“Very careful you must be Dare’. She is going to make you suffer,” Mubarak would say pointing his finger at Varella while balancing a huge over-laden tray in his left hand.
And Varella would respond, “That’s because she’s feisty and you believe in marrying four women and keeping them all under submission.”
At this Mubarak would roll his eyes and say “Magnoon” of which Varella never found out the meaning.
Like most college students, Varella paid his own way through college by working as a waiter. His parents while providing a lot of moral support were unable to provide any financial support. And while the experience proved character building it was at times traumatic. Antonio’s Depot was an average sized Italian restaurant on the edge of town and Antonio always claimed that they were classy because they served escargot. Only classy joints served escargot. In the old days there used to be a local train depot near the center of town and in it’s heyday it was well patronized. But when the freeways started putting most of the railroads out of business, the old depot was abandoned and remained an eyesore until the town council resolved to destroy it. However, Antonio an “immigrant” from Brooklyn offered to move it for free if they’d give him a permit to spruce it up and use it as a restaurant. The town very willingly conceded and Antonio’s Depot was born. The pay was horrible, but the tips were good. At the time Varella may have cursed having to work there, but in his later years he would never regret any of it.
Varella bought his first car at the age of 19, by scrimping and saving every penny that Antonio paid him or that he got as a tip. It was an old beat up boat of a Chrysler New Yorker, it got eight miles to the gallon and would bounce up and down and ground out every time he hit a small bump. It was in this car that Varella was to first learn the meaning of true heartache.
She was a Sorority pledge and she was sweet, but she was the one that Mubarak was always warning him about. They’d met in the dorms when she’d come to visit one of Varella’s floor mates. Their first meeting was quite inconsequential, but Varella had made a mental note that she was a nice gal. The second time they met was at Antonio’s. He was the waiter, she and her date were the “waitees”. She remembered him and apparently Varella’s very pleasant and outgoing manner impressed her and so from then on she made a point of saying “hi” to him whenever they saw each other on campus. Just before Christmas break he gained the courage to ask her out on a date.
The first date should have been a total flop, but she had an extremely flexibile personality, so they ended up having fun anyway. He picked her up in his “boat” and they drove to a movie. He couldn’t remember what the original movie was, but in either case it was sold out. So they opted to watch what was showing next door, which ended up to be the worst movie he’d ever seen in his entire life. It was long and boring and it ended by leaving them both very depressed. It was the kind of movie that you watch once and then kept remembering, in the shower or in class or wherever for the next few weeks, Because it was so depressing he created a different ending for it in his mind, an ending that he could live with. He didn’t know that you never go to a movie on the first date. But he was young and he was foolish and she was pretty. After the movie they went to a coffee shop to have dessert and he found out that she’d expected him to take her out to eat and had been starving throughout the movie.
The thing about her that attracted Varella was her sweetness. She was a very sweet girl. But as he eventually found out, she was also fickle. She did not know what she really wanted, in life, in love or in her future. She was also a sorority girl. He couldn’t have joined a fraternity of equal social standing since he couldn’t afford the extra cost of living off campus in the frat house, nor could he afford to maintain the required Greek image on his waiter’s salary. Thus their relationship was semi-doomed. The Greek system in any college campus is set up to promote inter-house dating, originally it was inter-house dating only amongst young men and woman from the same social strata. In this way the young coeds who went off to college wouldn’t end up marrying ‘below’ them. While this is no longer true of the Greek system, dating out of the Greek system can prove to be tedious. They could go to the sorority gigs, but a couple cannot comfortably go to fraternity dances when only the female half is invited. There were other obstacles but it was more one of peer pressure and social issues. Varella had no outward trappings of wealth and as a result he had no status among these particular sorority girls. The end result was that the young freshman had two opposing pressures working on her. She perceived that her peers in the sorority couldn’t fathom why she would date someone like Varella who didn’t have the wardrobe or the family background to merit a sorority girl of her status. Though left unexpressed, it was an unspoken pressure. Looking back, she would wonder if this pressure had been real or imaginary. But at the time it seemed very real and very strong and very important to her. The other pressure was Varella’s intensity, for his passion for her was immense. He was soon to learn that with fickle women, passion can be very detrimental, you always want what you can’t have.
After their first few dates he found out that she’d never really been kissed before and he took great pleasure in teaching her how to. Not that he was an expert, but he had read up on it somewhere. He was very tender and soft with her, treating her like a delicate rose. It was the kind of treatment that she’d never had before. They never got much past the kissing stage. Naturally, Varella had wanted to go further, but she had prevented him, something in her upbringing had told her that she wanted to save herself for that special someone. And she wasn’t sure he was that person. Still because of his tenderness and care, she came to crave his attention and his kisses. They wouldn’t go any further, but his kisses made her feel very warm and comfortable and she desired that. Sadly physical intimacy alone is not sufficient to maintain a strong relationship. There needs to be a growing vibrant spark. A sense of future. A sense of commitment.
