After 10 pm last night, in the rain and profuse dark, a stranger with one eye appears, wanting a military truck I’d posted on Craigslist. My teenager grabs a flashlight and insists on coming, too.
By his car headlights, he examines the huge beast – drivetrain, winch, cab, engine – noting with disapproval the Glock bullet holes. What he’s looking for, precisely, I don’t know, but I have a real sense he knows.
The rain lets up, and we stand in his headlights, my tall daughter just behind me, his car packed with three men and the engine running. He reeks of cigarette smoke and sweat, and he’s panting for breath. We talk a little about money and about his cancer; he’s likely telling the truth. Wheezing, he says, “I keep telling the doctors you can’t kill the devil.”
He says he’ll take the pile of mangled gutters for scrap metal, and then I offer more: an old plow, tire rims, twisted fencing. He’s a scavenger. But I see more, too, as I can’t help but stare at that loose pocket of flesh where he once had an eye. When I became a single mother, I began toeing a line where I slip sometimes over into grifting, needing childcare, a car repair, property tax money: a place of needing assistance I find incredibly to my dislike. In his drooping flesh, I see a dimension of my own self mirrored back.
We part ways. Walking back through the sweet-smelling, wet spring woods in the dark, my daughter agrees I might have lost that transaction, although I have one less problem and grocery money in my pocket. More: I have two eyes. She laughs at the night’s oddness as she heads to bed; we mutually agree to let this one go.
And that vehicle, built long before I was born, witness to what I can’t imagine, heads to its next chapter.
There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things.
– Wendell Berry