I sat in a waffle house the other night. It's not exactly how I like to spend my Saturday nights, but my mom was out of town, and I was sick. Cabin fever had gotten to me, and after an hour or so of driving around, I picked up my keys again and the pack of Luckies I bought in Japan and left to go write. As I sat there, I was a lil' worried I wasn't going to finish this project, but I reminded myself, that I'd come here to relax and unwind a little. Let the creative juices settle down and run like they wanted.
I sat there pretty non-commitally, cause after all, that is what a waffle house is. A non-committal place. I happen to strike up a conversation with a man, on piercings no less (go figure).
He'd notice my lip ring and asked me if I had my tongue done. I told him yeah and he said his daughter had just gotten hers done. He said she'd called him and told him, "Dad, I paid $40 and got my tongue pierced." He said, "I'll kick your ass," and smiled.
I knew what kind of guy he was. A man who, in his lifetime, will buy out a cheap liquor store. A guy who’s smoked his share of shit. He was one of the guys who spent his life on a Harley from the late 70's. One of those old hogs that had more wrong with it when you bought it than it did when you got rid of it. One of those guys who never really went anywhere, never really cared, because he never knew anything past where he was, and that was okay by him.
We made cheap small talk and I returned to my seat with my last Lucky of the night and reveled in the sweetness of it thinking that a cig is like an old friend, y'know. One you haven't seen in a long time. Kinda a blessing and a curse, but you live with it for a little while, deal with its inconsistencies and realize your own imperfections. One of those friends you laugh at until you wake up the next morning and then shower the stench off. The smoke is of days long passed, gentle, but a little harsh when they come at you. Good in their own way. They snake around everything that makes you, reminds you of old times and leaves you a little regretful when they disappear. That's when you realize your time with them is getting shorter.
I finished quietly remarking to myself that it was like really normal sex...coming up just short of being perfectly satisfying.
I got up, paid my tab and walked back to my table. I told the guy not to kick his kid's ass cause well...she probably went through enough shit gettin' it pierced. He smiled, shook his head and said, "Nah man, I love my daughter to death. She can pierce whatever she likes." He smiled again, and I realized he was a man who knew the value of fatherhood. He understood that it was a privilege bestowed upon him by...whatever Divine Being happens to be up there. It was his opportunity to raise a child in this world. Raise her to be something better than he was. Kinda the ultimate salvation, and he knew he needed that salvation.
As I walked out into the perfect night air, I looked back for a moment and thought of something.
The people there, were just people...who'd came down from the mills or whatever...just to hang for a little while, smoke and unwind from the frustrations of life. They didn't care who I was or what I was doing there. I mean, sure, they may look at me kinda funny, but it's just that they haven't seen anything like me before.
Each one had their stories. Each one had done their share of bad time and each one had roads they'd walked. Some paved, some just beaten paths in the woods, and maybe a few who'd actually cut their own paths, only to have them grow up and disappear, covered by rough undergrowth and bush....not that bush is a bad thing.
I learned that night…well, that those roads, we walk them blindly. We can never see exactly where we’re going and once we’ve turned the corner, we can never truly see where we’ve been. So sometimes, we stumble down the wrong paths, take the wrong roads, that’s just life, right? Maybe they lead us to good places, maybe to places not so good.
More than anything though, you gotta remember that people, those people that I sat in the booth in front of me, the ones in the corner, the guy I talked to, well, they’d traveled their roads too, and when they come at you with ideas different than yours, both good and bad, well remember, just like you, they don’t know where they’re going, and they’re not totally sure of where they’ve been.