In my hand was a poster. This gift was rolled up and safely protected in plastic. I had debated a lot over giving Lauryn this but ultimately decided that it was necessary. Approaching the top of the stairs to her apartment I felt nervous. Above me I saw her awaiting my arrival.
She looked awful. Tired and broken-not ugly. She took a lot of pride in her appearance. This girl was always dressed up nice and prettied up whenever I saw her. At this moment, however, you could see the toll the last few weeks had taken on her. I wanted to hug her. But that was not currently allowed because of social distancing rules, nor would it have been deemed socially acceptable anyways. So, instead, approaching her I simply tried to warm her with a loving smile (one that she could not see beneath my mask…damnit).
“I brought you this,” I said handing her the tube in my hand.
Thanking me, she let me into her home.
It was empty. There was no one there, but I mean empty as far as ‘stuff.’ The essentials were there, but this was not a place full of ‘things’ like most homes I was accustomed to seeing. She had a candle lit on a coffee table in front of a loveseat in the living room. She pointed at it and invited me to sit down, “You can take off your mask Mr. J.”
“What is this?” she asked, referring to my gift (probably appreciating the opportunity not to talk about other things quite yet).
“Open it,” I said.
Struggling with the plastic, she eventually was able to remove it. Unrolling the poster, she laid it out flat on the table in front of us the best she could.
It was from the movie ‘Mr. Church.’ On it was a picture of Eddie Murphy wearing a bowler hat appearing as his character, Henry Church. Across the bottom read a quote, which was the reason I bought the poster for Lauryn, “A book is read from beginning to end. But is best understood from end to beginning.”
Reading the words, she muscled a smile. Not letting her speak I said, “You don’t have to hang this up…but promise me you won’t throw it away. My hope is that someday this poster makes sense to you Lauryn.”
Her and I sat on that couch for what seemed like a very long time. I transformed on that couch-from a teacher, to a friend. What she had been through was something that I was unequipped to educate her on. So, I simply listened and let her talk. A lot of what she spoke was probably just a running script that had been playing in her mind. But now she was able to tell someone else all the things that she had been fighting with inside. It was not my place to validate or contradict worries and fears that clearly haunted her, so I just did my best to let her bleed them away on me.
My heart broke for her. Trying to think of a way to distract her from the guilt she was torturing herself with, I fought inwardly to think of something to say, “Nel tells me that you have come up with a name for your band?”
Her smile lacked the confidence I was used to seeing on her but seeing it still made me feel slightly accomplished, “Yup, ‘The Recovery High Refugees’,” she said. “Do you like it?”
Nel and Pras had told me about this name already so I had given it some previous thought, and decided to lay it on her, hoping that she’d appreciate my honesty, “I get it, and yes I like it, but my suggestion is to shorten it up a bit…people are dumb Lauryn, me included (I added as a disclaimer), you know that…the less words to remember you the better.”
At those words a real smile was born on her face (If could only hug her, I thought to myself again).
Week 13- (12.4.20) – “A-Hole”
(The following lesson is rated “R.” Reader Discretion Is Advised. Lauryn, this one’s for you.)
It is very difficult not to swear once and a while as emotions can sometimes take over even the strongest of people. Most of the time we try our best not to use this type of offensive language, but every now and then who doesn’t like to give this world a big old, “F-U!”
You know what I’m saying?
Sorry, just having a bad day. Let’s get this class started….
When I was young, I remember seeing a bumper sticker that read, “To go forward in life you can’t be looking in the mirror.”
Very philosophical. Very deep. And very true…to a degree.
Looking in life’s rear-view mirror can lead to guilt and regret, there is no denying that. But there are of course good things that can happen by looking in our past as well; like avoiding making the same mistake twice-or three times, or four, or five, etc.
Which brings us to our story for the day. I hope you f’ning like it!
It was a few years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday….
