Why can’t I forgive myself? Lying in bed that night holding Ellen’s shirt to his face and drinking in her scent, Alex wondered how he was ever going to get past this. Forgiving himself was not going to be easy.
He had committed the worst kind of sins. He might as well have murdered those girls. That was the only sin that could be worse.
Since the first day of high school when he and Gus strutted into the building with the three oldest princes on their six, they’d been the two guys who could get any girl, not just in the freshman class, but any girl in any grade.
Alex stood in point position. He was the leader. From day one. Maybe he stood out as the white kid with sandy brown hair and deep, blue eyes amidst the mysterious caramel skinned, Middle Eastern princes with their thick dark hair and sultry chocolate eyes. The older three had already paved the way for Gus and Alex. They were heartbreakers on reputation alone. And they’d never even kissed a girl… yet.
Lunch time, day one of high school, Aaron, the oldest of the Sayid princes, decided it would be fun to show Gus and Alex what the girls’ locker room looked like. For that, they needed girls. Five of them. One for each prince, plus one for their honorary prince.
Now, four years later, Alex couldn’t even remember the name of the first girl he kissed.
The following day there was a different girl, and then another, and another. By the end of the first week of school, they were doing way more than kissing. By homecoming weekend, Alex had given away the one gift he could never take back. And he didn’t even remember her name.
Alex held Ellen’s shirt to his face and sobbed, wishing he would have waited. Not just that day, but every day. Not just that girl, but every girl. He rolled over and crushed his face into his pillow, wishing he could crush the memories out of his mind. Wishing he could go back in time.
He had lusted after those girls and taken away their innocence. He had taken away their chance to save themselves for their wedding night. To save that gift for the man of their dreams, not to have been lured away by the cunning acts of a boy too stupid to know right from wrong.
If what Ellen said was true, that the girls were just as guilty as the boys, then chances are the girls were right now feeling the same guilt as he was. Maybe Gus and his brothers were feeling just as guilty as he was.
But maybe not. None of them had taken a journey to paradise like Alex had. None of them had stood in the presence of God and had their sins laid out before them. None of them knew the things that he knew. None of them had a perfect recollection of everything that they had done wrong from the time they were born.
They may not even realize that what they were doing was wrong. Could Alex look back in his heart and know what he was doing was wrong?
Maybe. Maybe he knew it all along. Which means that he was willfully rebelling against the truth and against what God would have him do even back during a time when he didn’t know there was a God.
Now that he did know that there is a God, Alex was held that much more accountable.
But did he still need to be racked with guilt?
Did he still need to beat himself up for the things he had done?
Was there a way to make this right? Was there a way to go back in time?
No, he couldn’t go back in time. What he could do was go forward.
He could accept the forgiveness that God had already given him.
So why couldn’t he forgive himself?
Maybe the reason that God sent him back to this earth was to give Alex the opportunity to fix the things he did wrong. Now he just needed to figure out how.
What was the first step? To acknowledge that what he did was wrong. He had already done that. To change the way he lived his life. He had already done that too.
What was the next step? To apologize? To whom? To every single girl he had ever wronged?
And what about the alcohol? He hadn’t bought the alcohol. Someone else had. He still wasn’t even old enough to purchase alcohol. Alex couldn’t remember a single time that he had encouraged someone else to drink alcohol who wasn’t already choosing to drink alcohol. But he could have stopped them from drinking alcohol.
If someone had stopped him and his friends from drinking alcohol that night, Alex wouldn’t be lying in a bed, paralyzed from the waist down.
Again, he couldn’t go back in time to stop anyone from drinking alcohol. But he could go forward and tell other people not to drink alcohol, kind of like what he had done at his graduation speech.
But even if he could tell every person he meets not to drink alcohol, would they listen? And would it make any difference?
And going back to his original concern, would it help Alex to forgive himself? Making restitution for the things he had done wrong was great, but this forgiveness happened within his own mind.
God had forgiven him. Now he needed to forgive himself.
He was right back at the beginning of this internal conversation. Racked with guilt trying to figure out how to fix the past. He pressed Ellen’s shirt to his face again and sobbed long into the night.
Book Club Discussion Questions: What do you think of Alex's heart wrenching confessions to himself?