Thursday, April 27, 2006
My friend, Mitchell
Though he was headed for a quick trip to Bangkok, my last email from him came from a cyber-café somewhere in Calcutta. We have a deal, Mitchell and me – I understand why he wanders the globe and he promises to check in occasionally to let me know he’s breathing, wherever he is. A couple times a year, I am lucky enough to receive from him a long, poetic letter about a moment of peace he found laying in the morning sun on a rock in the desert; bathing under a waterfall in a foreign country or digging his toes into the warm sandy beach of a tropical ocean.

And, every two years or so, I’ll pull into the parking lot of the local VA and catch a glimpse of a very tall man leaning against a little, old red pick-up truck, with a big-ass grin on his face. Those are always jubilant and bittersweet hellos because I know he will disappear just as quietly and quickly as he arrived. But, I am grateful for the visits. They make the long stretches between each one seem to fade into insignificance.

Everything he owns fits in the back of his tired and worn little truck. It doesn’t amount to much: boxes of books, personal files a few changes of clothes and a lawn chair or two. The books tell the story of where his mind has been – philosophy, psychology, literature, religion and history. The files hold degrees, certifications and employment history: elementary teacher, gallery owner, counselor. But mostly, he is a seeker – of what, he isn’t sure – so he keeps wandering.

He makes friends wherever he goes. Likely, in every city in every country he visits there is someone like me, looking forward to the day he arrives in town, wondering, upon goodbye, if they will ever see him again and missing him when he’s gone. He isn’t aware of the imprint he leaves upon the hearts of those he connects with. He doesn’t see himself as others see him: a beautiful, brilliant, compassionate soul.

He spent much of his service in Vietnam living and communing with the Montagnard people. He remembers them fondly, his face swilling with emotion when he recalls their abandonment by his government and, by proxy, himself. He talks less about what happened at the Cambodian border, but it filled his mind with demons and his body with Agent Orange. These things combined are what he runs from.

He’d be the first to tell you “wherever you go, there you are,” that you can’t outrun yourself, all the while a one-way ticket to some foreign land tucked into his pocket. He laughs at his own irony. Sometimes I think he should just bunker down, invite the demons in and face them square on. Most of the time though I understand that his quest is as much about running away from something as it is about holding on to hope. His hope is magnificent in light of the traumas he’s suffered. He wouldn’t be my friend, Mitchell, without it.

His last brief note arrived two months ago: “Can’t wait to tell you all I’ve seen – Your friend, Mitchell.”

I can’t wait, either.
Rhonda Ruminated at 11:57 PM | Permalink |

4 Ruminations:

  • At 5:44 AM, Blogger Mia

    Everyone has something they can teach us but there are always those special few who teach us just a little bit more about life. It sounds like your friend Mitchell is one of these kinds of people.

    What a blessing to have a friend like Mitchell! He's a treasure. I hope you get to speak with him again soon.

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger Nikki

    How very bitter sweet. I hope you touch bases soon.

  • At 4:15 PM, Blogger St Jude

    'Mitchell's' don't come along very often, but when they do they are worth the wait. He reminds me of my cousin Warren, he worked in a MASH unit in Korea and Vietnam. After that he never settled. He appears in my life every now and then.

    I'll be back for more after my hols. xx

  • At 7:53 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    Mia & Nikki: Thanks, and I hope so too.

    St. Jude: Sadly, there are lots of Warren and Mitchells out there. Ejoy your holiday!