A History Major’s Rant

This semester, as I engage with the texts of the past, I’ve been struggling on an emotional level with the material I’ve been reading for courses.

It is so hard to be so steeped in humanity’s failures, to see the death and dying, to see the fighting and the drinking and the drugs effect so many people’s lives. It’s hard to read about the destruction of the earth and other people so someone could make a quick buck. It’s hard to read about people dying brutal, bloody deaths, inflicted by other people. It’s hard to read about the injustices committed because of race, or gender, or people group. It’s hard to see the broken Imago Dei in the past, without looking away.

People come to my major because they think that History is an easy “A.” They think it’s about memorizing facts, names, dates. That’s not what it’s about, and I’m reminded of that every semester. It’s easy to lose sight of the people behind those names and dates, the ones who made this world we’re in now what it is.

Some days, I just want to find peace, love, joy. I long for a restoration from this broken reality. That’s the hope of Christ, and I can’t imagine doing my job without it. I don’t think I could do my job without it.

All of this is to say, it’s easy to say that hurtful thing. I know, I’ve done it repeatedly. But hurt people hurt people. In five words, that’s my summary of history. Guys, I’ve come to treasure those moments where people show kindness, no matter how small. It’s not the stuff that’s often remembered in history texts, and it seems like it’s far outweighed at the time. But it’s the stuff that makes us human. It’s the stuff that keeps us going. We can’t keep on like this. If we profess to be image bearers, then aren’t we called to reflect the goodness that God is? Even a little light can be bright in the darkness.

Chapter One to other nameless story

“You’re looking especially beautiful tonight,” my boyfriend whispered to me. I smiled up at him as we came to a stop outside of my door. “I guess we should say goodnight.”

“Do we have to?” I asked, leaning into him, my hands on his chest, sliding down the slick leather.

“I don’t think your daddy would be all to happy with me if I didn’t get you home by curfew,” he said, grinning. Then he leaned in and kissed me.

I jerked back in shock, a gasp escaping from between my lips. Pain, unlike any I’d ever experienced shot through my heart and body. He stared at me, confused.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, seeing the hurt in his eyes. “I’m sorry.” I leaned in to kiss him again.

The moment our lips touched it was like a surge of hurt pulsing through me. I pulled away, covering my mouth with my hands. What’s happening? What’s going on? I thought, trying to push away the pain.

Images and blurry memories filled my vision, memories that weren’t mine. A man, hitting me with a paddle, again and again, cussing me out with every swing. A twisted ankle in the middle of a football game. A throbbing in my head. A girl yelling at me, then slapping me before turning and walking away.

“Kelly, are you okay?” he asked, gripping me by my upper arm. I looked up at him, surprised to feel wetness on my face. “Kel, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” I whispered.

“Are you okay?” he asked me again, urgently.

“I’ll be okay,” I lied, drying my face. Pain, both physical and emotional had filled my body, and although it had numbed a little now, it was still a dull throbbing ache in every fiber of my being. I leaned against him, wanting nothing more than to be comforted.

“Should I knock?” he asked, concern written all over his face. “You don’t look too good.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted, straightening up. I knew that if my parents saw me like this, they’d think that he’d done something. I reached for my house key, fumbling with the button on my coat pocket. Finally I got it out, and I hurriedly unlocked the door, with shaking hands.

“You’re white as a sheet. You sure you’re okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

“I don’t believe you,” he said.

“You don’t have to,” I said, pushing the door and turning to look at him again. Guilt sliced through the pain like a dull knife, that I had pulled away from him twice in pain.”I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” he asked as I closed the door behind me. “Kel, you just can’t do that!”

I didn’t care. I wanted to get away before I started crying again. I felt positively miserable. I didn’t know why, I just wanted to make it stop.

“Kelly, is that you, sweety?” my mom called from the living room.

“Yeah, mom,” I said, making my way to the steps, moving quickly.

“How was your date?” she asked.

“It was great,” I said, hoping my voice didn’t betray me.

“That boy leave already?” dad asked, also from the living room.

“Yeah.”

“Good,” he grunted, and I made my escape up the stairs, three at a time. When I shut my door I finally let myself cry, sliding the the floor.

Everything had started out good. We’d had supper, gone to see a movie. Then he took me for ice cream, and brought me home. Everything had been good. Great, even. He’d treated me gently, sweetly, and with respect. He hadn’t tried anything. That kiss had been the first time he’d even touched me anywhere but my hands or upper arm.

I covered my face with my hands as I tried to figure out what was going on. It didn’t make sense. It was almost as if it was the kiss that had caused this pain. Everything had been fine before that.

I’ll take a shower, and then I’ll go to bed, I told myself, trying to catch my breath between sobs. I was calming down slightly, though I still hurt. I forced myself up, and went through the motions of my night time routine, zombie like.

I cried myself to sleep that night. The first time out of many nights to come. My life had changed that night.

The next morning I went to school. I was antsier than I had been in a long time, all day, jerking away from the smallest touch and jumping at even small noises. My friend caught me in the cafeteria, where I was sitting alone at lunch time.

“What’s going on?” she demanded, sitting down across from me. I stared at her blankly. “Come on, don’t play dumb. You’re acting weird. Did something happen on your date last night?”

“No, not exactly,” I said.

“Oh come on, either it did or it didn’t,” she said, impatiently, leaning forward.

“Well, something weird happened last night,” I muttered, stabbing the rather unattractive fettuccine with my fork. It looked even less edible than normal, and it made my stomach turn, just looking at it.

“What happened?” she asked. Avoiding her stare, I started to explain.

“Well, when he kissed me good night-”

“He kissed you? Is he a good kisser?” I glared at her, and she blushed. “Sorry, continue.”

“When he kissed me, it was like things that had hurt him hurt me.”

“What?” she breathed out, surprised. “What do you mean?”

“It’s like the memories of things that had hurt him came into me. At least that’s as near as I can figure.”

“So, like, telepathy? Like he shared his memories?”

“I don’t know,” I muttered, dropping my fork. My hands were shaking again, and I ran my fingers through my hair, staring at the table miserably. “But I’ve hurt since then.”

“What do you mean, hurt?”

“It’s like they happened to me,” I said, trying to think of how to explain the gut wrenching pain. “It’s like I went through it.”

“So you’re ampethizing with it?” she asked.

“Empathizing,” I corrected. “And no. It’s like I was the one they happened to. Like it was real.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” she said, reaching across the table and patting my hand, which was now resting on it. Her touch felt like a burn, and more pain washed through my body again. I gasped out, and slid my hands back into myself.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It happened again, just now,” I whimpered, closing my eyes and willing myself to not cry. Fresh memories crowded my mind, her memories. It was like a film of the most painful memories in her life. I looked up at her, pity filling me.

“I didn’t know that you hurt that badly about George,” I muttered. She blinked at me blankly.

“What’re you talking about?”

“George,” I said. “Your ex. The one who cheated on you.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said, looking confused. “What are you talking about? I’m not upset by him. I mean, I am a little, but I don’t-” suddenly her eyes got big. “You took my hurt, when I touched you.”