- Zach Lucana
As I got out of my car, door was slammed shut by a gust of wind, furious about the decision I had just made. As I lifted the gas pump, I noticed my hands were still trembling. It was kind of hard to believe that I already drove all the way out here completely uninjured.
The man fueling up adjacent to me caught completely off guard.
“Yeah, I have a thicker jacket somewhere in my car. I would look for it, but I would rather freeze to death then look through all the junk in the back again.”
“Yeah, that is a lot of stuff. What brings you all the way out here?”
The clouds blocked out the moonlight, leaving me with only the dim lights of the gas station to identify my new neighbor. He had an unkempt beard and uncombed hair. The only difference between him and my uncle was that the putrid smell of beer was absent from his breath.
“I'm just moving. First time away from home.”
“Ah, okay. You seem pretty young to be leaving the nest already.” He pointed to the bruise on my cheek. “ What happened there?”
The traffic grew louder, as if deliberately giving me time to craft an answer. After it calmed down, I said, “Just a little fall, nothing serious.”
A whiskey-soaked fist taunted me yet again, laughing at my misfortune. It lunged at me, free of any restraint. I snapped out of it when the stranger decided to keep pushing.
“Looks pretty new.”
“Just happened a couple hours ago.”
“Really?” he asked, unconvinced.
“Yeah, I swear-”
“Son, I ain't the smartest man on this planet, but I've been alive long enough to know something like that doesn't happen from a little fall. Now, I know I'm just a complete stranger, and what I say may mean nothing to you. All I know is that right now is tough, and it will probably get tougher. Once you accept that it probably won't get better any time soon, you can move on. Find a new home, kid. Trust me, it's much better than hangin’ onto the past.”
He got in his car and drove off, leaving me speechless in the middle of nowhere. Snow began its slow descent as I tried to process what he had said to me. Something similar had been said many years ago as I was taken in by my father's brother and his wife, my only relatives willing to raise a child. The creek of the old floorboards of his townhouse whispered to me, pleading for me to leave, for danger was imminent. I almost listened. His wife noticed my worry, and reassured me with similar words to what I heard today. If only she were still here. if only she could reassure me once more and that everything would be alright.
The snow got heavier, as if instructing me to move on. I got back in my car and drove off, the man’s speech still ringing in my head. As I drove down the dimly-lit road, void of any life, I knew it was time to relocate once more.