Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Repeat (01/24/13)
TITLE: I'm Going To Name Her Tonya
By Justin Atkin
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"My goodness, she’s wearing the same clothes she had on when she left here Sunday morning," I mumbled to myself.
That’s all I could think of as she sat on the pew. I sat down beside her and rubbed the top of her hand. She still smelt like the crack house she had just left. It’s a pungent smell that you can’t ignore. It smells like some strange concoction of burning plastic mixed with urine. I didn’t have a clue what to say. No one ever bothered to teach us in seminary how to start one of these conversations. The sad part is, I have had two decades of practice and I haven’t figured it out either. So like always I just asked, “What you need honey?”
I knew what her answer would be. Tonya had set on this same pew, at least a dozen times. At least a dozen times I have rubbed the top of her hand and asked her that same old question. At least a dozen times I had heard the same old words. Like clockwork, she said the same words as always, but something sounded different in her voice. There was a deep sadness in her voice. A sadness that I had heard once before, but it had been a while.
“I can’t take it no more. I need help! I don’t know what do this time.”
The words barely made it out of her mouth before she started shaking violently. Tears began to fall. I hugged her tight, committing the unpardonable sin. At least that’s what the guest speaker at last year’s pastor convention called a hug. I’m not knocking the guy, but he has obviously never been a preacher in inner city Atlanta; a place where it seems drug addicts outnumber saints four to one. The harder she shook, the tighter I held her. I should’ve prayed, but I just found myself staring mindlessly at the same old picture of Jesus hanging by the piano. While I stared off she continued to shake, followed by cussing, then crying and finally hyperventilating.
“Calm down, it’s ok. It’s ok. Tonya, honey, it’s going to be ok. Just calm down.”
It seemed liked it lasted forever. Then all of a sudden she just stopped and whispered something. I heard her say the words that most women say with joy, but not her. Her words were not filled with joy at all, but trembled with fear.
“I’m pregnant. I am pregnant. God help me! I’m pregnant.”
I was speechless. Those words took me back in time eighteen years. Back to a time early on in my ministry, when my biggest concern was Sunday School attendance and what color tie I should wear. Eighteen years before, I had sat on that same pew. That same picture of Jesus watching over us. I had heard those exact same words from a scared teenager who had stumbled in off the street late one night. I had never seen anyone like her. She was pitiful. Something was bad wrong with her. She was jittery. She kept scratching at her forehead, messing with her elbow, twisting her hair; just doing weird stuff like that. Her pupils were dilated. At the time, I didn’t know a crack rock from a gem stone. The one thing I did know was that the poor child she was going to have didn’t stand a chance. I remember, just before she left, I asked her what she planned to do with the child. As she walked out the sanctuary, she turned and said the words that haunt me today.
“I’m going to name her Tonya.”
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