to this day is in love with. Part of me was jealous that I wasn’t mentioned more but I reminded myself that I wasn’t yet a part of his life, and that this was about him. This was about the confused boy in pursuit of the confident young man he’d replaced.
I let what few tears I had left drop quietly to the paper before I closed the book and put it on Karah’s sleeping bag. I mourned briefly for the person Lucas had been, for the person I had been when I had asked him to write down those things. I buried my face in my hands. How times changed! How people changed! It was difficult to grasp, hard to hold onto memory without losing myself in the person I was. I commanded myself, then and there, that I had to do something for Lucas to prove that he was not alone in his perplexity at having lost his old self. I would write something. A poem. About how it’s alright to change, how nothing stays the same, how the bad things in life help us see the good. I dried my tears and opened my notebook again, and with shaking hands, began scribbling with a furious hope.