’Tis the season I YouTube how to wrap a Christmas present. It’s not that I’m bad at wrapping a gift without it looking like it was done by the hand of Freddy Krueger. It’s that, actually, that’s exactly it. With that in mind, here’s a list of things I dislike strongly yet would still rather do than wrap a gift.
In your mind, walk into the kitchen or wherever it may be in your past, and open the junk drawer from your childhood home. Ignore the usual stuff scattered around. An ink pen here, some loose change there, maybe a rubber band, clothespin, or a hair clip. Open the drawer a little further. What’s the one item that sticks out, that you always picked up when you were seven or eight years old and fumbled around in your hands, turning over for a better view? For me, it’s…
I open the door of the car which swings open freely, and set my feet on the ground, run for the tree line. There is a path in here somewhere, the hayfield, I know it. There isn’t. I will have to create my own path. This is where the adventure starts. Where the snakes hide in wait. Where the flowers form at the root and the weeds do all they can to strangle the beauty. The road is not paved before me. It never was. This is where the children of my past run freely. Where the thorns snag at shirts and acorns fly through the air like bullets piercing into skin.
The portly woman had her own path to be exact, worn white into the grass that led to her car. After this curiosity, I reached into my coat pocket and retrieved a folded copy of “The Last Leaf,” by O. Henry that I had printed prior to my departure from Charlottesville earlier in the day. “Don’t laugh at me,” I said to my then-girlfriend. “I’m going to read you a short story.”
Jeremiah had this cat named Leon Phelps, named, yes, after the character from the movie The Ladies Man of the same name. This is the story of when Leon introduced himself to Cal Adams, Jeremiah’s new roomie (from “When the Lights Go Out at 10:16: A Memoir of Life and Friendship”)
When the Lights Go Out at 10:16 is a story of life and friendship, when innocence is lost and reality is confronted, that began the day I learned one of my close friends was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I was 21 years old at the time I began writing this story; my friend, Jeremiah Hamlett, was 24. It was the summer of 2003. (Dedication and Preface)
I close my eyes and there you are. I’m listening to the music now. It’s dark now. No one knows I cry myself to sleep at night sometimes.
I was not mauled by a territorial mother bear protecting her cubs and/or my face eaten off by a male bear I inadvertently interrupted while getting his swerve on during mating season. But that’s not to say it won’t happen next time I lace up my running shoes. (Part of the ‘Overcoming Anxiety’ series)
In the mid 1980s, there was a makeshift skate park on the tennis court off Church Street in Phenix, Virginia, where long haired, zit-faced teenage boys would do kick flips and ollies on their skateboards and smoke cigarettes under their perfectly constructed wooden quarter pipe while listening to The Ramones and Motörhead. These kids formed a rough and tumble street gang known as The Aces. See end note.
Last night as I was reading my daughter a bedtime story, I heard an adult voice cry out in haste from the street just outside our home. Minutes later, sirens pierced into the night, closer and closer. There was an ambulance and police cars, a fire truck. First responders were descending a staircase that leads to a small lake at the bottom of the hill.