I really want to talk to you about the time I spent in the old man’s parking lot that day. I want to tell you about it because it’s that specific incident that led up to an event that really opened something up inside of me. Something that I hadn’t felt before. And after I tell you the story of the event, I hope that you can understand, or at the very least sympathize with me about what happened. And I hope that you agree that me sitting here spending the time to tell you about it isn’t for naught. That it’s a story that’s worthy of being told.
As I stood there in the parking lot that afternoon, I continued to look around. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t feeling like my usual self – something was bothering me. I can’t pinpoint what it was because as I stood there, the same sun was shining and the same birds were chirping as they had been earlier in the day. The temperature hadn’t changed, so it’s not like the swings of mood that autumn sometimes throws at us was affecting me. Perhaps it was the stillness. Perhaps it was the loneliness.
I decided that a hike in the woods wasn’t a good idea. I knew that if I started I would probably take only a few steps and then I would quit, just like I had quit a few hours earlier the only real job I had ever had. It was a less than inspiring moment, if that makes sense.
I started walking back to the old man’s office to use the phone. I had come to the conclusion that I had failed and that it was only my mother who could bring any peace to my thoughts. I hadn’t worked at the A&P for more than a few days, and the way I had handled things promised to be much more of an embarrassment than I had anticipated. Jim would undoubtedly call my parents that night to inform them of what happened and how I had decided that quitting was a better alternative than standing at the front of the store like an adult – to do what I was hired to do. My mother would agree with Jim and scold me for walking away and for being a quitter. This, at the very least, would end the torment I was inflicting upon myself.
But not my father. I thought my father would have a very different reaction. At rare times like these, my father sided with me. He knew that working in the A&P somehow wasn’t right. He liked me working with my hands. With tools. And if my father caught wind of some stranger grabbing my arm, I think he would’ve wanted to take care of the issue first hand. After hearing the story I told, my father would’ve bent down to look straight in my eyes and would’ve told me that he’d be right back. That he had business to tend to.
At times, it was good to have my father on my side. I knew his heart was cut from the same cloth as mine and I knew that he had little tolerance for certain people in society. While he might have trouble expressing himself, I knew that he would do everything he could for me. And he would align himself with me when he knew I needed it most. I knew that about my father. He probably didn’t know it, but I did.
Both of my parents for that matter. After my mother would tell me how disappointed she was in me for quitting, I would most certainly overhear her in the other room quietly discussing with my father how she never really thought I would fit in at the A&P anyway. How she knew I was better doing my own thing and finding my own path. She would say things like that in private. I know she would. But she also faced the difficult challenge of raising me, and that required shielding me from her true emotions. It’s not an easy task to handle someone like me. Just ask anyone who has had to deal with it though the years.
But regardless of my mix of emotions, I still felt how I did and knew that the gut wrenching feeling in my belly wasn’t going away any time soon. The school would be called by Jim, because I had found the job through them and words were going to be spoken. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to that.
And that’s why I decided to tuck my tail between my legs and walk back to the office.
But the thing is, the day wasn’t over. It wasn’t nearly over and I’ll tell you something from the bottom of my heart – I didn’t want to walk back to that office to call my mother. I didn’t want her to come pick me up and for her to drive me home. I wanted to stay on the old man’s land for a time longer. If for nothing else, to bring peace to my fourteen year old mind. The constant pressure of people wanting things from me was pushing me to a place I wasn’t comfortable being.
So I didn’t walk to the office. Instead, I began walking in circles in that parking lot that day. In the sunshine. Thinking that if I walked in circles, I would eventually find what I was looking for. I didn’t close my eyes or anything like that, I simply walked in circles. Bigger and bigger circles. And the bigger those circles got, the closer and closer I walked towards the entrance to the trail that led to the pond.
Why did that pond have to even exist? Why did the old man’s piece of property have to hold a feature that brought me such misery? The old man and I had come to a quiet understanding through the years and the pond was the only issue that had ever come between us. It was the worst thing I could think of. It was something I still couldn’t understand. It was a memory I would soon rather forget, but found impossible to do so.
You know, I was never really sure if, when the old man spoke to me that day so many years ago, he meant the pond itself was off limits or the trail to it was as well. I was never really sure about that and the dismal mood I was in that day in the parking lot piqued my interest of what precisely he was referring to. I wondered, aloud at times, as I was walking in circles, if the old man had a particular issue with me seeing something in the pond, or if there was some sort of danger near that pond, or if there was some other odd reason, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out. And I never could come to grips with the reason for his anger that day. Even though I experienced it first hand. Standing there with him, face to face, witnessing something inside him that I had never seen in anyone else. I stood there watching a man slowly fall to pieces. While he may have appeared resolute, I saw him break. Something I’m not sure many people have ever seen.
Or had the privilege of seeing. Seeing right into that old man’s mind. And to be perfectly straight with you, I wouldn’t mind enjoying that privilege once more. Because there was something in that old man’s mind that I wanted. I didn’t realize it back a few years earlier, but I did realize it the day I was standing alone in that parking lot. I realized there was something about this old man that would change how I would live my life and I wanted to find out what it was. And I hate to say this. I truly do. But I wanted to get into the old man’s mind more than I have ever wanted to get into anyone else’s. He and everyone else I had met thus far served very different purposes.