I thought for a moment, and then told myself no; it couldn’t possibly be. Then the Barista called out your name and you stepped up to get your coffee and when the light over the bar illuminated your profile; granted is now covered with an intricate and deliberate layer of just the right length stubble, I knew that face and remembered it well.
Sitting round the campfire, barely ten you must’ve been; the others off gallivanting and running wild through the woods, and you at my side, paying the others no mind; drawing pictures of George Washington in the notebook I had in my bag, talking about the Civil War; opening and sharing yourself and your interests, wanting to see my reaction more than anything; see if I thought it was silly and dismissed it, or took and interest and actually listened.
And listen to you I did.
When you gathered your courage and asked if I ever have thoughts in my head that I can hear, that drive me crazy and that I can’t make go away; and at that moment, it mattered not where your father was, who he was off playing the attention whore for or with; everyone else at that campground disappeared and for that brief moment in time, you and I connected; not as adult to child, not as a troop leader to one of her cubs, but as human beings. One very much aware and in-tuned with spiritual self, and the other just beginning to figure there was a difference.
You said it drove you crazy that you couldn’t make them stop and you didn’t much like the things they said; I told you I understood perfectly, have them too, and the best thing you could do is write those thoughts down – get them out of your mind and onto paper. And I promised you it would make it better, because that’s what I’ve done my whole life; and you looked at me with that sweet little smile and your eyes lit up as if I’d just given you the secret to the universe.
And then you turned the page inside my notebook and wrote something that I have never forgotten, nor will I ever. You wrote; No matter what thoughts are inside our head, it doesn’t mean we really are who we think we are.
Then you handed me the notebook and watched as I read it; and if I somehow failed to express with words to you at the time, I hope that in some way you realized how moved I was by the profundity of what you bled onto that paper and shared with me.
So young, so innocent, so filled with confusion and questions and self doubt; yet so naturally curious, inquisitive and knowing; knowing there was something more than the trappings of our daily lives and so ready to grasp and understand it.
I told your father what an extraordinary and gifted boy you were and that you needed special spiritual attention; that you were at the point that feeding your soul with the proper knowledge was crucial. He told me your grandmother was a religious woman and you spent a lot of time with her and that he and your mother planned to start going to church on a regular basis, not to worry about it.
I tried to explain to him that religion, organized or not, was not what I mean by feeding your soul, but he either missed my point, which I doubted at the time, or simply didn’t want to hear, which I believed to be the case.
No matter, it wasn’t my place to interfere; I offered what I could and left it at that. But when I went out and bought you a journal and a special pen to write in it, he was very standoffish and almost offended; telling me that he would be the one to buy you a journal and I didn’t have to do that. I told him I knew I didn’t have to; I did it because I wanted to. And so it came to be that I was, in fact, able to give you that gift, from me to you; along with a few Civil War trinkets I’d found while rummaging an antique show at the mall.
I still have the little thank you card that you gave me, with the watermelon, pink and white polka dots and tiny bow on the front; in a little leather box where I keep special mementos. I wasn’t around long enough to know if you ever filled that journal, though I’m sure that you did. And I’d like to think you’ve been keeping one ever since.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw you, after the truth was revealed; we were in Bealls, you were with your mom and I was by myself; you saw me and smiled, made a motion in my direction, as if you wanted to come talk to me; and then your smile faded and a look of sadness and disappointment washed over your face, when you caught yourself and remembered that I was the enemy.
And so the other day when you left with your coffee, got in your car parked right next to mine; no longer that precious little boy who I once shared a special and fleeting bond with, but a grown young man, with a future wide open; you sat there and waited, wondering if I recognized you, wondering if I would acknowledge in some way; but I didn’t, because I couldn’t.
And the reason I couldn’t is because I’ve no idea what thoughts or stories have been put in your head; about me, about the situation, what truths or lies; and the last thing I wanted, was for you to think that my looking in your direction and acknowledging you with even a smile, was somehow inappropriate on my part.
But as I drove away, my own thoughts tormenting my mind as they have for so long now, I thought about what you wrote by the campfire, all those years ago –
No matter what thoughts are inside our head, it doesn’t mean we really are who we think we are.
Thank you for that.
©2012 jill terry