It’s either I was always intentional looking for the man named Nathaniel, or he was suddenly appearing everywhere I went. Ever since Samuel and I talked to him at his door I’ve been seeing him taking walk whenever I went out to jog. I’ve also seen him at the local grocery store and feeding the stray dog that hung about this area.
Sometimes his hair was in a low or high puff, and sometimes his hair was in cornrows. He would turn to me sometimes, and I would just stare back at him until he smiled and waved at me. Only my burning cheeks and heightened heart rate ever made me look away from him. I’m not sure why I thought about him a lot. Why I was disappointed anytime I didn’t see him walking about when I was jogging—
“Sorry?” I said, blinking before looking over at Elder Alan who was giving me a not too impressed look. He muttered something under his breath, pushing the flier on the coffee table at the center towards me. I looked down at it, picking it up before bringing it to my view.
“We’re having a move movie show soon. We’re looking to invite as many people around as possible to come over,” he said, and I nodded. Some sisters, as well as Samuel, were in the room with us. Most of them were chatting at a corner, while a handful of us was were sitting on the sofas around the coffee table. The room was more or less an activity room and there were pictures of prophets lining the walls as well as the red curtains that covered up the windows. The ceiling was a little low here since it was the basement.
“Oh,” I muttered, looking down at the fancy plan. It looked like something the sisters had thought up.
“Yes, that would get a handful of people interested in coming over, won’t it?” I heard Sister Anna said, smiling widely. Her blonde hair was plaited back, making her heart-shaped face stand out.
“I’m not sure,” a petite sister said, making the people around him look his way. “Think about it, the people here don’t look like they’ll go anywhere that doesn’t have alcohol. Didn’t you go to the bar with me the other day to get fried chips?” she asked, looking over at the girl who was standing behind her.
“Well, we don’t have to tell them what exactly is going to go on in the party except that it’s a movie showing,” a sister said.
“That’s lying,” the petite sister said, slouching on her seat a bit as she crossed her arms over her chest. Some people around nodded in agreement, and the girl that had replied to her rolled her eyes.
“Not really, we’re not just giving them any information, Marie. Loosen up.”
“That’s lying by omission,” Marie said, making the girl groan.
We all started laughing for some reason and went ahead with talking about the event and how to get people to come.
Later that evening I talked to my parents through email since I was only to call home twice a year. The church was still opening to a lot of things to missions. Missionaries were recently granted the right to use social media — well, just Facebook, for the most part, and it had to be for missionary purposes.
Sam arranged the corner of his room. It was a small place, with study desks and twin sized beds on each side. My corner was mostly empty, I didn’t really pack much. On the other hand, Sam had a lot of things on his bedside table and desk.
“Mathew.” I turned towards Sam at the sound of him saying my name. I had just stopped communicating with my parents. I rose a brow, wondering why Sam had called me if he wasn’t going to say anything. He was kneeling by his head, rearranging the drawers beneath them.
“You’ve been very in your head lately, did something happen?” he asked, and I found myself blinking before looking away.
Yes, something happened — actually, someone had happened. I really couldn’t explain how I was feeling. “No,” I ended up saying instead, and Sam just stared at me with his grey eyes. He bit his bottom lip, sighing before looking away.
I had lied again, but this time my stomach didn’t feel hollow, and a sensation of wanting to throw up at my lie didn’t happen. I’ been lying more frequently, and I wasn’t feeling even remotely sympathetic about having to do it. It should be terrifying, but it was.
This wasn’t a good thing.
If only it didn’t feel so necessary to do. I said to myself in my head, bringing my knees to my chest before hugging them. A good thing about being, quote in quote, ‘short’ meant that I didn’t have to squeeze myself into a sardine to fit in the small beds we had.
“You can talk to heavenly father about whatever it is even though you don’t want to talk to me,” Sam said, getting up from his knees before throwing himself on his bed. His long legs exceeding the foot of the bed. He sighed, curling up into a very uncomfortable looking ball, and I laughed while he rolled his eyes at me.
Back home in the evening, the sound of chickens clucking, and rosters from different compounds crowing would have filled the neighborhood at this time. Many people back home had small poultry farms and vegetable gardens. Some had full farms as well as cows and goats for milk. We didn’t eat meat much, we were asked to eat as little meat as possible. It was part of the word of wisdom.
