The wind was rustling through the trees and making a pleasant sound. The ground was green with grass, save for some flowers sprinkled about. The sun and the clouds melded together into a perfect harmony, and the field beyond was growing a lovely assortment of crops.
He sat on his porch with his eyes closed, and with a smile drawn across his face. He slowly rocked back and forth, and his mind was completely at peace. A feeling of love and gratitude filled his heart and nothing had to be done for the day… So he rocked, without a care in the world, in the yard he earned after many, many years of hard work.
But then a disturbance. A truck coming in from the road. He knew the sound of this truck very well, and he knew what was to come. He could hear his wife talking to their son, and her voice shifted from a soft tone to an anxious one as soon as he walked in from the back door. What happened this time, he wondered? Why did he come? He only came when he needed advice, guidance, or help with money - he never came without a secret, hidden agenda. Perhaps this, he thought, was why he always felt anxious, tense, on-edge, and unable to enjoy life such as he did.
The conversation continued for a while, and then it stopped. He flung the front door open harder than he should have, sat next to his father, and took a large bite out of a brownie he obtained from the kitchen. He was fidgeting, his posture wasn’t the best, and his wardrobe could have used an upgrade.
Normally this would influence others, or even bother them, but not to the wise old man. He allowed his mind to become of use, but not too much, lest he lose his sense of peace. Just enough to give his son the help he needed.
“Soooo they want me to go back to Ireland” he said after he swallowed a bite. “I guess the people there really like me.”
“Good… I’m happy for you, son!” He spoke in a loving but powerful tone, since he knew his son didn’t respect anyone who didn’t sound powerful.
“Naw, I don’t like it there. Too many drunks. Too many woozies. People are crazy there, you know” he said as his head turned to the right and the left, almost as if it was on a swivel. He took another bite of his brownie and began rapidly tapping his right leg.
The old man decided to stay silent, so as to not be pulled into his toxic opinions. The son spoke once again.
“I just wish they’d put me here. I like it here, you know? And I said that to them, but they just don’t listen! I’ve been working with them for five years now, I’m practically a senior now!”
“Son, you can work for travelling agencies that only fly you nationwide” he said in a sincere tone. “They don’t pay as much as the one you’re with, but nothing is worth your happiness.”
His son scoffed. “Happiness? I don’t ever get the chance to be happy. Everyone I know is either from work or they’re a bunch of lowlifes. That’s how much I work. But I have no choice. If I don’t work long hours she isn’t happy with me. But I guess she should stop spending her money on pointless things, eh?” He scoffed again and shook his head. He looked at his brownie, but he didn’t feel like eating anymore. He threw the rest of it into the grass beneath him.
“Son… Why are you being so spiteful?”
“Spiteful? I’m not being spiteful. I’m just saying it like it is. Just the facts, you know? It’s just the world I live in.”
“Does she know you talk about her like this behind her back?”
“Well… No. If she knew I’d get thrown in the doghouse. But I have to let it out to someone! And you would know all about it since you had a divorce. Maybe you can give me some advice about that, she’s becoming colder and colder every day.”
The old man thought for a while. When he became this angry there was always one reason it boiled down to - his hatred of himself. After the pause he asked,
“How does it feel to hate yourself?”
The son scrunched his forehead and shook his head. “Huh? Dad, I don’t hate myself. It’s just that these other people are making my life harder than it has to be.”
“I only ask because I don’t know what it feels like” he remarked with a humorous undertone.
“I didn’t come here to be poked and prodded.” His throat started closing up as anxiety filled his being even more than before. “Besides, you’re wrong anyway.”
He looked his son right in the eyes and said, “they don’t create your problems, my boy. You do.”
He looked right back, a mixture of fear, anger, and confusion in his complexion. What could he possibly mean? Why would he say something like that? Was he crazy?
“I guess you just don’t understand” he said as he turned his head away. “Obviously I’m the one in the right… My wife shouldn’t be treating me like this, my work shouldn’t be treating me like I’m garbage, and suddenly you decide to turn against me too!”
“I am doing you a great honor in telling you this truth about yourself,” he smiled softly with a tear in his eye. “Those who take it upon themselves to change how they react to their surroundings are very wise indeed.”
“What do you know about wisdom? You weren’t always a great man, you know, you have your flaws too.”
“Son, my mistakes were the stepping stones to my success and peace of mind. If I didn’t make those mistakes I wouldn’t have become the man I am today.”
His face turned to anger. “A man? You call yourself a man after you…”
He didn’t say any more, but both of them knew what happened. The old man stayed silent, his resolve still strong and his peace of mind still intact. The one thing he never told his son is that it was never his fault, because he knew he wouldn't believe him, and because it wouldn't do any good anyway.