Varella remembered the first time it had happened. She’d been a bit difficult to get hold of that week and Varella had started feeling a bit uneasy about the fact that she’d been making a few too many excuses. Monday evenings were usually the evenings they spent together. Something about Mondays made her crave his attention. Having someone to spend time with and to do fun things with helped her ease into the week. But this Monday had been different. She’d called up just moments before he was supposed to come over, to cancel. She said a girlfriend had called and that she thought she ought to spend time with her. He was naturally disappointed but it wasn’t that big a deal since he’d seen her the day before. Yet he did want to see her, and he asked if he could come over later, “like around 10:00.” She complained that she hadn’t been getting enough sleep and thought she ought to get to bed before 10:00. That bothered him, but he let it pass. Tuesdays he had engineering lab until around 9:30 and had called her the minute he’d gotten out, but she wasn’t at her sorority house. He left a message, turning down an offer from some floormates to go out with them for pizza, and waited by his phone. She didn’t call. He finally got hold of her on Wednesday, by waylaying her on the way to her Journalism class. Her face lit up at the sight of him and his anger melted. The few minutes they had together on the walk to class was like sweet nectar to him. He was carrying his backpack and she was carrying her own books. Later he was to remember this walk and regret it for what he could have done but didn’t do. Later on he sees Carl carrying her books and walking her to class and it cuts him. As she entered into her class, she said, “Call me” and squeezed his arm.
He did, and still wasn’t able to get hold of her that evening, or the next. Until Friday, when it happened. They were supposed to meet at 8:00 but she called him at 6:30. He thought that she was calling to cancel since that’s the way things had been going, but she just said, “Hi, can you come early.” Hope springs eternal and his gloomy thoughts and depression lifted. It was obvious that she wanted to spend more time with him. He picked her up in a very joyful mood. But she was quiet and didn’t have that excited mischievous look on her face that he loved. Her face gave him very bad vibes. He grew silent watching her from the corner of his eye as he maneuvered the huge boat of a New Yorker through the streets. They drove through the wet streets down to the riverside, got out and walked along the bank as they’d done many times before. She’d normally grab his arm and hug it to her, but tonight she just held his hand. They walked down to the small dock and walked out to the edge. The sun was just setting and it’s rich red glow bathed the entire riverside. He watched the swollen river rushing below and knew fully well that the freezing water combined with the currents could easily overpower even a good swimmer. He felt that he was in that river.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, not looking at her.
“I’ve just been thinking about us.”
He didn’t respond. He knew now what was on her mind. The wind was blowing and he felt cold even though he was wearing a thick jacket.
“You’re the nicest guy I know. I just don’t know ….” she paused awkwardly, not knowing how to continue, “I just don’t know if we should be spending so much time together. I mean…”
He turned to look at her but her eyes didn’t hold the warmth that they used to, she turned away not wanting to look in his eyes. Inside he felt his stomach tighten and already he felt a hole somewhere in his being. A cold empty hole in his gut. The current was getting stronger and he was trying to keep his head up.
“It’s just that school’s been getting really tough lately and I thought maybe we ought to spend more time with our other friends.” she said almost sheepishly.
That night she’d mentioned everything but the real reasons why she wanted to break up.
“So what does that mean?” he asked without emotion.
“Oh Dare’, I respect you so much and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather spend time with, it’s just…” her voice was almost apologetic, and it came out like a question “it’s just that I think we should date other people too?”
The river rose up to suck him under and he fought it, but he knew it was too late. The cold chilling water was already starting to numb his mind. As he went under he tasted the brackish water and it chilled his stomach, all he could feel now was the cold lifeless grip of the river as it overcame him.
The minute his heart accepted the fact that she was actually breaking up with him, his protection circuitry went into place and pride took over. He stood up tall, he would show her! He didn’t need her! “I’ll take you back” he said curtly, now it was his turn to not allow her to catch his eyes.
The effect on her was one of relief, it had been easier than she’d expected. This of course was not the effect he wanted. He’d wanted her to be hurt by his abruptness. He hustled her into the car, staying just far enough from her so that they’d be no question of her being able to hold his hand without going out of her way to reach for it. The drive was quiet and depressing. But as they neared her sorority, his heart started to soften, maybe they could talk it out, he felt as if she was slipping out of his grasp. He turned to her and said, “Do you want to do something anyway? We could go to the coffee shop on 4th St. and just talk.”
“No, I don’t think that would be a good idea” was her reply.
“We could watch a movie or just play cards or something.” He was, for some strange reason elated at the thought.
Her answer crushed him immediately.
“I can’t, I’m meeting someone at 7:30.”
She’d planned on being back at 7:30 all along. The way she said it made him understand that the someone was a guy. He played very very loud heavy metal music on the way back to the dorm, pounding the huge Chrysler steering wheel with his fist on each beat of the drums. He distinctly remembered his dorm room looking bleaker and dimmer, despite his turning on as many lights as he had in the room. The hole in his gut expanded into an undefinable hole that filled not only his insides but also time and the future. When he crawled into bed he felt cold, very cold.
