A Sure Thing (continued)...

After he rolls into town, about a mile in he is able to stop at a gas station.  He locks up his bike to a picnic table that sits outside the gas station wondering what’s a picnic table doing outside a gas station anyway.  He takes the opportunity to grab a few snacks and a couple bottles of water and remembers that he can charge his phone through his laptop.  So as he comes back outside he sits at the picnic table, pulls out his laptop and begins to do just that.  While he’s sitting there waiting on his phone to charge he begins to reflect on his trip some more.  He starts thinking about the first person he needs to call when he gets service again, and what he’s going to say. 

He thinks about how tired his legs feel and wonders if he will find a more comfortable place to sleep tonight than some of the places he has slept along side of the road before reaching this point.  His legs feel dead and stale, and frankly he feels like he needs a shower and a real meal, not just snacks.  He figures he’ll grab a meal at the next decent restaurant that he sees and maybe he can get some information on the town that he’s in and some info on the next few towns he may encounter along his way.  After waiting about fifteen minutes and pretending he doesn’t notice the people who are staring at him as they walk in and out of the gas station, he decides it's time to make a phone call. He dials his grandmother’s house, lets it ring six or seven times and no one answers so he hangs up. 

He looks over the myriad of text messages that have come through to his phone but still neglects to respond.  Although part of him was relieved that no one answered the phone the first time he called his grandmother’s house (purely out of wanting to avoid the tough conversation), he knows he needs to try again so he does.  On the second ring she answers the phone, “Hi granny, how’s it going?” he says.  She replies, “Boy where are you at and what are you doing?  Do you know everybody has been trying to get ahold of you and wondering where you are?  What’s wrong with you?  Are you running from something? Did you do something wrong?  Whatever’s going on, you need to talk to people and let everyone know what’s going on!”  He jumps in and apologizes to her.  He begins to explain to her why he left and why he felt he needed to do it. 

He’s telling her all of this knowing that she’s going to completely disagree with him and tell him that he's out of his mind.  But just like that she says, “Baby, I don't like it, but you know what?  I understand, I really do.  You do what you have to do.  No one can bring you peace but yourself and I’ve always raised you to be happy and go for what it is that you want.  I trust in you and what you’re doing and I only ask that you check in with us every now and then.  Please just let us know that you're ok and know that we love you and when you are ready to come back, we will be ready as well.”  He’s stunned, as this isn't the response he expected at all, nor did he really think that many people missed the fact that he was gone.  As a matter of fact he still believes she may have exaggerated that part but nonetheless her support of what he’s doing has not only shocked him but also encouraged him and warmed his heart a little. 

Just as he begins to fill up with pride an old beggar approaches.  He looks all out of sorts, an older African American gentlemen with old beat up shoes in which he notices both have holes in them and the right one is even missing half the sole.  He’s wearing glasses with the lens missing out of one side of the frame and he’s wearing old slacks, a shirt and has the largest, rattiest looking beard he’s ever seen.  The man looks like he could be about seventy years old or maybe life in the street has made him look that old.  The old man asks him if he could spare some change and he lets him know that he doesn't have any, which is true because he never carries cash, only his card.  As a matter of fact, the question actually made him think that maybe he should get some from an ATM since he’s on his journey and there’s no guarantee that he would be anywhere that he could use a debit card nor does every place take a debit card. 

What he does do instead, is offer the old man some of the food and water he’s just purchased or the option to buy him something from inside the gas station.  The old man obliges and they sit for a second at the table and eat and drink.  He learns the old man has been homeless for over a decade, all of his family lives down south and he lost his home after he was hospitalized and unable to pay any of the bills after he got out.  He explains that his family isn't very large and he only has one child, a daughter that he never told of his financial issues because he didn't want to burden her and lost track of years ago.  For all she knows he's missing, or dead, or both and he could have grandchildren that he doesn't know about.  He notices the old man is carrying around an old chess board and asks him if he has the pieces that go along with it. 

The old man replies yes, and points to his pockets to indicate the location of the pieces.  He thinks about how much he loves the game of chess and how happy he is that he learned the ancient game from his uncle.  He asks the old man if he would like to play and the old man is shocked as no one has once noticed or commented on his board and most seem to be annoyed by his presence in the first place.  So they sit and play, they play for hours, they play four or five games.  The old man wins all but one, and each win he remains humble as if it was expected.  After the last game the old man gets up and shakes his hand and says, “Say Say young fella, thanks for the company.  It’s been a while since anyone has sat and talked to me and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to play this game with anyone else but myself.  It’s been years actually. “ 

He tells the old man that it was his pleasure and he thinks to himself and really sees no technical difference between the two of them outside of age, wisdom, and the fact that he’s only been homeless for a couple days now (although his was self inflicted) and the old man for years.  As the old man walks off he notices a sort of confidence and jazz in his step.  The old man has a regal aire about himself as he goes on about his business.  He notices that the entire time he spent with the old man, the old beggar never complained nor blamed anyone else for his perceived misfortune.  As a matter of fact, he still seemed like someone who was on top of the world.  He was mesmerized by how easy going and content the old man was, by how he still commanded so much respect and not a thing would indicate that he saw trouble in his life except for his appearance. 

Right then and there he had an epiphany while watching the old man walk away.  He learned perhaps one of his first big lessons on this trip.  Between the unexpected support he received from his grandmother and appearance, condition, and interaction he had with the old beggar, that nothing in life was a sure thing.  The only sure thing in life is the belief you have in yourself and the way you carry that belief within you.