"Excuse me, could you give me a pair of chopsticks?" I averted my eyes to what had been handed me and realized they had been mismatched. I looked at the crowd in dismay. No point calling out again. Oddly enough, the story of J and KC came to mind in a flash. I should tell it.
We get tests in life. Tests in whether we give up, or become stronger. Tests in love; how far it will stretch. Is it unconditional, or limited? Does it get stronger? Or does it give up? Is it selfless or selfish? Is it empathetic or apathetic and self-absorbed? We get tested in our abilities to feel for others, standing in their shoes. In doing so, we learn about what kind of individuals we are. Are we strong and stand shoulder-to-shoulder, in supporting our fellow man, the way we would like to be helped if we needed them? Or do we back away, letting them fall, kicking them while they are down, because we are weak, yet we call them weak. They are the ones who are strong, because they treat others the way they want to be treated, with unconditional empathy and understanding. And the fact that they get back up on their own, shows how they were always the stronger one. And they would never let anyone else fall like they were allowed to fall and no one helped them get back up.
Do we blame others for our problems? Or do we show a better example by prevailing, and living a better example than they showed us? Do we blame ourselves when we are kicked and bullied? It is not our fault. By showing a better example, and being the kinder person, we show our independence and strength. The others are weak. They need to let us fall and kick us while we are down because that is the only way that they feel powerful, but they are never truly strong, nor independent. They are dependent on our so-called failures. They know not how to create their own successes. They need to be served by others, or to have others fail, so that they can point the finger and say, “Look, they have fallen…They are weak…Look what they have done to me.” What did they do to you? You let go of their arm, not the other way around. And then you spat on them while they were on the ground. That is not power, that is cruelty; lack of conscience. That is a failed test. People, who are like that, will always fail the tests that they are given because they only see a narrow, dark, dimly lit, one-way road ahead of them. One-way roads always come to an end. They have no way of seeing anything else. If something shows up in their peripheral vision, they will not see it, because they only see the narrow path, leading to a dead end. They do not see anything other than their own agenda. They will not see the people who are fallen on the side of the road or the other avenues that branch out in other directions. They will never get anywhere. They will stay on their dead-end road, continuously repeating the same cycles throughout their own lives.
Lack of empathy, lack of conscience, lack of love, will always cause one to fail. The good person will always get back up on their own and become stronger through their suffering. And their hearts will only become warmer and their loving arms, only opening wider, with success abound all around them, including people to share that success with. They passed the greatest test of all: Being abandoned and hurt even more whilst they were already in pain, in mental turmoil and physical anguish, yet lifting themselves up all on their own after. They led the better example, took the wider, better-lit path. And they have ultimate empathy; unconditional love. This will allow them to pass every single test life hands out to them, cycle after cycle, indefinitely.
Which would you rather be? The all-loving leader, like a Deity who always will have their warm arms unconditionally open, or the follower who stands over those who they have kicked down, expecting them to get back up and give them their all-loving embrace? Which one makes more sense? We all must raise the ultimate self-aware life test question to ourselves: Do I have a conscience - or lack thereof?
Life has its definite depressing moments. I am sitting in my husband's car, waiting for him, as he walks into a gas station to buy a beer. As he is going in, two old men are standing outside the door talking to one another. They just separated and one of them is walking past our car, carrying a brown paper bag under his arm. Now, another old man, who got out of his truck just walked inside, probably going after the same kind of beverage. I can’t help but see it as a sad depiction of this frozen moment in time, with different generations of men in one shot, which speaks of a very difficult-to-face reality: Those old men were once young, while my husband and I will one day be old. Is all of life destined for men to need to take solace in alcohol, every day, walking out of a convenience store with an opaque bag to conceal the contents therein, because to reveal them transparently would make the solemnity of life more obvious? And hiding would make them be judged less, masking their true feelings, so they never have to talk about them? Not even to their women who watch in the background? Is this image all life is in a nutshell for Mankind? My husband walks out, now, not with a brown bag, but with a blue plastic bag, hanging from his hand. He opens the driver door, throwing a bag of Skittles into my lap, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile. Always thinking of me, he knows my vice; my sweet tooth. Now I feel bad for seeing such a somber image. New Brightside Skittles, with flavors they never featured before, like Pink Lemonade and Paradise Punch. That latter blue Skittle is the best one I have tasted in a long time. If only they had a bag full of nothing but the blues. What a true vice of mine that would be.
Now, back at the house, my candy is gone, mostly eaten by my mouth only. I realize that I have forgotten to replenish the coffee while we were out, to have in the morning. My husband's sitting at his desk, enjoying his beer, while I get started on the sandwich and soup I just put together in the kitchen. I look at the time and see that the nearest supermarket will be closing in twenty minutes. I tell him that I am going to go out and get coffee right quick, asking if I can borrow his car, since mine has been currently without a battery and in need of a new starter for the past week and a half. He kindly obliges me his key and asks if I would mind getting him another beer, also. And further suggests that I treat my own self with a bottle of wine, in addition. I remember the image at the gas station I felt so strongly over. Guiltily, but not so reluctantly, much to my hypocrisy, I say, “Well, I will see what is possibly on sale.”