He shook his head, got up from his chair and said, "I'll come back when you aren't crazy, dad. Think your life over… Seriously." He slammed the door behind him and left in a huff.
A few hours later him and his wife were sitting up in bed. They liked to talk with each-other at the end of the day, especially now that she had an important question to ask.
"Dear… What's happening to our son? Who is he becoming? Why is he like this?"
The old man pondered his response while tears welled in his eyes. He knew what was happening, and he also knew that if he bluntly told her she would be very sad. So he pondered, and pondered, until he thought of the right response.
"He wants love, but he cannot accept it. He wants to stop hurting himself, but he doesn't know how."
"Is it our fault? Did we do something wrong? I don't think we did anything wrong… He's just so anxious and angry all of the time! Is it his work? Or…?"
"His work encourages him to be dismissive of himself. And he is… Quite often, I suppose."
"I don't want to see him like this. What can we do?"
He knew he had to think of the perfect response once more. So he did… For a while. A long while.
He put his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. She responded by putting her arm around him and leaning her head on his shoulder.
"The best we can do is love each-other. We can set a good example. Whether he sees and acknowledges it is up to him… He's his own man, after all."
She smiled because she knew he was telling the truth. She knew he was in a lot of pain, but she also knew that it was up to him to heal himself if he wanted to. So they fell asleep, content with being together and loving each-other as much as they could.
A week passed before he came back. When he came through the back door his wife took extra care to speak to him in a loving, caring tone of voice. She wasn't going to let his anxiety get to her, even though it was worse than it was before.
Since he secretly wanted her to be as anxious as he was he became silently angry towards the end of the conversation with his mother. He went outside, where his father was sitting once more, and he looked him right in the eyes.
"I've decided to stop coming here" he said in a resentful tone. "I could be working even more if I don't come here, and I could use the extra money."
The old man quickly caught on - time was short, so he decided his plan was to go all-out and see what he could do.
"Why would you spend any more time with them then you have to? Aren't they bad for your mental health?"
"Yeah, but she's pushing me to make more money" he said as his leg was bouncing more than ever before. "Her spending habits are getting worse so I have to make more to accommodate her."
"Son, you can create boundaries with her. You can tell her when enough is enough."
"Are you kidding?! She'd divorce me the second I deny her what she wants!"
He leaned closer to his son since he was about to drop a truth bomb onto him. "If she doesn't love you even when you don't bring her money, then you married the wrong woman." He said this, and a long pause followed, a pause broken by his son.
"She can't leave. I need her."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know, because… Because… I don't feel so lonely when she's around."
"Why do you feel lonely when she isn't around?"
"Because… Well, because… I don't know. Does it even matter?"
"Absolutely" he said in a sincere, soft tone of voice.
"I mean… I guess I don't have any real friends. No one I can talk to. I don't have time, you know?"
"Well, you have time enough to come here! What if you used that time to become the friend you want to see?"
"How does that do anything?"
His father smiled. "If you become the friend you want to see, you won't need to look for that person anywhere else."
It was like a light lit up in his head. His eyes widened, his mouth dropped open, and something flooded in him, something he hadn't felt in a long, long time - connection, authenticity, and self-love. The things he was missing in his very masculine life.
"So wait…" he said with an inquisitive voice. “I don’t need to take on extra hours. I don’t need to accommodate my wife’s spending habits. If she wants to overspend she can get a part time job and spend her own money, right? And now that I think about it, almost everyone in my life is toxic and corrupt… They aren’t the kind of people I want to be with!”
“It’s better to be alone than in bad company!”
He raised his arms in a feeling of exclamation. “Of course! I can just work on being good company, if for no one else than myself! It feels great to know I can do that! And I’m making so much money it’s like… It’s like my life is complete now.”
His phone beeped, and he knew he had to answer the call. One of the new guys called in and they wanted him to take his place for a few days. So, he got up.
"Before you go" the old man said before turning to his left. He grabbed the black book that was sitting on top of the window shelf. This black book had a $20,129 check inside of it, and he gave it to his son.
"This is for you… We found it next to the AI experiment in the city. Mark said you should have it."
“Thank you dad” he said, with a sincere smile on his face. His father got up from his chair and embraced his son before he left the house to go do his duties. He sat back down, and she came out to join him.
“What happened? Does he get it? I could barely hear what was happening out here!”
He smiled a big smile. “Yes, he understands now. He understands that he is his own best company, and that most of the people in his life don’t deserve to be in his life. I just hope it lasts for the rest of his life.”
She smiled, and they sat, watching the sun set beyond the horizon, completely content, and full of love for everything and everyone.