He picked me up. I locked my keys in my car and AAA proved to be less convenient than I anticipated. He drove up in his red space ship with a dashboard curved and rounded and silence coming from the engine. He opened the car door continuing his streak of unordinary kindness or respect or politeness. I can never tell which it is. I guess they are all interwoven. He greets me
I quickly say, interjecting his hello, “Thank you so much.”
He giggles and continues with his greeting. I sit down in the low passenger seat. He rolls down the windows. In my 21 years of knowing him, I have rarely seen him utilize the air conditioner. His formal work attire makes me feel guilty and self conscious. I am wearing short cutoff 501s and a gray tee shirt with a hole in the hem. My fresh hair cut makes me feel raw taking away the little hair I had to hide behind. It always takes a week for it to look less like a cut and more like mine.
As he starts rolling away, he holds out a nugget of Cadbury milk chocolate wrapped in the packaging meant for the entire bar. He tells me casually that his daughter won’t eat it because of the vegan diet she is passionately pursuing. I smile unsure of how to comment. I simply thank him. The chocolate melts slightly between my fingers on its short journey to my mouth.
I comment on his clothes. He explains his reasoning for looking so dapper. Something about having to bring it to the dry cleaners. He begins talking about his youngest daughter’s job interview at Anthropologie. I am slightly envious. I am unemployed and more than that, uninspired by my options. I have become disgustingly picky about the jobs that I pursue. I can’t quite tell if its pride or fear. Maybe a mixture.
I’ve become a regular at the movie theater near my house and have taken to musically narrating my life, singing it to my German shepherd mix when nobody is at home.
I got over my envious self pity moment and said “I’m excited for her.” I truly was.
“I am too. I think a job will help.” He said simply.
“Yeah and it’ll give her something to do everyday. I know I always start feeling like ‘whats the point?’ when I spend to many hours without contributing in some way. I can fill my days but…”
He saw me reaching for the right words and helped, “Yes I know, not all, but certainly many of my friends want meaning in their life, and generally your job is how you get it.”
His eloquence was nothing new. He has always been well spoken and composed.
“Yes, exactly.” I say thankful for his help.
“And your year in Thailand and your traveling after and your…trip, trek this summer…well that’s not average.” He said.
I giggled. I have never known how to deal with compliments. This was more of a statement, but still felt flattering and therefore uncomfortable. I was thankful though. I need a reminder, every once in a while. It’s pretty easy to get lost in your own bullshit.
He felt my discomfort. “Did you know that the word ‘trek’ comes from Afrikaans?”
“No I had no idea.”
“The first translation had nothing to do with the current one. It was ‘to pull.’ As in ‘to pull your hair.’ “ He then said this short sentence in Afrikaans with the slight whistles distinctive to the language. He continued to explain the Great Trek, a phrase which he also translated into Afrikaans. I listened as he told the story of the Dutch in South Africa searching for their independence from the British.
I was slightly stunned by the amount of information given to me.
“Wow.” I said.
“Safari is the Swahili word for trip or journey.” He continued. He didn’t have as much to say about this fact.
As I recovered from my initial shock I asked, “Do you know a lot of Swahili?”
“Oh no. We learned a few key phrases when we went to climb Mt. Kenya.” He said this casually as though I should have known it occurred. I have a feeling I don’t know many of the experiences this man has had. I was now stunned by his experience rather than his knowledge.
“Did you go with Hale?” I asked.
“No. I went in ’93. You and Bria were still young. You must have been…”
“We were three.” I said confidently.
“I went with my brother John and a friend of his.” He finished.
“Oh. Well did you enjoy it?” I asked unsure of what else to say.
“It was definitely an experience. It was hard. We didn’t make it to the actual summit. There was a blizzard and our visibility was terrible. So we waited it out until the snow stopped.” He explained
“And then you went back down?” I asked. Curious. Shocked. Amazed.
“Yeah. We started repelling down at 1am.”
“You went down in the dark? Did you have headlamps?” I asked giggling from nerves and excitement.
“Yes. But the batteries were frozen. It’s amazing what your eyes can adapt to.” He said casually.
At this point he had pulled his red spaceship over to the curb. It was time for me to go home and for him to go design buildings.
“Thanks for the story.” I said as I got out of the car.
“My pleasure. See you soon.”