I can see myself there now. Looking across at the people going in and out of Stewart’s, listening to my iPod to some song that reminded me of home, and savoring my Marlboro 27 as if it was my last one.
The parking lot was my escape. I looked forward to hanging out there, even if most of the time I was by myself. Sometimes the store owner next door would come out and talk to me. When we first met, I was so overwhelmed by my new surroundings that as soon as she told me her name, I quickly forgot it. I was too embarrassed to ask her again for it so she became “Hey! How are you doing!” or “Isn’t the weather great out today?” I felt so bad that her name became a welcome phrase. Her son would come out once in a while and ask me to play a game of paper airplane with him. It was awkward because as enthusiastic as I was to play with him, I couldn’t ignore the fact that every time he saw me outside, I had a cigarette in my hand. I wasn’t going to be winning a role model trophy anytime soon.
I would look to the sky a lot, wondering about those I left behind. My family was a constant thought in my mind. Would my little brothers remember me? My then-three year old brother would cry for me to come back home so much but instead of lying to him and saying that I’ll be back before you know it, I gave him the cold, hard truth. “You’re not going to see me for a long time.” That was the hardest thing I ever had to say but he needed to get used to the fact that I won’t be in his life as much as I would like to. I’m living for the job and he is living to watch Sesame Street.
I thought of my friends, who were all still transitioning to life after graduating college. Some decided to move, some struggled with living with their parents, and some continued school. Yet even though they were all moving towards different places in their lives, they still would help me out whenever I needed it. I can’t even tell you how much that meant to me.
And finally, I would think about him. A lot. He was the reason why I wanted to come back with the spoils of victory. I’d often think about running back into his arms and I remember when it actually happened, how elated I was for that moment. We didn’t define ourselves when I was away…we didn’t even talk about it. If something happens, something happens. I guess we’d both understand if it did. I didn’t want to tell him about how stressful it could be sometimes up there, I only wanted to talk about the good things. The phone calls were few and far between, but whenever they happened or whenever I received a text message saying that I could pull it off…I felt like the happiest person on the face of the earth. It’s funny now because we don’t speak. Crazy how things can change in a year. I guess you really have to live for the moment.
Yet as stressful and lonely as it could be sometimes, I find myself to be a richer person for spending all those times in the parking lot. It made me who I am today and it showed me how resilient I can be. I know the meaning of true, hard work. To tell you the truth, I’d give anything to be in that parking lot right now.
There’s nothing more satisfying in life than finding out what you really can do, if you put your mind to it.