I still flinch when I see him walking behind me.

punchThis happened about a month and a half ago. I decided to write about it, then not. But it still has some control on me, obviously, so I figure writing about it will release the hold it has. Well, that’s the theory.

It’s a Thursday evening, choir night in the choir loft, and we were about over with the rehearsal section and were about to start with the prayer concerns. Someone in the tenor section made a comment about how the music repeats and looked to him to note that we have to remember to modulate, i.e., go to a different key.

Then someone from behind me punched me. Hard, with a downward motion, to my left shoulder blade. It was one of the basses, about twenty years older than I was. Distinguished man who had served not only this church but the Albany Presbytery and the national church. I stood up, turned around, and said, “You hit me!” He said, “You didn’t shut up.”

I am now livid, as much by his “justification” as by his blow. I think I wanted to hit him. But the truth of the matter is that I’ve seldom punched anyone. If I were to have struck him, it would been purely reflex. Once I stood up, this wasn’t going to happen.

Besides, the narrative was all wrong: “60-year-old man beats up 80-year-old man, in church.”

Still, I was not in the attitude of prayer. I got up, leaving my music where it was, muttered, “I’m done here,” walked to the back of the church, got my bicycle and backpack, and peddled home. I was really angry that evening.

Friday, I was REALLY sad. Music is a refuge, church, and especially choir, is a refuge, and it was violated. And my arm still hurt, to boot.

I thought my abrupt departure might have engendered a call or an e-mail or some Facebook comment from a choir member, but no. (Arthur, n.b., this was the source of the reference to Split Enz’s Nobody Takes Me Seriously. A more appropriate tune might have been Mr. Cellophane from the musical Chicago.)

One of my sisters, who read my cryptic FB message, wondered if the man who hit me was suffering from some sort of dementia.

That Sunday, talked to the choir director, who hadn’t see what had happened. Nobody did, not even the guy sitting next to him; only the guy I was talking with did; his wife was very angry on my behalf. During the week, I also spoke with one of the pastors.

Long story short: he hasn’t hit me again. We haven’t spoken, except when I passed him a pen, through a third party. I still flinch when I see him walking behind me – getting Communion, e.g. – because I still don’t know the real cause of his action. I was glad the one Sunday he was absent. Now that the choir season is over, I won’t have to deal with this directly, until the fall.

The one thing that helped more than a little was this post by Lisa, called U is for Unforgiveness, which came out after he hit me, but before I saw him again. “If we’re waiting until we get an apology, or see some sign of change or simply waiting until we’re good and ready, it will never happen.”

If I had gone out to breakfast with him, and 14 other guys, the following Thursday morning, expecting an apology from him and didn’t get it, I might well have been furious. Having read that, I was merely resigned to that outcome.

That seems to be my general state regarding this issue: disappointment, loss of respect for him, and more than a little melancholy because my “safe place” feels like it’s gone. Someone in the congregation, who knew of this situation, said to me after church about a month ago that I looked sad. I said, “The mad goes away quickly; the sad tends to take a bit longer.”

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