For the next three painful months he avoided her. He filled his days with studying and work and getting to know his new roommate who’d transferred from California. But then one day she ran across him on campus, just after he’d finally saved enough money to go clothes shopping. He looked rather dashing she’d thought and called after him across the quad. He smiled cautiously at her as she ran up to him. He’d always thought she was pretty. She hugged him and put her arm through his, suddenly she enjoyed being seen with this dashing dark haired man. But he was very careful about it all. Once bitten twice shy. They talked briefly on a very shallow level, she called him the next day.
Varella’s new roommate, Carl answered the phone. That was the first time Carl met Sandy.
The sound of the PA system announcing that it was 4:50 pm and the Library was closing in ten minutes startled Varella. He looked up from the book he’d been reading and glanced around him. Josh had disappeared to make photocopies and he came hurrying back at the sound of the announcement. They decided that they’d check out all the books and got in line to do so. When they got to the counter they both had to fill out forms and display licenses to prove that they were residents of Santa Clara County, after which they were allowed only three books each. Josh opted to leave the Koran and the Scullard book behind. He reasoned that since Carl had never returned the Koran, it was probably somewhere in the locked up house. One of the three that Varella kept was the Josephus book. As they left, Kristen walked them out reminding them to bring a photograph of Carl the next time they came by. Varella was not optimistic about returning. They hadn’t found out anything that even smelled like it could cause someone to commit even a felony, forget about a murder.
He said good by to Josh and looked down at the three books in his hands, then on instinct stopped and called Prof. Smith on a payphone near the library. He wanted to double check some facts that he’d been fed by the Josh guy. The History Department front desk was closed, but the Professor answered his own phone. Yes, he was in and would be in for a few hours. He’d be happy to see Varella.
Varella amazingly found a parking spot very near the department building and went in. Professor Smith let him into the offices and listened to Varella relate what they’d seen and read in the Library.
The Professor then said, “I must tell you that there is some reason to suspect that this portion of Josephus is a later addition by persons unknown and was not in the original.” He looked at Varella with his wise old eyes, “But fundamentally you want to know if Jesus ever claimed that he was God? I have to admit that I think he did. Not only do the writers of the Bible say that he claimed to be so, but also a lot of the historical evidence seems to prove it.” Smith opened the Josephus book, “For instance even in this passage, Josephus says “the principle men among us” that means the Jews wanted him put to death, not the Romans mind you, but the Jews.
“Now we may think Jesus claimed to be the Messiah because Josephus says so but since some doubt the authenticity of this portion it’s not really sufficient evidence. However, there is good reason to think that Jesus did proclaim himself to be the Messiah even if Josephus had not told us so, or even if this passage is a later addition. You see claiming to be a Messiah in itself was not a crime punishable by death according to Jewish law, they had “Messiahs” by the sackful before and after Jesus. None of them were condemned by the Jews. Sure, the Romans crucified a few but that’s because the Messiah, according to the Jewish thought of that period, was supposed to free them from their Roman oppressors. All the Romans were doing was making sure that none of these Messiahs were successful. But the only thing that would require the Jews to want Jesus executed would have been for some sort of direct blasphemy against God. Studying his reported character we can certainly admit that this man was not your average blasphemer, he seemed to promote respect and obedience to God, not blasphemy. However, if he were to claim to be God, that would fit within his character and would qualify him for death under Jewish law. Thus I am convinced that Jesus thought that he was God. And went to his death believing it.
“But you don’t think that he was God” asked Varella.
“No, I don’t- that’s because I can’t accept the concept of God”
“So it’s not because the evidence isn’t there, it’s because your basic premise is that God does not exist, thus Jesus cannot be God, ……..that’s very interesting.”
“I’m a pragmatist” countered Smith.
“So even if the evidence existed you would not accept it.”
“No, I like to think that I am open minded enough that if the concrete and complete evidence was presented to me I would accept it.”
Varella thought about this for a while, he had to admit to himself that his attitude towards the whole thing was almost identical.
When Varella repeated the story to Josh that evening over the phone, Josh responded with “Study the evidence then make an unbiased decision, also remember that there are very few things in life that we have concrete and complete evidence for. Take your Professor Smith for instance, aren’t there many facts about Ancient Egyptian Civilization that he’d stake his career on.”
Varella nodded, not sure what Josh was getting at “So?”
“Are you trying to say that Smith has concrete and complete evidence on every one of his assumptions? Or aren’t there a few extrapolations that had to be made and a few other conclusions that could have been made from the exact same evidence.
“Maybe” replied Varella “but the historians would take the most obvious and most likely explanations, and if others agreed with them they’d accept it as fact.”
“So Smith doesn’t always need concrete and complete evidence to believe in something, so he has different standards when it comes to accepting Jewish history as compared to accepting Egyptian history.”
“I wouldn’t say that Jesus being God was the most obvious explanation”
“Study the evidence” said Josh, “It may surprise you”.