(True story by Courtenay Pitcher)
In downtown Vernon, it was a gray day threatening to rain. October 5th. I was lamenting to myself about trying to find work. He was about to cross the street towards me. I was in my Oldsmobile Intrigue with my ticker on, waiting to turn right. A young man, it was hard for me to tell his age. Maybe he was just over a teen. He was in jeans, wearing a red and white jacket and similar colored backpack. His hair was blond on top with dark brown roots showing through. He could have been a street kid. The thought passed my mind. He was crying. His eyes were red and puffy. He was trying to contain his tears. He did for a second. Then he started crying again.
I turned right and he disappeared from my view. I parallel parked half way down the street. He came from behind my car, turned right and walked into the hair salon. I saw him grab his cell phone. He was dialing someone as he walked. He looked distraught.
He came out of the salon seconds later and I rolled my passenger window down. “Hey kid. Are you okay? Can I help you” I said. He looked at me. He was trying to speak, but he was so choked up that the words wouldn’t come. “Do you need some money? Can I drive you somewhere?” I asked. My heart was breaking for him. I didn’t know what kind of trouble he was in, but I knew I wanted to help.
He tried to speak, but he just kept crying. Finally, he gathered the words he wanted. “I just got some really bad news about a friend of mine.” He said.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” I asked.
“Do you think you could give me a tissue to blow my nose?” He asked.
It was such a simple request. I grabbed the only thing I had. It was a crumpled up half used tissue from the front of my car. I didn’t apologize that it was half used and he didn’t even notice. He was trying to gather his courage to tell me what was wrong.
“I just got off the phone with my friend’s dad. She is in Intensive Care at the hospital. Did you hear about the head-on on Pleasant Valley Road last night? She is in Critical Condition and hasn’t woken up. They won’t let me go see her because I’m not a family member.” He continued on about a few graphic details of her injuries. They sounded disfiguring, especially to her face.
“I’m so sorry.” I said. He kept blowing into the tissue. He was still hanging onto my passenger window.
“Can I drive you to the hospital?” I asked. Tears began streaming down my eyes too.
He told me some friends would be arriving soon to get him.
“My name is Jesse.” He said. He put his hand into my car. I was surprised at the warmth of this young boy, not too much older than my own boys.
I extended my hand. We shook hands and I told him my name.
“What is your friend’s name?” I asked.
“Stephanie” he said.
“How old is she?”
“Twenty-four” he said.
I tried to offer hope. “She is young and strong. Maybe she will pull through. Maybe you will feel better to be with her family. You can support them and they can support you. Her dad will need support.” I said. “Dads always take it hard.” I added.
I remembered my nineteen year old friend’s dad who sobbed on the phone with me three years after his daughter Tracey died. She was my junior high school best friend.
Jesse still had tears coming while he was trying to talk.
I looked off into the distance and told him I had a friend who died in a head-on collision when I was nineteen. “Sometimes it’s fate and there is nothing we can do. It’s destiny.” I said. Reflecting on it now, I’m sorry I told him about my friend’s passing. I wish I would have shared a story about survival instead.
We said some more things to each other and said good-bye. I watched him walk down the street, still blowing into the tissue I gave him. He disappeared.
I sat a while to wipe my eyes and gather the courage to continue my job hunt. I looked in my rear-view mirror.
My eyes were bright blue and slightly red.
It didn’t matter.
I felt richer.