All’s Quiet (today) on the Southwestern Front

He took the bus from work and met me on the 16th Street Mall, a well-known shopping and dining area. He’d suggested the restaurant and texted the directions. His sister and her roommate would meet us as well, after they returned from Whole Foods and put away their groceries.

The last time I saw him looking this sharp was, ironically, on Christmas Eve of the broken arm and percocet haze. He was crisp in a white button down shirt, a light blue patterned tie and khaki pants. He was beautifully, casually professional with a two to three-day beard and, for the first time, the haircut of a Colorado businessman, down around the collar.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed hard; he planted that familiar kiss right on my lips. He’s been a head-on kisser since he was a toddler, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to his mama. I love that about him.

He could have been anybody’s polished young kid starting out at an ad agency or a dot-com. So striking, that had I seen him earlier on the mall, I would have done a double take. The blonde waitress, who later approached our table, seemed to notice, too. The fresh, hip restaurant was buzzing with the energy of weekday patrons. I was surprised and taken with his choice; we ordered our beverages and waited for the girls to arrive.

Our party of four enjoyed a delightful adult exchange for an hour and a half. Inherently funny and today loaded with a healthier dialogue; he spoke with a lilting cadenceAbsent was the reactive personality of the past. We had a balanced conversation. He was telling stories, but was just as intent to listen to ours and ask relevant questions. He was decidedly present and shared details of his job and impressive information about the city, which he’d come to love.

For so long, he’d been mired in his own problems; today he was engaging with the world around him, offering his sister business leads, sure of the goings on about town, like any young professional. Taking an interest in the route that his sister had driven from Virginia – by herself, I might add – he checked on her the entire way.

I couldn’t imagine a time in the past fifteen years that he might have joined us at a Thanksgiving meal to sit and shoot the breeze. Always fidgety, he popped up and down from the table, checking his cell phone, distracted. His uniform was a hoodie and baggy khakis – a little grungy – and that recognizable glaze in his eyes.

To the casual observer, today would have offered no indication of a struggle with addiction, much less chronic incarceration.

He had to be back at the halfway house by nine, so we said goodnight to the girls and walked back to my rental car. My hotel was nearby; I dropped him off on the way. Conversation on our drive centered around his imminent release from this facility. He explained to me that because of overcrowding, non-violent offenders may find themselves on an unexpected fast track. As his mother, my fear was that he was moving through the system too quickly.  My hope was that prison would slow him down, get him in front of medical care and counseling. Because he never got past the transitional diagnostic center, he never fell into that rhythm. I worried that he might not take the initiative towards consistent care once he was in charge of his own life.

Pat’s words washed over me, leaving a newly adopted sense of calm. “Let go – don’t create the story – he’s a grown man – it’s his journey”.

We pulled up to the entrance of his cinder block home. We planned to meet again the following evening after work. For the first time, in forever, I looked forward to our next visit.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *