Me, after 12 hours in my hotshot job, racking up the hits and wins, taking down the bucks and hauling home a briefcase of very important things. I was a powerhouse, all right. But when the lights went out, I was a wobbly, weepy, lonely heart in search of a sweet, and my bedtime routine often started with a quick trip to the candy aisle at the corner convenience store. No one ever saw me.
He spoke as I darted out of the store with my secret.
“Ma’am,” he said. Polite.
I turned from inside the armor of my opened, driver-side door. He was skinny behind a bulging bag of aluminum cans, young but toothlessly aged, shiny in the swelter of summer’s all-night oven.
“Can you?” he asked.
“I can’t,” I shot back, rehearsed in my refusal. And yet I looked at him fully, and as I crouched into the seat I saw the face of my own lie.
He was so used to getting nothing, so certain of his worthlessness, that he still granted grace as I held out a flimsy, lone dollar.
“Please no, not if you can’t,” he comforted me, his face folded in tears for me.
“But I can,” I said, never trusting it before.
Then the love washed over, around, and in-between the fear we’d both carried for so long, the shame we’d worn into every unforgiving day and night, into the blinding glare and paralyzing darkness of our lives entwined.
I put it in reverse and blew him a kiss. He caught it like a butterfly and turned it loose.
We waved our brave goodbyes.
Trust your teacher, and that everything everywhere is your teacher.