It’s either the biting cold or the first rays of bright winter sunshine that wake me up. Either way, I’m not happy about it. I clamp my eyes shut trying in vain to stay asleep, to stay in dreamland, where things were as they used to be, as they should still be.
I tunnel under my blanket refusing to give in. I force them to stay a little longer, to see their smiles, the glint in their eyes, to hear their laughter, to smell the shampoo in their hair and Lindsay’s favorite perfume, Lavender.
Hearing the birds and increasing traffic outside, I know it’s futile to try any longer. Smiling sadly, I rub my eyes and watch their images fade away like morning fog.
I push away my blanket, rise already fully dressed, and glance quickly around the office. My cot tucked in the corner beneath the window, the singular and immaculately clean work desk and the customary extra black umbrella in the stand next to the door and brass coat rack.
Father will be arriving shortly. Not in the mood for another lecture/job offer, I leave through the window using my bed as a step stool, making sure to grab my black jacket and pocket radio.
I tune into my favorite weekly call-in radio show, On the Air With… Every week Dr. Mike is on the air with a new topic to discuss with the masses. Last week it was On the Air With Death. Catchy title. Dr. Mike’s baritone voice is quite appropriate for discussing death. I tuned out last week. I’ve had enough of that topic to last me well past my own departure.
“Good morning all. Dr. Mike here, and we’re On the Air With Peace this week. Today’s discussion will revolve around personal peace. What exactly is it, and why is it so hard to find…Call us with your thoughts, 877-TALKTOME...”
I shake my head with wonder and start on my daily walk to the third closest Starbucks, where the manager knows me from my previous life and gives me coffee for a dollar with free refills. Pity can be a powerful and prosperous thing and I’m not above using it. I stroll through the city park continuing to listen to the show and its misled listeners.
“I’ve got five kids, Dr. Mike, and peace is so hard to find…”
“…I hate my job and my boss…”
“…I’m fourteen. I’ve got six brothers and they’re always so loud…”
On and on it goes for most of the good doctor’s three hours. Finally, the show begins to wind down and I find myself feeling a forgotten urge to preach. Strangely, I don’t fight it. I get up from my bench and walk across the park to the one working pay phone. I punch in the numbers of the toll free number and wait through minutes of tofu music. I speak quickly with the producer who remembers me and suddenly I’m on the air.
“It seems we have an old friend on the line. How you doing, Will?”
“Can’t complain, Mike. How ‘bout you?”
“Good, thanks. What’s your comment, Will? Having a hard time finding peace, I imagine?”
I smile and shake my head. “Not in the least, Mike. That’s why I’m calling.”
I can hear his surprise before he even speaks.
“Really, Will? I find that hard to believe. Listeners, for those of you who don’t know or remember, Will lost his wife and three children in that tragic thirty car accident on I-5 four years ago. An accident that some blamed you for, correct?”
Ignoring the question, I begin.
“Mike, I’ll just say my piece and move on. You and your listeners don’t get it. Peace is no harder to find than a cross. Peace is anything that gives you comfort, that gives you joy no matter how brief. Every moment of peace is a gift from God. Accept it with grace and gratitude. We all have moments of peace every day whether we recognize them or not.”
“Interesting, Will, so…”
Click. I check the tray for coins and head back across the park. Almost lunch time. Back to the shelter to report to Father Patrick and hand out bologna sandwiches.
Hours after serving and cleaning up dinner, I return to my room. Lying in bed, I pull from a drawer my long ignored and dusty collar and smile. I doze off and return to dreamland with my loving family. My own personal peace.
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