Summer of 1984
I’m the general contractor on a large remodel and addition to a home in the rich part of Dallas. I’m driving on Harry Hines Blvd. looking for a hardware wholesaler. This is the same street Parkland Hospital sits on, where JFK was pronounced dead in 1963. Five miles or so west of the hospital the street is given over to commercial and light industrial; warehouses, brickyards, small business, liquor stores; two or three adult video stores are scattered among the businesses here.
I pull up to the pay phone in front of a liquor store to call the hardware place for directions. The phone is at one end of a block long row of one story buildings; a bar with a lion on its sign is at the other end; between are a few nondescript businesses. About thirty yards down from me is an adult book-video store.
The receptionist for the hardware place puts me on hold while she finds someone to tell me how to get to where she is. A black Ford pick-up noses up to the sidewalk a few spaces down from me, on the other side of a van. I can’t see the cab, but presently a man about my age steps onto the walk. He’s wearing motorcycle boots with the little chains around the ankles, black jeans, and a black t-shirt under a motor-cycle jacket. I think- ‘he’s about thirty years late’. He turns to the truck and shows his impatience with a strange combination of a pout and sneer that resembles Moe Howard more than Brando. Presently his mate steps onto the sidewalk; she’s wearing little high-heeled bootlets with chains around the ankles, fish-net stockings, a tiny black leather mini-skirt and a matching motor-cycle jacket. The heels are so high that she has to walk with short mincing steps with her knees bent to keep her balance. I’m on the verge of laughing at the sight of the two of them when he pulls the door to the video store open and ducks inside. She hurries after him and as she turns to follow him into the store I see her in profile. It’s her, the face is unmistakable. She has filled out a little in twenty years, but would still be called thin. The face is still the same striking profile that my friends and I delighted in mocking in high-school.
I hang up the phone and follow them down to the book-store. The front is mostly glass and I spot them immediately. They are half-way down the aisle between two rows of porno tapes. She is picking thru the shelves of tapes offering first one then another for his approval. He maintains an air of bored aloofness while she totters back and forth on those ridiculous heels searching for something that will please him. I feel very uncomfortable; I look up and down the walk to see if someone is watching me watching them. I feel like a peeping-tom or a thief; stealing their anonymity.
I go back to my truck and sit there for a moment. It is not my business. I do not have any clue as to the nature of their relationship; the trade-offs, the unspoken bargains and understandings two people make with each other to live together. I do not want to be there when they come out; people tell me I have not changed since high-school. She would probably recognise me as easily as I her, and I feel instinctively that it would wound her. So, I leave.
I have not seen or heard anything about her since. At every reunion of my class I ask about her and no-one ever knows anything. I do not know if she is alive or dead, happy or sad.
So what does it matter? A high-school prank forty-five years ago; a chance glimpse of a few moments of someones life twenty years later. In those forty-five years I have seen far worse things done, I have done and suffered far worse things. So why should it matter enough to trouble me from time to time?
I’ll tell you what I have come to believe.
When you die, you go to God and you stand before Him naked. He see’s every wound that is on you body and your soul; every cut, gash, tear and bruise. Next to each one of those wounds there is a name, the name of the one who put that mark on you. Those wounds and those names are remembered. What is done with that information I don’t know; a certain wound is worth so many points? So many points equals what? I don’t know.
My name is on a lot of wounds. Most, I think , are even swaps; wound given for one taken. A small handful are righteous marks; struck in a good cause; I would be proud to claim them. But a lot of them I am ashamed of, and some I would give almost anything if I could erase them. But I can’t.