This must be it--the place where I killed him.
"Please stop! Let me off here, if you don't mind?"
The old man with sharp blue eyes, pulled into the gravel. He jerked his head each way like an eagle might, and no doubt saw what I saw, golden hay bales dried in the sun for miles, and on the other side rows of corn higher than a fence post. And in the wide distance was the mountain range jutting into the sky, like nature's ancient spiral staircase to heaven. "Okay, it's your dime."
Reality was, I bummed the ride from Potsdam, near the Canadian border, and had nothing but the clothes on my back, a detailed map, and a backpack with meager supplies.
"Good luck, young man, I hope ya find what you're lookin for." And with that goodbye, he turned up the road and disappeared into the humid haze that lifted from the scarred asphalt.
It could have been a gun instead of my Dodge Toyota that crashed and pinned him under his stalled tractor that day. It was a lethal weapon, and I was a young man, only eighteen, my first year at Potsdam University, driving down this isolated road. I was intoxicated.
Three years six months and two days later, not a drop or taste of alcohol since, I find myself back at the place where my life came to a screeching halt, and someone's ended forever. That someone had a name. His name: James Aubrey.
As I looked around, I wondered if his family would like to see me, so they could hate the true picture of me.
This was my recovery. It was time for step nine; make amends to the ones you hurt the most. I had come along way with Alcoholics Anonymous.
I did my research. The man I killed had lived a peace-filled life. By all accounts he was a saint. He never drank or smoked, and was a deacon at First Union Church.
I crouched down into the area where he was thrown under his tractor, and I was across the road in a field of blood, my windshield caved in like an accordion. I shouldn't have lived.
I threw a jagged rock into the ditch, just to listen to it smack other rocks, to know it was not a dream.
I found the mailbox of faded letters, which marked my intrusion into their grief stricken world.
A dog barks. This white lab saw me approaching, and took off for me as I crossed a culvert with rusted carriage wheels for an entrance. I figured they might shoot a person from a window here.
The dog was almost on me when I heard, "Sit Dancer! Sit!"
The white lab "Dancer," lowered his tail. And this tall, lanky boy, with deep and dark-set eyes, thick wavy black hair came down the trail from the house. "Can I help you?" he said, in earnest.
I thought perhaps I'd seen the ghost of his father heading me off at the pass. He looked exactly like his father, and I knew his name was David.
"I didn't mean to bother you folks, but I have something I need to ask ya."
He stepped back defensively, as Dancer circled me and yelped.
"No, I ain't no salesman, I'm just somebody who made a mistake long time back, a big mistake, Grand Canyon size more like."
He folded his arms. "You're the one aren't you?"
I saw the stew in his eyes reach a boiling point. But then he unfolded his arms, and his brown eyes lightened.
"I don't mean to make it far worse, I should leave."
"Your no surprise," hands waved at the eternal sky. "My Pastor said this day might come."
"I'm sorry. I should go." The sun was setting like a red ball when I turned.
"Wait!" he said. "What about your twelve steps?"
It felt like the earth was moving beneath my feet. Did I hear him correctly?
"I prayed for you most everyday, so the hate might wear-off."
I kept my back turned, I didn't want him to see the tears that had streamed down my face, when he said this.
"Look, are you coming in to make your apologies? Cause the mosquitoes are big enough to peel your flesh. You made it this far?"
I turned toward him and Dancer, to a path of redemption.
*Author's note: Inspired by a true story in the life of my Pastor.
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