Eric and the Magnets (or Eric and His Inability To Function As A Normal Human Being)
Note: I wrote this on January 22nd and 23rd on the 3rd and 4th days of my 1000 words a day writing experiment. I just got around to editing and posting it today.
In church today I was playing with some magnets that my wife had given me for Christmas several years earlier (2011, I believe). They are small powerful magnetic spheres called Buckyballs. Anyway, I was sorting them out while I was half listening to the sermon, and I noticed that 3 of them were missing. There were supposed to be 216 and there had always been 216, but now there were only 213. I started looking around under the chairs, which had metal legs that held magnets considerably well. I couldn’t find them. I knew that they had to be somewhere in that area because when I had first counted them they were all there and that was 10 minutes prior. I got up to go to the restroom and slowly walked to the exit while searching the floor all around the chairs. I’m sure that I looked quite insane. I checked my pockets, my belt buckle, inside my shoes, the little metal loopholes on my shoes etc… I was freaking out because I loved these stupid magnets. On my way back from the restroom I slowly walked back to my seat while scanning the area and got down on my knees to pretend to pick up my planner off of the floor. I tried to discreetly run my hands under the chairs that I could reach, but I felt like people were looking so I only got to a couple of legs before I embarrassedly got up and sat back down empty-handed.
While I continued to search as best I could without drawing attention I could hear the pastor speaking about loss and recovery. Was he watching me? I don’t think so. I thought it was funny that that was what the sermon was about, but I was more upset about my missing magnets. I took a picture of the magnets arranged in such a way that you could see that some were missing and I texted it to my wife, who was teaching a children’s class. She didn’t seem to care that much. Finally, after the service ended, I got down on the floor to look. This drew more attention than I would have liked considering that I am an adult who had lost his toy. People started to ask me what I had lost and wanted to help. Several people started looking and a woman saw one of them on a chair two rows in front of me. I don’t know how that’s possible, but my brother believes that they must have been slingshotted by the pull between the magnets and the chairs. I consider myself a student of the scientific method, but I’m not technically a scientist and that sounded about as a good a theory as any. A kid on that row grabbed the magnet, said that he had the other two, and pulled them from his pocket. I thanked him and anyone else around that had helped. I left embarrassed, but grateful that I had my magnets back. I told my wife the story and that I thought it was odd that they would have not only fallen off the strand, but also launched so far away. She said that God was telling me that I shouldn’t play with toys in church. Maybe that or maybe I was supposed to physically recover something that I lost. I don’t know, I’m no good with metaphor, but for sure she shouldn’t have given a 31 year old a toy if she didn’t want him to play with it.
After the magnet incident I was standing in that same general area talking to a man that I’ve known most of my life or almost as far back as I can remember anyway. I will forever be in debt to this man for introducing me to The Princess Bride, a movie that I never would have watched because it sounded too girly, a movie that completely changed the way my brain works. We were talking about my brother’s writing and my dreams of being a writer and how following one’s passion is terrible advice to give anyone with responsibilities. I could feel my insides starting to vibrate, a feeling I get when the nervousness of interacting with another adult human being starts to overwhelm me. I knew that if I didn’t get this under control my lower jaw would join in with the rest of my vibrating insides and it would give away that there was something badly wrong with me. I started to regulate my breathing to try to at least slow the vibrations down. I knew this conversation was almost over since everyone was hungry because church had already run late, not later than usual particularly, but later than it’s supposed to in theory. I guess we’re all used to that by now though.
While we were still talking and I was attempting to regulate my insides another man came up to join in the conversation. I will forever be in debt to him for introducing me to the Terminator movies (the only 2 that count), while I probably would have seen them eventually I don’t think I would have been able to see Terminator 2 unspoiled later in life, these movies also bent my brain. He was the one who had initially joined in the search for my lost magnets and probably the only reason I got them back considering I wasn’t going to search as extensively for them as he did or, for any reason ever, ask for help. He’s another man that I’ve known for most of my life, but not quite as long as I’ve known the first man. Both of these men are old enough to be my father, but are younger than my actual father. We all stood there and talked about the job searches we were doing and what our little town had to offer. I started to calm down some and I managed to keep the vibrations confined to my chest. I continued the regulated breathing and offered any insights I had whenever I felt like they were useful or I had been quiet for far too long. This was working. I was having a grown up conversation with other grown men like grown ups do. I was taking it easy, breathing normally, and most importantly not outwardly vibrating like a mental patient. Then a woman walked up and said she needed to ask me something.
I’ve known this woman for about 19 years, but not really known her at all. She’s been around for the 19-ish years. She married a person that I’ve known most of my life, probably longer than the first 2 men I was talking to. We are probably close to the same age, I think she’s a couple of years older than me, I’m not really sure about that though. I know her husband is a couple of years older. This is only relevant because it’s a weird thought that popped into my head. She asked the second man I was talking to, who is also a church elder, to stay and then asked me if I wanted to be the person at the church that puts the song lyrics on the screens people read song lyrics off of. I think there was more to the job than that. Something about scheduling and texting people, but the scariest part, by far, was the lyrics on the screen thing. She asked me to pray about it, and talk to my wife. At this point they were both looking at me, and I was fully vibrating including chin quivers. I’m sure it was a combination of embarrassment from the lost toy, the nervousness of the conversation I was just having, and me being extremely terrified of the social anxiety and flop sweat that would surely come from me not getting the right lyrics on the screen fast enough while people were trying to praise Jesus.
They were not standing there to be distracted by my ineptitude though. So, I clenched my teeth as hard as I could to stop the quivering and looked at them while they were talking to me. She said that she had heard I was good with computers. I’m not, I’m good at Googling how to do what I need to do and it gives people the illusion that I know what the crap I am doing. I know many people that are far better at computers. The elder told me that he remembers me having an ear for music, which is sort of true, but it’s completely untrained, unpracticed, and somehow having the ear for music doesn’t mean I have an ear for lyrics. The lyrics seemed like the most important factor here. While I was listening to them, trying to take turns looking into each of their eyes in a normal and non robotic way, and clenching my teeth I was hoping that they didn’t think I was angry with them. I don’t know if the muscles tightening in my face were visible, but I do know that they were starting to hurt a bit.
I was standing, listening, clenching, and nodding all while the vibrations in my chest were dialed up to 11 as a thought popped into my head. Back before we had computers and screens all over the church we had one projector, one pull down screen, a couple of crates of slides, and Nancy Lynch. I don’t think anyone can do this job as well as she did in my memory. Nancy Lynch was my mother’s best friend and essentially my second mother. When we were growing up if we weren’t at home we were probably over at her house and if my mother wasn’t bringing us home from school Nancy was. Nancy had all the authority to give us any advice she thought we needed and to scold us if we were acting like idiots. She took that responsibility seriously from when I met her at 5 years old to the day I graduated from high school. After that I didn’t see her quite as much and our relationship changed from mother/son to friendly acquaintance, but I never forgot and she’s always had a special place in my memories. We lost Nancy a little over a year ago and I’m sad about that, but I didn’t have time to be sad right now because these people were still looking at me and I was still shaking.
I told her that I felt that my skills had probably been exaggerated, but I would be willing to help with anything that they think I can help with. She said that she was sure I would be fine and that I should go pray and talk to my wife and that it was okay to say no, that there was not any obligation. That was my morning.