I get set to drive off into the night, not without setting off the car alarm with a loud blaring horn out into the near eleven o’clock quiet of the suburb first. That’s what I get for unlocking the car manually instead of using the key fob. Then after putting the key in the ignition, I mistakenly put the car in drive and wonder why the car won’t accelerate forward. Silly me, it must be the emergency break...How do I release this lever?...It’s still not starting...Oh, the break is on?...Oh, it wasn’t on to begin with...Okay, now, the lever is back down...I have the car in drive, I don’t understand...Ah, in my frenzy to get the horn to stop honking, I didn’t turn the key all the way...I forgot that I only turned the battery on and never started the car to begin with...So, I should put it in park, then...I am sorry that I did this to my sweetie’s car...Now, the car starts...All right, I hope no one saw this...It doesn’t look like my partner in crime is looking out the window...Well, not a partner in this crime, that’s for sure...Just drive off whistling acting like nothing happened...Maybe the neighbors won’t notice...Oh, the headlights are not on...No wonder it is so dark...
Ten minutes left...Why do I always throw my wallet down in my tote?...Hurry up and find it!...Why do I have an empty trail mix bag inside my tote?...Oh, no!...I just ripped off the front cover of my mother-in-law's book that she let me borrow...Hopefully I can super glue it...You last minute idiot!...Thank you, wallet...Let’s go!...Maybe, if I lock the doors manually from the inside, the alarm won’t go off when I get back into the car. I would rather not use the key fob because sometimes it sets the rear door ajar and I don’t want to run the risk of draining the battery...“Hey, there!” “Hi, I’ll be right back!”...I know you are closing soon, little dude. I just need to grab this coffee. Where is it?...I went down the wrong way....There’s the sign...It costs seven dollars for coffee? It has to be done...Go after the beer...Walk fast...Do they still have that big bottle of wine on closeout from last time? Seven dollars, also, I see. Not bad, from the original price. Let’s go!...Wait, I want more candy...This time, I want some chocolate, no fruity candy...Oh, they have the caramel M&M’s, the first soft-center candies of their kind! I got the last bag. Get in my basket!...I need something to gnaw on...Strawberry Twizzlers will do. I would prefer the cherry flavor, but they only come in Pull N’ Peel and bite size. That just won’t do. I don’t want to have to do much with my hands. Just something that feels like a cigarette that isn’t a cigarette. Just to preoccupy the mind. Smoking is disgusting. I’m glad I never got into the habit. Now, let’s check out!...There is no line...No surprise there...Yes, I have beer and wine, but I don’t want you to think that is all I came in for...“I came for coffee and got asked to get other things.”...Why do I care what people think of me?...“Here’s your receipt. Have a good night.” “Thank you; you have a good night, too.”...Why are you looking at my chest?...All right, let’s hurry up and get back to the house...
I hope the horn doesn’t start going off again. I locked the car from the inside. It shouldn’t do it, right?...Oh, great, that is loud!...Hurry up and put the key in the ignition!...Great, now they probably think I am drunk and don’t know how to get into my own car...What they think is my own car, anyway...Well, I remember that I have to turn the ignition all the way to start the car now...No-brainer, duh!...I guess from now on, I will use the key fob. This car doesn’t like to take chances when the door gets opened...I guess if the rear door accidentally gets popped open, I will just have to go around the car, lift it up, close it, and then get back into the car. After making sure that it is in park, of course...Why do I do this? I don’t even like this wine. I gag just about every time I take a gulp and hardly ever feel the effects of the alcohol! Plus, Twizzlers taste like plastic. I should have bought genuine strawberries. Nature’s delicious nourishing bounty. Now, the M&M’s, I would regret not buying. Nothing in nature compares to M&M’s. And definitely nothing compares to coffee.
I guess at the end of the day, or night whether it be beer, wine, artificial sugar or whatever your vice might be, we are all simply chasing the dragon. I suppose in life, there is no ultimate way to override the anxiousness in our minds. We should just be happy to have one another, and take solace in that love and companionship. Sometimes, perhaps, we forget and get so absorbed in our own worries. So we reach for stimulants. But who am I kidding? It is good to give our minds and taste buds a little fun, every once in a while. As for those old men, I really do hope that they are not alone with only their alcohol in brown paper bags. I suppose that in the end, if there is always someone to talk to, even while you are walking out with your brown paper bag, then you are never truly alone after all. Life has its definite ridiculous moments.