Welcome back to another edition of Church Tales! Stories that will lead you to believe that I never knew God. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check out my first story, “Kenny Davis, You Are The Devil!” If not, be sure to click on that link and check that one out too.
Now, if you know/knew ME, you know that I was raised in the church, am very familiar with the bible and its teachings, and serve God faithfully. But sadly, there are times that I say and do things that’ll make you want to check every square inch of my head for the digits 6-6-6.
Here is another one of those times. I call this shameful church tale, “My Growing Affection”.
Summer, 1984 – East Chicago
It was the beginning of graduation year and my final months with the Young Adult Choir at my home church. I’d enjoyed many years, singing gospel with the very same students that I’d known since kindergarten. Being from different schools in East Chicago and Gary, we never saw each other during the week, with the exception of choir practice after school. Still, all of those years together made us just as close.
Choir practice was a blast. We had about 25 members, all with beautiful and strong voices. I always bragged that we could compete with the adult choir and that of other churches on any day. And we proved it whenever we were invited to perform for other churches.
Summer, going into the school year was the most fun because I convinced the choir director and pastor to let me play french horn, clarinet and alto/tenor sax during worship intro and various choir selections. I loved it because it allowed me to “do my thang” in front of the church and, more specifically, Vanessa Johnson.
Even though there’s a strong chance that some members of my church will read this blog and possibly share it with others, I’ve changed the young lady’s name, out of respect – unfortunately it won’t take rocket science to figure out who I’m talking about. Even if it HAS been 30+ years.
Vanessa was a gorgeous, quiet-natured girl with extremely long hair, just like her two older sisters. Between the three, they covered all skin tones: dark, light and caramel. She was the mid-complexioned sister; my caramel nougat twist.
None of them wore make-up, but in my opinion, it was far from a deal breaker with any of them. I had been attracted to her since we were little and often thought about taking her to prom, going back to Jr. High. It’s much easier to convince the parents of a fellow church-goer.
Still, as pretty as she was, she wasn’t my biggest crush; that girl was in high school. But as far as church was concerned, she was the only one. Well, there was another at church who came close, but she was rarely in attendance on Sundays (come to think of it, I don’t think I saw her at ALL my senior year).
Vanessa didn’t sing in the choir, much to my disappointment, but I still got to see her at Sunday school and when she took her breaks during their Youth Usher Board meetings, which were held the same nights as our practices.
I was usually a few minutes late for choir rehearsal because the high school marching band held practice in the afternoon for parades (and after school in the fall, in preparation for the upcoming home football games). Since I rarely got a ride, you would find me arriving to church drenched in perspiration, having just run about a mile from the school parking lot. This day was no exception. I wore my usual attire: sweat pants and a t-shirt. With the church being air conditioned as it was, I had a little extra funk protection after running several blocks at full speed. Besides, I always made a “pit” stop in the bathroom before joining them in the choir loft.
When I finally arrived, I entered the worship hall, power-walked down the aisle and found my place in the back row while receiving my “HEYYYY KENNYYYY” greetings from fellow choir members.
“Good afterNOOOON, Mr. Davis” interrupted the choir director, who always looked at her watch, then at me, over her glasses, emphasizing that I was late. It was only a few minutes, but she was a stickler about time. I quickly fell into my groove and practice continued.
Practice went on as it normally did until my thoughts started to stray, thinking about Vanessa. I pictured her, walking through the double doors in the back of the church and then resting against them, facing us with her hands behind her back as she watched us practice. She always wore a calf-length skirt and white blouse, with her hair out as it draped beautifully across her shoulders, flowing down her front and back. Lord, why couldn’t she have been in the choir with us?
Vanessa came through the doors, midway through practice and took her usual place (as she did in my daydreams), much to my satisfaction. I managed through the songs as my daydream continued, but went from simple imagery to thoughts of graphic, inappropriate acts in the back of the church.
I’ll spare you the description because this is a blog and I try to keep it PG13. Let’s just say I had the mind of a typical teenager.
I got so lost in my fantasy that I failed to notice that the choir had stopped singing, for a time I’ll never know. It also took me a few moments to recognize the repeated phrase directed at me…
“Mr. Davis. Mr. DAVIS. MISTER DAVIS!!”
“Yes ma’am?” I answered, startled by the shouting.
“If you can get your mind off Miss Johnson long enough to rejoin us, we would greatly appreciate it!”
That’s when I realized that I had been staring at Vanessa with my head tilted down and probably the hungriest look imaginable.
But the look on my face wasn’t the problem. Well it WAS, but…
I ALSO noticed that a few of the girls in the alto section had looked back into my row and noticed a new development…
…in my sweat pants!
There were a few “MmmMMMMMs” and some subdued laughter as I sat down and rested my chin on my hands on the top of the pew in front of me, hoping no one else noticed. Vanessa put her hands over her mouth and quickly disappeared through the doors.
It was a long, hard practice after that (pun intended), as I spent the remaining time, singing… …standing firmly pressed against the back of the pew ahead of me, waiting on the “sun to go down”. And being me, I managed to keep my cool (because cool defines you – thus, it must be maintained). But that didn’t stop the whispers and giggling between songs, in addition to the sly glances and smirks cast in my direction.
Of course, when I got home, my “cool” morphed into something different.
Vanessa never said a word about it each time we saw each other those subsequent Sundays and I often wondered if she heard what the director said that evening or worse, my soldier, standing at attention. I had no doubt that someone eventually told her directly, if it hadn’t made its way to her via rumor.
A few months later, I mustered the courage to ask Vanessa to prom, pretending as if the event had never occurred. She immediately turned red (well, burgundy, for people of color) as she thanked me for asking her, but told me she had to ask her mother. Of course, I wasn’t surprised when she got back to me and told me that her mother said “no” because she was already going to her own prom. That answer was realistic and believable, but I sincerely doubted that that was the true reason.
If I had to place my bet on any horse, I’d put my money on the image her mother probably had of me, leaving for prom with her daughter, huddled up close in the back of the limousine as I stretched the fabric of my tuxedo pants.
And I’m pretty sure that horse would win.
But that’s a different kinda story. This is about my growing “affection” for Vanessa Johnson…
…just another church tale.
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