a stranger kindness

On a piercingly sunny Texan Monday morning a young man pulled into an empty Seven Eleven parking space.  That young man was very hung-over from the three nights before and hated the Texas sunshine, explaining the shitty parking job. That young man was I, and I could never find a pair of shades dark enough for a morning.  Usually I avoided mornings like water; but I was out of Newports and nothing was better for breakfast than some menthol filled cigarette smoothness.  Black Sabbath’s (no disrespect to Ward and Butler) rhythm section was holding a dark wizard concert inside of my head and the crowd was correctly pounding for more.

The pounding of a three night speed, coke, and whiskey led hang-over is something to be experienced by professionals only.  We were the top draft picks in the area and we readily displayed our hate for our own bodies.  Now an alcoholic can drink, but an alcoholic using a cocaine buffer can REALLY drink.  I exploited this system routinely and now I was paying the price.

I parked my truck, which I had no business driving and prepared to exit the vehicle.  Exits could be a little tricky for me.  This combo of uppers and downer-booze could limit a drunkard’s feel for the Earth quite a bit. Every step of mine was usually filled with curiosity: am I going to make it?  Falling wasn’t terrible (my pain receptors were drowned numb and dumb) but it could be a little embarrassing and furthermore, it usually led to attention and questioning.  The latter two being far worse than embarrassment, which to be honest, kind of came with the territory.[1]

After some terrain scanning I was able to dismount my truck.  When you feel like a person with a drug rap-sheet from last night’s latest binge, a walk from the truck to the store turns into a hobbit-like journey filled with peril and mystery.  But shit, I was up to the task.  After all, I was man enough to kill two pints of whiskey last night.

As I approached the gates that held the one-stop shop super-mini store, I thought to myself, now how am I going to hold this heavy ass door open, with Jack & white clouding my heart valve’s unsteady handshake exchange?  Opening a door may sound all-too simplistic to the square, but any serious drug user will tell you, it can be quite a task, sure as you miss your good health only when healthy; a true understanding is only grasped out of experience.  Even after entering the Seven Eleven, I would have to muster up the ability to pay the limited experienced English speaking person behind the counter.  This was a task to be certain.

Suddenly, the door bell went off and the door flung open right in front of me, sending shock waves rattling throughout my marrow–which too was negatively afflicted by the grimy show that was my prior night.  Holding the door open was a kind looking old-timer that no doubt, came from the heart of Texas.  His plaid red shirt told me that he was a worker and the overalls confirmed that suspicion.  His hands reminded me of a black and white photograph I had seen somewhere as a child, long before the drugs had crippled my memory. This picture of hard, wrinkled, tough hands; the hands of a young boy’s grandfather filled my mind.  The picture may have even been a conjuration of my then, very weak mind.  It felt so real that I could almost feel the wrinkles that adorned his fingers and matched his smiling face.  Out of that beautifully crafted gray haired covered mouth came a few words.  “Here you go buddy.”

Now, I have been called buddy many times in my life.  Very rarely have I ever acted like someone’s buddy, and it was even rarer that someone really thought I truly was their buddy.  The elder man’s eyes and smile both felt it and meant it.  It was time for me to act it.  I turned with the most sincerity I had felt in ages and delivered a couple of words of my own. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome” came from the man that looked into the paleness of my heart.  These words pierced through any remnants of the cocaine that I had shoved into my soul.  The bourbon could not even drown the sentiments of a man that truly meant it: especially kindness.  Clarity.  I quickly sobered. I felt a floating soon fleeting moment of peace.  And I stood there in the doorway thinking about the great human transaction I had just experienced.  Memories of sobriety and being a human ran through my mind.

The man walked by and continued to live his life.  He will never know the impact that his simple good deed had on my self-inflicted Hell-filled life.  Or perhaps he will.  What I know now that I did not know then, is that there is always another side to every coin.  And perhaps he may have needed that as much as I did.  In a way, I hope that he did and that I was able to help him as much as he had helped me.

[1] My one-time friend Bill W would attest to this as well




  1. Anonymous

    Such vivid imagery. Felt as if I were there.

  2. Anonymous

    “Now, I have been called buddy many times in my life. Very rarely have I ever acted like someone’s buddy, and it was even rarer that someone really thought I truly was their buddy.”

    That’s (for me) the most honest lines in this piece. It sings. And what follows, the interpretation of the man’s words: “Here you go buddy” is one of hope for the speaker in this vignette. It’s almost like the connection is between one who is in a bad place and is recognized by one who’s been there,moved on , and, like the speaker, lives to tell the tale.

  3. Thank you both for the kind comments.

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