the true stories
I have been precocious in many areas of life since I was born and an absolute poster boy of arrested development in many other areas. One of the times I jumped the gun happened during the Trail. I was about thirty-seven, if I recall correctly. Wait, I was thirty-seven because the entire episode is burned into my consciousness like a CD ROM.
With no warning such as that given by a hurricane, an earthquake or similar polite disasters, I found myself thrust headlong into the emotional equivalent of the Atchafalaya Swamp. It was treacherous hard going and there were snakes and gators behind every cypress root. I did have a little canoe and my wife and my sons to help navigate the back-water.
The way I got there was easy. I simply woke up with wood at five AM. Later, about halfway through my shower it occurred to me that I was going to die and to salt that wound, it also occurred to me that I had accomplished squat. Just like that. Unbidden, unwelcome and ineradicable. I shrugged it off while I chomped my oats and then headed out to the Trail.
It took up residence in my mind like a sticker burr does on your socks and it was not to be moved. I tried everything in my repertoire to no avail. I quickly got to the point where I could no longer bear it and rather than go to a doctor or counselor and be told that they'd call me a cab, I took matters into my own mitts and headed off to a big library.
Within an hour or two, I struck pay dirt. It was simple. It was something that every male will go through sooner or later. The descriptions of the symptoms of that malady which I read that morning had me rolling in the stacks with relieved laughter. I spent the balance of the day reading descriptions of the victims.
The diagnosis? Mid-life crisis. My theory was that it had been triggered ahead of the average schedule by the earlier than usual demise of my father who passed when I was twenty. I still think that and I remind the reader that the word theory comes to us from those clever Greeks. They called it “theoria” and it meant then and still means now, a contemplation or a speculation.
There are about eight billion of us now and we would all fit in Russia if each man, woman and child had their own quarter acre. There would be enough left over for the next eight billion to get their quarter acre as well. A quarter acre is 10,890 square feet. Room enough for a little cabin, some chickens and a big garden. Those are facts not theories, yet people are easily led to believe disaster theories about global warming, overpopulation and other such pseudo-scientific tripe because they are too lazy to do the math.
The theories that we have used as building blocks to get to where we are remain only theories. They work most of the time but have exceptions. This includes light, gravity, magnetism, relativity and all the other “rock solid” theories we are trained to take as facts. That is why the big push for a unified theory of the universe. Some people simply call that thing the Great Spirit and concern themselves with monitoring their own conduct rather than trying to put the prima causa in a bottle and slap a label on it. Ein Sof, effervescent and zero calories!
I digress but each one of us eight billion are as theory-worthy as any bow-tie in a lab coat. Eight billion theorists are following the speculations of a handful of men who couldn't change a tire or explain why you should never tell a woman that she is getting fat. I encourage you to form your own theories about everything and to remember that those of the “experts” are not facts.
So, I was a decade and a half farther down the emotional road than I was supposed to be. The feelings that must be processed at this time in a man's life are intense, unrelenting and ethereal. There is nothing to grab and slam against the wall. It is like fighting ghosts. Exhausting work that looks ridiculous to any observer. I was glad to have the Trail to absorb some of the radiation I was generating at that time.
Most men take up sport car racing and bed-hopping at this juncture. I took up mountain climbing, rollerblading in heavy traffic and going to the Symphony. Anything that brings temporary relief will be grasped like a lifebuoy in this situation. If the man is married it is a particularly sketchy time. If the man is single, he may become a legend.
I was and still am married to my third wife. A word about her is appropriate here. Nisa can make a dress out of a rice sack, ride a water buffalo, make a boy wish he was a man and make a man wish he was a little boy. She is the only human I have ever seen catch a fish with their foot. She is a magnet to children and all animals. One morning she went onto the patio of our apartment and yawned. She stretched her arms out on either side. A sparrow flew from across the street and landed on her hand and did not want to fly off. I wouldn't trade her for anything.
One Friday during this crisis as I was delivering the mail, I stopped at a relay box to get more mail and have a smoke. I had seen Babaji, Mr. G., Mrs. B. and all the usual denizens of the Trail but here was a strange car parked by the box with California plates.
Inside the car was a girl that made me instantly forget how to spell the word “problem”. She was Chinese and had beautiful long hair and an expensive pair of sunglasses tilted on top of her pretty head. She was dressed in red and black like a bank teller from Paradise. I figured she was about twenty. I tried not to look. It didn't work. She called me over to the open window of her Honda.
