Thursday, June 14, 2012


It was just a few weeks ago when I was sitting on a fallen log at a crossroads along a county dirt road. The sun was hot –– real goddamned hot –– sizzling my skin like bacon in a cast iron skillet even through my too-thin white cotton shirt. I’d been walking a long time trying to figure out how I was going to make it to the little store less than a mile down the road and, once there, how I was going to pay for a cool drink of water. My pockets were pretty empty. My feet hurt from standing and walking for what I think was several hours. My arms were tingling and my chest was oddly stretched like those wedges they put in shoes to stretch the toes out and give your piggies more wiggle room. I just couldn’t do it, walk another step. I was too tired and hungry and covered in silt to walk another step. I saw the log on the side of the road and plopped down.

I don’t really know how long I sat there as I dozed in and out of a wafer-thin sleep breathing in dust that still makes me cough sometimes. I need to get that looked at. A thin man eventually came walking by for his daily stroll. It took effort for him to walk but he managed well enough. The red-haired man looked tired, too, and burned. More than me.

I invited him to sit next to me for a little while. He couldn’t stay long. He had to go West; I was heading North to take the Black, or what seemed like my version of it, anyway. He never said where he was heading but I got the impression he had an idea for a destination but not a specific destination in mind. He turned his head toward me ever so slightly and told me his story, all the while twisting a bobby pin in his hand. It was sad, or rather he was sad. Sadder than I by a long shot with good reason to be.

He was sick but recovering slowly. Some recoveries are not miraculous or speedy or even full and the tremor in his voice made me think he was hoping but was terrified of the non-recovery. It was something he said –– more offhand than anything –– that resonated with me. He lost friends, people he thought were golden ended up leaving him when the shit piled on and world got real slow. 

He was talking my language because I am experiencing the same. Not all friends are, indeed, real friends who are there when you need them or even when they promise to be. He winced as he mentioned those people in the midst of the bigger story and I could tell it injured him. Injured him so deeply, in fact, I think any more mention of it would have overcome him. He played it well, kept his hat on and his face shaded fro the sun, and me, and moved on. But I saw it, the twinge of soul that was crushed.  

I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say. I just sat and listened and shook his hand as he left, thanking him for the company. It meant a lot. I’ve been hurt, too. Not like him in the recovery sense, but definitely in the friend sense. It’s only getting worse, the wound deepening every day with nothing but a cavalier mention and words. Lots of empty, action-less words. I don’t know how to fix it and I’m not convinced everyone wants to. I’d ask Kenny Rogers but I’m not sure I’m ready for his answer. 

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