I was driving down the road early this morning, on my way to spend time with a friend. The sun was large and round in the sky, a welcomed sight after too many days of gray dreary weather that seeped into my soul. I had my sunroof open, my hair was blowing just the right way in the breeze and I was singing along to this… I was feeling very good about this day that was approaching. I looked ahead in the distance as the traffic slowed slightly and I saw some people along the side of the road, scattered in a less than orderly fashion picking up trash. I knew immediately, given the fact that it was Saturday and they all donned bright yellow safety vests, that this was the weekend jail crew. I didn’t pay much attention until I drove closer to them, I could see in large black all capital letters across the back of the safety vests, “I AM A DRUNK DRIVER”.
I took a mental pause.
Then I thought about the lesson they were learning… shame, I suppose.
I spent the rest of my drive thinking of all the sayings that would mortify me if I had them sprawled across a bright yellow vest in bold black letters, all those mistakes I’ve made that I try so desperately to re-do, to fix, to get another chance… just another chance to do it right, better.
I PRETEND TO LIKE WINE JUST TO IMPRESS PEOPLE.
I DON’T READ THE NEWSPAPER.
I AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.
I NEED PEOPLE.
I’VE SCREWED UP FRIENDSHIPS.
I’VE SCREWED UP.
I’M OVERLY CONFIDENT.
When I was 20, a junior in college, I flunked out of school — flunked out. I was in love during the fall semester and needed to spend time with my love. Attending class was secondary, if that. By the time the spring semester rolled around, my heart had been broken in so many places that I rattled when I walked. I remember one beautiful spring day, all my friends were gathered on the lawn outside the dorm. They begged me to join them, to forget about the boy who had crushed me. I declined and instead walked to the all boys dormitory across the street to purchase a pack of cigarettes out of the machine — Virginia Slim Menthol. I walked back to my dorm room on the third floor and opened my window wide, I perched myself in the window to look out at the beautiful day that I couldn’t see because of the dreariness of lost love on my soul. I smoked my Virginia Slim’s… one by one. Later that night, I joined a few friends at the campus pub and drank too many 5 cent beers, I stopped going to class and the university requested I didn’t return — all because of the loss of a boy’s love whose name escapes me as I write this today.
I WAS DUMPED.
MY HEART BREAKS EASILY.
I regrouped after a few months of summer vacation and applied to a different university that was eager to take my tuition, I obliged by making the Dean’s List each semester and moving forward with my life.
I NEED ANOTHER CHANCE.
A year later, the boy who had reached into my soul and pulled out all the good pieces and tossed them in the air to blow away with a strong breeze on a beautiful spring day showed up at my house. I wasn’t home. He called from his hotel and asked me to give him another chance. I agreed and said I would meet him in an hour. I hung up the phone, took a shower, and went to bed… never to talk to him again.
I needed a second chance at school, without the nameless boy who taught me how hearts break and how hearts mend. We all need second, third, fourth chances… learning has no time limit.
I laughed at the I AM A DRUNK DRIVER vests and said aloud that if the memory of wearing that vest didn’t stop them from repeating that offense, I don’t know what will. The proverbial scarlet letter… we all have them, just below the surface I suppose. I don’t want to wear them in large bold lettering though, I don’t want to wear my transgressions on a vest for all to gawk at, I don’t want to announce to the world that…
I SCREWED UP, AGAIN.
I’d much rather wear a vest that screams out the direction I’m trying to point, screams out the lessons I’m trying to learn, screams out:
IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY.
One of my favorite short stories comes from Ray Bradbury, All Summer In A Day. It’s a sad story. But, from the first time I read it as a child, I’ve always thought it captures the voice of hope and always reminds me:
IT NEVER RAINS FOREVER.