“Is dat you regula unifoam?” she inquired.
My usual reply would have been, “Why, are you writing a book?”
Instead I said, “It sure is.”
I find that Mandarin accents are like chalk on a black-board but Cantonese accents are like rain drops falling on leaves. I leaned a little closer.
“You lok nye. I lye you unifoam.”
“Thank-you. I'm Michael. What is your name?”
“Lily. Nye to mee you.”
We chatted through the equivalent of two or three of my breaks and covered many topics. Money came up at some point and I cannot remember who brought it up first. I told her some of my views on that subject and asked her about her own.
"My-ko, you a shap guy. I know when I see unifoam.”
She told me that her family lived in Los Angeles and that she was up in Vancouver to stay with an Auntie and to conduct some business. She said that she had found a real great way to make big bucks. She offered to tell me the secret. I accepted. She said it was not the right place to go into the details but that she would be happy to come to my house next day and lay out the whole thing. Perhaps, she said, her and I could go into business together.
Totally impressed by her ability to recognize my genius in a blue disguise schlepping mail, I forgave her her youth and invited her over. I would explain everything to my wife so she would not have any misconceptions about the purity of that meeting. The girl couldn't help it if she was so cute that it stopped my breath nor could the exquisite creature help it if she stood in awe of my business acumen.
I finished my deliveries and raced home to tell my wife that our financial struggles were over. A young lady was coming to show us how to be financially independent. She had said that she liked my uniform. She had known that I was a contender. Her Auntie was a big business lady. What could possibly go wrong? It was a slam-dunk piece of cake. The prospect of being taught how to make money by a beautiful young woman was as nice as being recognized.
The Saturday morning dawned and about ten o clock there was a tap on the door. Lily came in and met my Nisa and we sat for coffee straight away. Lily reiterated how we had met by chance and how she had known instantly that I was too smat man.
Nisa said, “Hmm.”
I grinned like a lottery winner. Lily opened a large cardboard box she had hefted inside and took out some papers and pens. We each got a set. Next, Nisa and I had to draw up a list of material things that we wanted to have in our lifetime. Then we simply had to attach a dollar value to each item on our lists. The final instruction was to compare lists and combine the values of any items that were different while adding a single value for items that were the same.
We did as directed and handed the master sheet to Lily. She read through our final result silently and I thought a little solemnly. It took ages and she seemed to be having an inner struggle of some sort.
Nisa said softly, “Tchh.”
I eagerly awaited the results. Lily's face lost it's radiance. She seemed very disturbed and emotional. She started to blush deep red. I asked her what was the matter.
"You peepo so humbo. You too humbo,” she said with a catch in her throat.
I asked what she meant by that and she dug into her box. She pulled out some notebooks and charts. It was the name of a well known multilevel marketing firm that first caught my eye. The shock altered my perception back to reality and off the path I had been on. Over the next hour, the poor girl told us all about her Auntie's business and how the pyramid scheme worked. The pitch method she had been taught was to get the wish-list amount and demonstrate to the mark that they would never reach their goal with their actual income in their lifetime.
The next step was to hold the carrot of having one's own business and building the pyramid big enough to reach the goal. It was good to pick on your family and friends first because of simple human nature. Most people lived in a dream land of grand proportions, so it was easy to demonstrate the futility of a real job. It was equally easy in most cases to do the math and show the mark a magic number of people to bring in underneath one in order to reach the stated goal.
Our list had three items: a small two bedroom house, a car and a few grand each for the boys for when they went to college. The total was around $300,000. It was supposed to be in the millions at least and the shock had altered her perception back to reality and off of the path she was on.
“This all bo-sit! My Auntie is bo-sit! You nye peepo. I gi you all da sampo. OK?” she said, holding back tears of relief.
She went out to the Honda and returned with several large boxes of laundry soap and handed them to Nisa. She put away the papers and shook hands with us both. Everyone in the room learned a lot that morning. We watched the Honda speed off.
Nisa hefted the box of laundry soap and said to me, “My-ko, you a liu shap guy.”
Thus was my mid-life crisis shot down before it had a chance to blossom into full flower. Being premature it was probably in a weakened condition anyhow. I was glad to be rid of the damn thing.
I said, “Tchh.”
That was just for show. I was thinking of the absolute perfection of an indefinable universe.
Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.