January 22, 2009

A Truck, Not a Conversation

It was a simple compliment directed to him with the intent of being outgoing and perhaps initiate a conversation.
“I like your truck.”
His features changed suddenly and he became harsh and rough in his tone of voice.
“No, it is not nice truck. It’s terrible truck. It’s not even mine. I had to borrow it to come here.”
Startled, I attempted to smooth things over.
”I wouldn’t say that. I would say it’s an…exciting truck. Look at that bed, they don’t make them like that anymore. And those seats with the red velvety material? Heck yeah!”

“You like it? Then take it. I don’t want it anymore. I hate it. You want to know something? I had a nice truck once. Last year.”
My gaze shifted momentarily to his hands as my eyes caught their movement. His hands were slowly clenching into fists, and he stepped a little closer to me as he spoke forcefully and bitterly.
“I had a Ford F-150. It was a 2004 model, and it was silver. I decided that I would go home one year for Christmas to visit my family across the border in Mexico. I fell in love with a beautiful woman there. I tried to take her home and the border patrol, they took the truck from me, and put her in jail.”
His eyes flashed in anger and his chest heaved as he spoke passionately.

“Forty-four days she stayed in jail. Then they deported her right out of the country, back to Mexico. That was three years ago. Every month I try again to get Visa for her, but they will not let it go through.”
He paused, as if waiting to hear my excuses, my defense, or even just my response, but none came. I was speechless and even slightly confused. How do I reply to that?

“I’m sorry, that’s awful.”
Completely understanding the inherent strength in a silence, he didn’t respond.
He simply turned his back to me and got back in his truck.
Taking a step backwards, I found myself still trying to find something to say to him, even though he’d already closed the vehicle door.
The engine stalled, once, twice, three, four…five…six…times.
He opened the door to say something to me, and I immediately offered “would you like me to push the truck for you, sir?”

“No, its okay. But do you see? This is not a nice truck.”
The Hispanic man who couldn’t have been more than in his late thirties waved me on, dismissing me.
“Buenos noches” I called out to him before heading back inside.
He looked up briefly, nodded, then as the engine turned over and finally caught, he closed his door and drove away with the roar of the clutch bridging its first and second gears.

Feeling empty, I spent the remainder of the evening chiding myself for not saying something encouraging or apologizing for what had happened to him.
Three days later, sitting at my computer writing and still attempting to process through what had been said in the parking lot that night, I came to a conclusion.

There are some things in life that should only be heard, not made into conversation.

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