Control

“I’m fighting with my boyfriend in our living room,” she tells me. Sipping her beer, I can tell by how she rests her shoulders on her elbows that she’s tired. It’s not the kind of tired after a long day’s work. There is an unsettling frustration in her voice. “We’ve been together for three years, and every time I bring up the idea of maybe taking the next step or having kids, he just either runs away or losses it.” She isn’t trying to hide her obvious annoyance. “I’m looking at him and just want to slap his stupid face. Wondering if I’ve just wasted the last three years of my life.”

She went on to explain how when they were in their late 20s and working on their careers, how living together seemed like a viable option. Now that she’s 30 and increasingly less enchanted with careerism, how she assumed they would be more on the same page. She’s feeling used and ripped off. Like it wasn’t worth all it was cracked up to be. How she thought her entire adult life until now was going to be one long stint of delayed gratification. She’s ready for the payoff. How her efforts in no way guaranteed such control over her future. I sit silently with her and put down my pen.

It’s 20 years earlier. I’m remembering Mr. Novak‘s class. It’s raining outside the little trailer classroom parallel to the main building. I’m sitting in a seat I normally don’t sit in, off to the side. I normally sit behind Meredith and in front of Kristen. Today Meredith is in front of me and Kristen is after my right. Normally Mr. Novak would be walking from left to right in front of me. Today he is walking up and away from me since I’m in the front. He’s going on and on about feminist psychoanalysts. How they say women don’t have penis envy, but the opposite, how men have vagina envy. That men somehow subconsciously feared women’s ability to reproduce and therefore oppressed women..

I’m thinking that this is an equal and opposite reaction of stupidity from penis envy. How I didn’t believe either was true for a moment. Mr. Novak paces to and fro from away me. Meredith looks bored and is taking off her right shoe with her left foot. I turn my head and see Kristen who is chewing on her hair. I’m grossed out by the fact that she has curly hair that she put moose in, and I’m thinking maybe she likes the taste of the hair product. Then, in my infinite wisdom, I speak out, “I wish I had a vagina…” Mr. Novak stops right in front of my desk and stares down at me mortified. The whole class uproars with laughter.

I immediately wake up. My face flushed, my heart pounding, breathing heavy. It’s the middle of the night, and the moon is so bright that its pouring in through my window. I have to keep reassuring myself it was a dream, trying to get a hold of my breathing. I remind myself that I am in my room, it didn’t happen, that I need to go back to sleep. After a good long while, I fade back to sleep.

Months later I am late to class. I’m flirting with a girl in the hallwayvwhen I hear the bell. I run into the classroom through a curtain of rain soaking wet. Mr. Novak welcomes me with notable annoyance so I plop down on the nearest available seat, off to the side. Someone’s sitting in my usual seat and now I am looking straight at Meredith and Mr. Novak. He starts talking about feminist psychoanalysts, I raise my hand and ask him if we had ever talked about this before. He gives me a weird look and says tells me, “No.”

He goes on to talk about vagina envy and how it was a reaction to penis envy. Starting to remember my dream my eyes widen. Instinctively, I look in front of me and see Meredith taking off her right shoe on and off with her left foot in boredom, I turn my head to the right and see Kristen chewing on her moose-drenched curls, I shook back and look up at Mr. Novak. This time I bite firmly down on my tongue. I hold onto my desk like it’s a roller coaster ride. My look is mortified. I’m nervously repeating over and over, “Don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it..”.

Mr. Novak stops at my desk, just like my dream, and looks down at me in the same way. I look around the room reassuring myself that it wasn’t happening. He asks me if I’m okay. I look around one more time just to be sure, everyone staring intently on me. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He shoots me a suspicious look, then tells everyone that he’s going to start having drug tests before we start class. A mind chuckle reverberates through the room as well as a strange look. My heart pounding just like my dream. I’ve never been more freaked out, ever.

I had been praying during that time in my life about free will and predestination. I’m not sure I understand what’ I feel like was my answer. I feel God gave me a little bit of control, beyond my own. Or maybe the point was to show me just how out of control we are. That the reality of God swallows up this existence, and how this life is but a mere shadow of His reality. How if we are going to know God at all, that it would have to be on his terms.

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