“We’re going out Nuff, come on. It’s a good day for a walk.”
“Need another excuse to distract yourself? It’s the middle of the week. Back to work with you.”
“Nuff – I don’t want to come back to find you in some self-induced stupor. Let’s go.”
“Whatever – your house, your rules…”
He didn’t really mean that, but we were on our way soon enough. It really was a nice day for a walk. He seemed to think so too. But something about the mood he was in made him think about our history, and what we’d faced together.
“You remember that time I decided to steal some money from that drawer in my house?”
“Of course man, that was over fourteen years ago though. It was the one time I saw your mother that livid with you. Why did you try that anyway?”
“I’d lost the tennis ball we were playing cricket with the evening before, and I had to pay Abdul back – he was pretty insistent, the clod. Come on, we were in middle school. I’m allowed a few silly mistakes if I’m in middle school.”
“Fair enough. All I remember was her staring really horridly at you when she caught you with your hand in her purse.”
“She wasn’t staring at me – she was staring right into me… it was unbelievably unsettling.”
“She told me to leave right then, didn’t she? What happened after that? I’ve never asked.”
“She made me sit in the kitchen with her all evening. She didn’t say a word – she just made me sit and watch her cook. She didn’t look at me, not once. I’ve never felt that afraid around anyone… I could feel this contained rage in her, but waiting to see what would happen felt worse than facing the full brunt of that anger.”
“She just made you sit? That couldn’t have been that bad….”
“You’re kidding right? Being made to contemplate the magnitude of the mistake you’ve just made – no reparation, no retribution, just pure introspection. It was earth-shatteringly frightening. I was imagining all sorts of punishment, but I didn’t realize that this WAS the punishment.”
“So what happened then?”
“My father came home. She spoke to him in the other room. Then they both called me in to sit down in front of them in the other room…
He’d spoken to me at length about right and wrong. They weren’t really religious, but I still remember him telling me about this concept of natural justice. They were both just staring at me. She was angry, but his eyes – his eyes held such unfathomable disappointment. I don’t know what happened, but I just started crying.”
“You cried? I’ve never seen you cry, not even when… Really?”
“Yeah. He told me to stop. I apologized. And then, as if all of that wasn’t enough – he said something that’s stuck with me forever.
He said – ‘Son, when you fall down to this level, I wish just this one thing for you – that you, for all times from now, know exactly what this behavior makes of you; and that you know just how little that means…'”
“You’re not serious. He said that?”
“Yeah. I can’t forget his exact words now, can I?”
“Yeah, but you weren’t even past middle school…”
“Didn’t matter. They knew right from wrong, those two.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“I miss them man.”
“I know Nuff.”
So much of who he is today is shaped by events like this. However intelligent, accomplished or self-taught one might be, some lessons persist inside you forever. Even in Nuff.
“This isn’t a great day for a walk, but better out than in, huh?”
Nuff was smiling again. The day was long from done, but I’d be here for him.
“Better out than in… yeah.”
Nuff said: “It is a comfort in wretchedness to have companions in woe.”