Friday, February 21, 2014
Two Ships That Passed in the Night
I wasn't crying for Ethan, although in a way I was.
My thoughts were for Corey, the young man I had just met at the gas station when I stopped to add a few gallons to my SUV because the gas gauge doesn't work correctly and I cannot trust it below a quarter tank.
I was just digging out my debit card to pay for gas so I didn't have to walk in and leave the two big Es in the car, when Corey passed by me in his pickup and pulled up to the other tank. I started around the back of my vehicle when Corey approached me with his cell phone in his hand and a note of desperation to his voice.
"Ma'am, can I ask you a favor?"
He was tall and lanky, his wardrobe thrown together in the way young men often dress with total disregard for what they're wearing, yet in a way that somehow works. You know the look, jeans and t-shirt, topped with a hoodie, a careless hat of some kind, and generally disreputable shoes. He had dark hair that his mom probably wishes he'd get cut, or at least comb.
"I shouldn't even ask you this, but I can't get my mom or dad on the phone, and I've gone as far as I can go. I'm out of gas and..."
"Sure," I said, because he was in so many ways Ethan. Still at that age of not quite remembering all the things it requires to keep a vehicle moving; not quite getting that whatever you plan on doing, put gas in the vehicle first. How many times had I heard that same lament from Ethan, about where he'd ran out of gas, had to walk, got someone to give him money?
I gave him a ten dollar bill.
Relief swept over his face. He wouldn't have to repeat the scenario, asking some stranger for money. He wouldn't have to deal with a lecture when he made it home late.
"Thank you<" he blurted.
"Can I give you a hug?" he asked, this tall, young man in the Hess parking lot.
I almost said please and I took his hug with all the longing my heart has for Ethan's.
He ran in to pay for his gas and when he came back I, having had time to think about the cost of gas, asked if that was enough. He said it was. I asked his name, told him I'd lost my son and he asked his name. He didn't know him. I told him I wanted to pray for him and to take care of himself.
We parted company in the parking lot, but he passed me again headed back out Rockford Street, weaving through traffic in that rushed way we all have when we're young.
I pulled into the Little Cesar's line and prayed for Corey, that God would protect him and lead him to better choices than Ethan, that his mom and dad could appreciate the wonderful miracle of their living, breathing son with all his mistakes and poor judgement, that he'd have the chance to be what he dreamed of being. I envied his parents, who might be hearing the tale of the woman who gave him gas money, and perhaps even learn that she had asked him name and told him about her dead son. I prayed for his mother that she could understand how wonderful it was to have him come home, that she never have to feel the way I've felt for the last two months.
This morning I said the same prayers again.
I also said a prayer for thanks for Corey, for the chance to reach out and remember that there are a lot of boys (and girls) still trying to make it, a lot of young men finding their way, a lot of families still with much to be thankful for.
I thank God for sending Corey and I to the same gas station. I thank God for Corey's hug.