I woke up this morning not in the best of moods.
When I got out of bed, and took a step, I knew that my back was out of sorts and I’d be pain most of the day. It hurt to stand straight.
I had my coffee, got dressed and took the dogs for a walk. A squirrel ran out in front of them and they both lunged at the same time, pulling me off my feet and wrenching my back even further, and adding knee pain to the mix.
I left for work a few minutes late because I forgot something in the house after I’d already pulled away.
I reached the storage unit where we maintain keys for our clients, and spent some time re-arranging my key chain, and depositing keys I no longer needed. I felt pretty accomplished when I left, only to realize as I got onto the highway that I had forgotten the one key I truly needed today. Now, I’m really running late.
I get through my second walk, and realize that I’ve lost my sunglasses.
I get to my fourth walk, and as I step out the door, the skies open up and it pours for the entire 45 minutes that I’m out with a large dog, who’s not a fan of rain. I don’t have an umbrella, or a rain coat.
I’m soaked, I’m cold, I’m cranky, my back hurts, my knee hurts.
I’m also grateful. Grateful for my life. Grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Grateful for where I come from. Grateful for where I’ve been.
As I left my last walk, and pulled out into one of the side roads, I saw up ahead in front of me a shabby, red pick-up truck with smoke pouring out of its engine. I came up beside the truck and saw the driver. An elderly black man. I motioned for him to roll down his window. I asked “Are you ok?”. He shook his head sadly and mouthed “No”. I asked “Do you have a phone so you can call someone?”. He shook his head, looked down, and mouthed “No”.
I pulled off the road and walked back to him. It was raining so hard I could barely see in front of me. By then, he’d come out of his truck and was trying to open the hood of the truck. Without any luck. He broke the band of his watch as he reached into the front grill in an attempt to get the hood-release to spring open. It wouldn’t. The truck was still running, and smoke continued to pour out of it. The smell was horrible. That burned rubber, oil, transmission fluid smell. Acrid, acidic, burning. I suggested that he turn the truck off, but he said “I’m afraid if I turn it off, it won’t start back up”. I replied “Maybe, but if you don’t, you may not be able to get the hood open”. He turned, went into the truck and turned it off. I saw flames burst from the under-carriage. Not good. It was still pouring down rain.
He realized while he was turning the truck off that he hadn’t flicked the lever in the truck that would release the hood. So he did. It seems that neither one of us knew anything about engines. Neither one of us had any clue what was wrong. I did notice that oil (or some fluid) was coming out of the truck. I asked him if he wanted to make a phone call. He did. I gave him my phone and he struggled to remember the number for whoever he needed to call.
I stood off to the side to give him some privacy. The rain had stopped by now, and car came up to me, slowed down and a man inside asked me if I knew where the nearest gas station was. I had to laugh inside a little bit. My day to help out elderly men. Thankfully, and for a change, since I never know where anything is, I knew where one was and gave him directions. He looked at the black man in the truck, then looked at me and said “Good luck with whatever it is you’re doing”.
His words were genuine. Not sarcastic in any way.
I continued to stand near the truck and I then heard the man ask “What time do you get off of work?”. A pause. “Eight o’clock?”. It was about 3pm at this point. I stepped towards the truck and said “I’ll give you a ride home”. He looked at me and said “It’s too far, I can’t ask that”. I asked “Where do you live?”. He told me. About 30 minutes away. I insisted I could give him a ride home. He spoke into the phone “This lady is going to give me a ride home”.
He made his way to my truck and asked if I had a towel. He didn’t want to get my seat wet. We were both so soaked, water was just dripping off of us. I did have towels. Not that it would have made a difference. A wet seat is not the end of the world. This man’s truck was dead.
As we moved off, we began to talk. He was so soft spoken. I had, at times, a hard time hearing him over the engine of my own vehicle. His name was “Goody”. He asked me my name, and after I told him, he switched from “Maam” to using my name. I tried to make light conversation, and as we drove, I noted that the streets were completely dry. I marveled at how we’d been drenched, and less than 5 minutes away they hadn’t seen a drop of rain. He told me a story of how when he was in high school, he’d played football and how one time they’d been playing on this field and it had started to rain, hard, so the teams both moved to a field across the street, where it wasn’t raining at all. As soon as they got to the other field, it started to rain. We laughed at the fickleness of Mother Nature. I asked him if he’d gone to high school in the area, and he gave me the name of where he’d gone to school. Nowhere I recognized.
Goody then told me that he’d gone to college, on a basketball scholarship. Somewhere in North Carolina. I said “That’s great! Impressive”. He got quiet, looked down and said “But then something bad happened. Changed my life. I went to jail. I don’t even want to tell you how long I was there for. I didn’t hurt anyone.”. I asked, “How long?”. He stayed quiet for a few moments. “Thirty-three years”.
Thirty-three years. When he got out. He had no idea what to do. The worst part he told me, was that his mother had died two months before he was released. No support. No family. No future.
He’s had jobs on and off through the years. I realized as we talked, that he wasn’t ‘elderly’. He was probably my age, maybe a tad older, but maybe younger. Unlike me though, life had beaten the shit out of him.
He had started a new job last week. He didn’t know if he’d have a way to get to work tomorrow. I could tell that he already knew that this job was no longer existent.
He asked me “Do you think the truck broke because I didn’t go to church yesterday?” I replied “I highly doubt that. I truly don’t believe that God would do this because you didn’t go to church.” I said “Sometimes, bad things just happen”. He asked me “Why do you think bad things keep happening to me?”.
Fuck. What could I answer? Because the cards are staked against you buddy?
I replied “I believe that we don’t just live one life. I believe that we live many lives, and that during each life, we learn a series of lessons, and then, we can move to a new life and learn different lessons. Maybe this is your life-time to have bad stuff happen. I don’t know what your lesson is, but I can imagine that you’ve learned the heck out of it.”
We reached his neighbourhood, and he asked me to pull over when he saw an acquaintance. He called him over and told him what happened with the truck. His friend seemed to know what needed to be done. He sort of peered into the truck, looked at me, and then looked at Goody with an inquiring look. Goody looked at me, then at his friend and said “This is Natasha. She’s an angel”.
My heart broke. I’m no angel, but I sure wish I was so I could intervene on this man’s behalf and turn things around for him a little bit.
If you’re the praying type, please say a prayer for Goody. May bad things stop happening.