I should have known better than to go to the grocery store on New Year’s Eve. I knew that the store would probably be busy with last minute customers who were preparing a New Year’s celebration that night. I could have probably waited for a couple of days to go to the store. I just thought it would be easier to pick up a few groceries now on my way home from the gym.
The parking lot of the grocery store was crowded but I finally found a space in a small side parking lot and carefully eased in between two large SUVs. I parked the car and ran into the store. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to grab the few things I needed and, within twenty minutes, I was back in my car ready to drive home.
But before I could start my car, I suddenly caught some movement in my rearview mirror. I turned to my left and looked over my shoulder. An elderly man was carefully walking between my car and the SUV parked on the left side. I sat in the car waiting for the man to get into the passenger side of the SUV. He was a large man, well over six foot, and heavyset. His pure white, wavy hair was cut short and his large glasses sat squarely on his round fleshy face.
I stared at him for a moment and tried to be patient as I waited for him to get in his car. I was anxious to get home now and it seemed to be taking this man a long time to move out of the way. Maybe he didn’t know I was waiting, I thought. Maybe he couldn’t see me. I waited another minute and then started the car. I didn’t want to scare him, but I just wanted to go home now. The man looked up at me for a moment and then opened the front passenger door and started to climb inside. For a moment, he struggled to get his large body into the car. Then, as the man pushed himself forward, his door came hurtling at my car and smacked against my back driver’s side door with a loud Thwack! The impact was so strong, my whole car rocked from side to side for a moment . I turned back around in my seat to stare at the man as he resumed the process of getting into the car.
I started to roll down my window. I didn’t know what I was going to say. I hadn’t prepared for a confrontation. I should however get out and check my car. But then, I looked at the man who was now half in and half out of his car. My furious eyes locked with his tired grey eyes. Despair and loneliness were etched into a face full of wrinkled grief and saggy sadness. I couldn’t say anything then. Instead, I met his eyes, smiled at him, and put my window back up. I waited until the man was finally settled into the car and shut his door. I looked again behind me and began to slowly ease out of the space. As I backed up, I meet the man’s eyes again, and I suddenly held up my hand and waved to him. He never smiled or said anything, but slowly his hand came up and he waved back. A strange look of surprise covered his face.
I pulled out of the parking space and drove home. As I got out of the car, I looked at my back passenger door. A thin, small, shallow scratch was carved into the grey paint. I thought about the incident as I smiled then and traced the scratch with my fingertips. It’s a car; it’s only a car…and if you’ve seen my car, you know it ain’t no Cadillac! Besides, my car is hardly ever clean. The inside of my car looks like I’m going on a five-day road trip; the outside looks like I’ve just returned. The additional scratch, I decided, just gave my car more character. What difference does it really make anyway? What would I have said to the man? Would I have gotten angry? Screamed at him? Yelled? What right did I have to attack the man’s dignity over a minor accident? The car certainly is not worth the worth of an elderly man. What did a small scratch mean in the whole scheme of things?
I started to laugh at the absurdity of life and the changes that have happened to me in the past year. My gosh, how I have changed. A year ago, I might have gotten upset. A year ago, I would have demanded some retribution. But today, now, it was a year later from the person I used to be. 2015, the start of a new year…and the scratch really didn’t seem to matter.
I walked into my apartment then and my new year’s celebration suddenly began early. I usually wait until midnight on December 31. But my emotions were beginning to run over. I thought about the elderly man. I thought about the incident. I thought about all the struggles, joys, and challenges in my life over the past year and I started to cry. I sat on the floor of my studio apartment and cried for the man and cried for myself and cried for the world.
An hour later, I was exhausted. I glanced at the clock. It was only 2:00 pm. Yes, my New Year’s celebration happened very early this year. I always cry on New Year’s Eve. I released the old fear and worries. I cleansed my heart of any lingering sadness. I prepared my mind for the challenges ahead in the new year. I have washed away the old and I am ready for the new.
I rolled on the floor and laughed for a while before finally pulling myself up. I turned on my computer and continued working on the novel I had started a few weeks ago. My mind and heart were so clear, I could suddenly see the world around me in a whole new way. I am ready now for the joys, challenges, and changes the new year will offer!
Have a safe and happy 2015, everyone!