I was on my way home from work. Traveling the same two-lane highway I always traveled. Listening to some audio book about ‘Inner Peace.’
Well, on this day, traffic was moving rather slow. The speed limit on that particular stretch of road was sixty-five; however, everyone was stuck going a steady ten to twenty due to a merge a few miles ahead. It had been like this for months now, so the delay was not unexpected. Frustrated, but in no rush to get anywhere, I stayed in the right lane and listened to instructions on how to breathe through stress.
In my mirror I noticed a car weaving around the slowed traffic behind me-displaying no regard for the other drivers trying to survive their journey. There was always someone trying to get ahead by doing this, and it always got under my skin. He was getting closer and closer. What this driver was doing was wrong, everyone knew it, but no one stopped him.
I vividly recall thinking that I’d have to be the one to teach this ‘A-hole’ a lesson.
This would be fun!
As the car approached, I matched speed with the person next to me. Phase one of a three stage “F-U.”
By doing so I blocked this punk from weaving around us. A very common tactic taught to me by my father years prior.
In no time, the driver was right behind me. He successfully got on the ass end of my car but had nowhere to go. Of course, I just played dumb and carefully maintained my speed with the car alongside. He got closer and closer, eventually laying on the horn once he realized I was purposely blocking him.
With a smirk, I moved to stage two.
Taking my right hand and shaping it like I was grabbing the fat end of a baseball bat, I turned my head and bobbed up and down on the imaginary staff. Anyone can give the middle finger, only professionals can subliminally tell someone to, “Suck a d***!”
I know, I know. This was awful of me to do. It was childish. It was inappropriate. It is embarrassing to admit to now. However, back then, the act worked like a charm.
This driver understood exactly what I meant. Pissed off, he sped up, laid on his horn, and gave me the middle finger; while he swore and yelled at me in silence…Amateur.
With a smile, and smelling success, I progressed to the final stage, stage three- The Icing On The Cake!
I slightly turned my head and blew this man a kiss. Then I waived at him like a queen would in a parade.
I could not help but stare in my mirror and admire the anger that his man was now experiencing. “Bingo-Bango! Got you a-hole!” I said to myself, “that will teach you!”
In the midst of admiring my victory I did not see the traffic stop in front of me.
I hit the car in front of me, and as a result was hit by the man from behind. Traffic stopped, and I was about to encounter the man who I had just told to…well, you know.
This would not be good!
Then, something amazing happened that opened my eyes forever. A miracle, I think. Instead of being pissed off with one another, this ‘a-hole’ and I immediately felt remorse for our previous behavior. Both of us jumped out of our vehicles worried about the safety of the impacted drivers. Like me, I saw that he felt shame as other drivers who had watched us act like idiots were now blaming him and I for the accident that stopped traffic. Rather than pointing fingers, both of us recognized our roles in the predicament we were now in. Putting on our big boy pants, we took responsibility-together.
Perhaps he and I could have reacted differently. Things could have gotten really ugly I assume. Thankfully, instead of anger and revenge, we both were wired to feel sorrow and forgiveness that day.
Surprisingly, this driver and I became friends as he later admitted that my “act” on the road was really quite funny and original. The lesson I learned that day I try not to forget: We had a lot more in common than we knew when we were just two A-Holes trying to get to our destination.
Today I want you to think about what happens when tragedy occurs. Is chaos and selfish behavior inevitable in these instances? Or, can we use these difficult and trying times as opportunities to come together and unite with compassionate hearts?
Maybe, once again, you think all of this is just a bunch of bullshit. Maybe you are currently experiencing a severe case of the ‘Fuck-It’s,’ and refuse to see the world through my eyes.
I can’t blame you; I have been there. All I can suggest is that you….
“That f’ning miracle might be right around the f’ning corner…okay a-hole!?!”
Week 13- Question for Reflection:
“We had a lot more in common than we knew when we were just two A-Holes trying to get to our destination.” What does this statement mean to you?