“I’m a bit scared,” Sam said after a period of silence.
“Why?” I asked, looking over at him. I watched him hum as he reached out for his book.
“What if my girlfriend’s married before I get back, what then?” he asked, but I wasn’t really sure if he was directing it at me per say, or if he was just airing his thoughts and needed an ear to listen.
“Well, did you propose to her before you left?” I asked, and he nodded.
“Yeah, but two years is a long time to ask her to wait,” he sighed. “You’re lucky that Olivia was old enough to go to the mission with you,” he said, staring at me. I didn’t reply to that. I wasn’t sure why everyone assumed I was going to end up marrying Olivia. It made me a bit queasy too. She was even one year my senior. That was the reason why she could even attend the mission with me. Men could partake it missions when they were eighteen years and up, while women could apply when they were nineteen years and older.
A sigh left my lips as I ran a hand through my hair. Sure, we were supposed to marry early, but Sam would be twenty or twenty-one when he was done with his mission. It’s not like his girlfriend would get married now. Women were only allowed to marry returning missionaries anyway, so it was now or never. I didn’t say anything in reply and the room went painfully silent. Some time passed, and Sam changed the topic to keep the conversation going.
“That man from before...” he trailed, and I just stared at him.
“What man?” I asked. I mean, we’ve indeed been sharing a lot of pamphlets and knocking on a lot of doors, there were many men.
“That man with the err...” Sam sat up on his bed, moving his hand over his hair like he was trying to describe something big. “The man with the big hair. Well, it’s not big all the time it changes quite a bit—”
“The man with the cornrows?” I asked, realizing that he was talking about Nathaniel, and for some reason my chest felt full.
“Yes!” he said enthusiastically. People generally looked the same where we came from, and there were some few exceptions like my family, or the Thomas family down the street. It was different here. It was a melting pot of all sorts of people. So, generally, we found them hard to describe.
“Yes, him. I saw him in the grocery store the other day, and we had a nice chat,” Sam said, smiling widely like he had won a victory. “I couldn’t convince him to come over here though, but he’s reading the book of Mormon, which is great.”
I smiled, listening to Sam talk about him. Maybe he was right, maybe anyone could be saved after all.
“I’ve seen him around, but I haven’t spoken to him,” I muttered, omitting the reason why. Usually, I got flustered or bewildered by the mere sight of him.
“You should. Stay friendly, say hi. We’re meant to keep up with the people we engage with, remember?” Sam said, lying on his bed before letting out a sigh. “Some people just need a little push,” he said before he turned to face the ceiling, humming a worship song under his breath as I was left to just stare at him.
I blinked, hugging my pillow as I thought about it. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t saying hi or interacting with him, the problem was that my mind wasn’t on ministering to him. I wasn’t sure what I would do or say if I was ever put in a posting where I had to talk to him, but something in my mind told me that I definitely wouldn’t be preaching.
After a while, Sam got up from his bed to turn off the lights, and we were both left in darkness. I soon heard Sam’s snoring, so I looked away, staring up at the ceiling.
I squinted, wondering why my mind was suddenly filled with the image of Nathaniel again. I hadn’t really talked to him. I had never actually talked to him, just stared at him, but I was drawn to him unconsciously, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Was it something I should worry about? Was it something I should pray for help for?
It had taken a while for me to notice that it wasn’t normal. That it was weird, and he probably thought I was invasive and confused whenever he caught me looking at him.
A sigh left my lips as I shut my eyes, trying my best to push the thoughts to the back of my mind and think happy things. I felt too confused to pray. After a while of just lying in the dark, I did drift into sleep.
I thought temple garments were meant to keep your mind pure, so why was I thinking of Nathaniel? Why was the image of him smiling at and waving my way make me so confused? Why was he kissing me in my sleep?
And why did I like it?
I clenched my hands into fists when I suddenly jolted out of my light sleep. I licked the inside of my mouth as my heart beat in both fear and confusion as I recalled what happened in my dream. That’s it. I concluded in my mind before covering my face with his hands. I have to talk to him.
Maybe my fascination would disappear then.