There comes a moment in a young boy’s life where the safety net of childhood is ripped away from him. He is now to be held responsible for his actions. He is no little boy anymore. He is to be treated like any other man. I’ve had several of those moments. The first I can recall occurred on a late night walk when I was fifteen.
I’m one of those types who walks late at night to clear their head. It drives my poor mother nuts but it has to be done. I’ve tried to remember just when I started this habit of mine, but the memory has been lost. I’d walk miles and end up in places I didn’t expect to. On a rare occasion, I could end up lost for hours. It was one of those nights that I had my moment.
Being out late at night is a dangerous situation to be in. That’s when all the creeps and freaks are out and about. It never deterred me. I prepared myself before I headed out. I was a cautious teenager. I paid complete attention to my surroundings and walked with one ear phone out. I kept only five dollars in my wallet and wore my most beaten up shoes. Being lost late at night compounded the danger.
The freaks could smell fear. If they saw weakness in your steps and poise, that could be it.
That night I found myself in a cul-de-sac in the town over from mine. I had walked in much worse towns than that one. But still I kept my wits about me. Even nice towns had their own batch of misfits looking for any excuse to hurt someone. I knew my way back if I could find the main street. I just needed someone to point me in the right direction. It had to be past midnight.
Then I heard a jogger’s foot steps. A middle-aged woman in a blue track suit was jogging down the side walk I was on. She had no head phones in.
I was so relieved by her presence. Finally a friendly face in the dark. She could help me. I called out to her.
“Excuse me. I’m lost. Do you know how to get to main street from here?”
Her jog sped up into a sprint. She bolted to the other side of the street and jetted away.
I eventually found my way back home. But I was puzzled by her behavior.
Why had she run away so quickly? What was she so afraid of? Was it me? I was a kid. Why run away from a kid?
But in her eyes, I was not a kid. I was the danger in the night.
I would not stand for this. It had to be reversed. I needed to go back to being seen as an innocent kid. If I had been ten, she would have stopped to help me. Maybe she would have scolded me for making my mother worry. It had to return.
But the process could not be stopped. When time took my cute face and fragile frame, it gave me something else. I don’t know what it is, but now I have to come love it. I don’t need to look over my shoulder. I can wear any shoes that I want. I can throw caution into the wind. I do not fear the creeps and freaks any more.
Because I am them and they are me.