Friday, November 20, 2009
A thousand words......
This is Hirohito99. I call him Rob. That is his name.
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This is currently my favorite picture in the world. In college I learned to step back and distance myself from the subject in a picture. Don't look at the picture. Feel the picture in your soul. Listen to the photogragh. What does it say to you? Take a picture and tell a story, not about the person in the frame, but of the person outside of it. The parts you don't see. The parts you feel. That is what I plan to do here.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the man in this photo and the man in my story are coincidence only. This story is merely inspired and not biography. This picture, like so many, is worth so much more than a thousand words. This is just my interpretation. I have permission to do this and am told that my friend is interested to see where I take this. I hope that I do not disappoint him.
The man down the hall
You do not know his first name. He is Mr. Bailey to you. You have worked with him for two years and he works down the hall. You have no idea what he really does. He is at work when you arrive in the morning and he is there when you leave. You don't really give it much thought.
He has worked for this company for twelve years. He has seen alot in those twelve years. At work and in the world around him as a whole. He has worked with assholes, he has been an asshole, he has seen an asshole elected in to the White House, not once, but twice now. He tries not to think to much about it. He just wants to do his job and go home.
He is married and has three children, two boys and a girl.
His middle child has Down's Syndrome.
But, you don't know that.
He is a member of a church, he runs three miles in the evenings, three times a week. He sends money to childrens charities. He knows what it is like to have and he knows what it is like to not.
He knows what a Salvation Army Christmas feels like. Handouts or handups. Whatever they call them now. He knows what that feels like. He knows the what it feels like to wish you could have done without, instead of receiving charity. He knows the burning feeling of shame. He knows he has too much pride.
When he was a child, he knew that others had it worse than him. He never dwelled on his lot in life. He had perspective, even at a young age. He hated taking the toys that the church brought, the baskets of food. He always worried about the other people that may have missed out because there wasn't enough to go around. He though of that with every bite. He choked down tears sometimes in between swallows. He hated thinking about other people going hungry or kids with no presents at Christmas.
He rarely played with those toys. He usually "forgot" them in a neighborhood kids yard. Always at night, so he wouldn't get caught. He prefered to read anyway. He was thankful that the library was free. He was thankful that the library wasn't charity.
But, you don't know that. You do not know alot of things.
He has been married now for 17 years. He met his wife at church. He is her second husband. They are both 37 years old. She was a widow at the age of 18. She married young after an unplanned pregnancy. She miscarried two months into the marriage after her husband beat the shit out of her. She was a widow three months after that. Aneurysm. He died in his sleep. He was 22.
You are 22. Life can be cruel. You haven't learned that yet, though. You haven't learned alot of things.
At first, he was scared of her. She came to church the first day with the wildest hair he had ever seen. He had heard about her through the youth pastor. She was the youth pastor's wife's little sister. She had made quite a few mistakes. She only came to church that first day because her brother in law and sister made her. It was part of their agreement. Room and board and a chance to start over, she just had to come to church with them. She looked like hell. Like a feral animal, waiting for the first person to give her a reason to attack. Everyone in the congregation stared at her in that way that the hypocritical Christians do. That "judgemental" look.
You don't know that look. Oh, you've given it. Hell, you've gotten it more times than you've peed standing up. You just never noticed.
He waited for her to make eye contact and smiled at her. She looked at him like he was crazy. He kept smiling until she caved in and smiled back. That was pretty much it from there.
He worked his ass off to get through college while helping her study for her G.E.D. He worked two jobs to pay the bills. They didn't have much those first years and there were many times he didn't think they would make it. But, they did. She said their love was enough to get them through anything. There were many times when he wasn't so sure. Plasma labs paid the light bill for the better part of the first three years of their marriage. He never complained. He never took a dime he didn't earn. He suffered depression, but did his damndest to not let it show.
When the babies started coming, they came pretty close together. Eighteen months between the first and the second and just thirteen months between the second and the third. His second son was two months premature and nearly died at birth. He spent more of his first year of life in the hospital than out, which made it really bad when the third one came along.
He lived on four hours of sleep a night for nearly three years. He and his wife took shifts with the kids. Their church members were a Godsend. They was always someone there to help rock one of the sick ones to sleep or step in to help with the housekeeping. He was grateful, but he still hated the help. He swallowed his pride for his family's sake. But, again, he never took a dime he didn't earn. He held down two jobs until he got this one.
Late last year he went on vacation, the first one he had ever taken. He was out for several weeks. Donated a kidney to one of the guys in the church choir. Anonymously. Because, it was the right thing to do.
He tries hard to be a good man. A good husband. A good father. A good provider. To use the teachings of Jesus as an example. Sometimes he feels like he fails miserably. Sometimes, he is right. But, in his world, there is still the concept of "the right thing to do." No matter what. There is always a right thing to do.
You did not even notice he had been gone until the "welcome back" card was passed around to sign. Even then, you just signed it without asking who it was for.
He hates his job, but it pays well and has decent insurance. It allows his wife to stay home and care for their middle son and his medical needs. He tires of the doctors who say the kid has such and such many years to live. He loves all of his children the same. He never questions "Why me, Lord? Why my son?" But, he does tire of the doctor bills and the pharmacy copays. The gas he pays to drive to work.The forty five minutes of traffic he suffers everyday in the car with no heat, no radio, and the ripped up seats. Forty five minutes to work and forty five minutes back home. Five days a week. He tires of the rearview mirror that he keeps seeing that old man stare back at him in. He doesn't know who the hell that old man is, but he knows he doesn't like him very much. There ain't a lot left in his life that he does like, to tell you the truth. But, has never complained. Never, not once
Again, you don't know a damn thing about any of this. But, you have the boxes ready anyway. He doesn't know that this is his last day at work. He doesn't know that you have his job now. Did you remember to thank your father for that, by the way?Just wondering, does your dad even know his first name? The guy has worked for him for twelve years.
He took the long way home today, with two boxes in the back seat full of things he couldn't bear to look at and six months severance pay in his pocket.
He feels like a failure. He feels shame burning across his face. He's felt this way before. But, he did nothing wrong. It's just the economy. The asshole that was elected twice.
She's a good mother and a good wife and a good Christian and he is proud to call her his wife. Even if he has never told her so. He has spent the last seventeen years, at times, sacrificing his happiness for her and for their children. To him, that is his duty. His role. His burden and his gift. He thinks they deserve better than him. That she deserves a better husband. That his kids deserve a better father. That he has failed them. That he is not the man he should be. He doesn't understand what he has done wrong. He doesn't understand how they can love him. He doesn't see himself through anything but that old rearview mirror.
There is alot that he doesn't know, too.
There is still alot that he has to learn.