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A Scene Of One (For Everyone Who Still Feels Left Out)

By Scott Puckett

"For your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or your life will be ruined. I believe I have done these two things. Faced down regret. Avoided ruin. And I am still here to tell about it."

Richard Ford

We all have a fear. At least one, maybe more. I'm not afraid of death. I've already faced my own twice and lived to tell the tale. I've already seen some of its varieties - fast, violent and bloody; lingering and wasting, ending in a call from the nursing home about someone who passed in the night. Waking up to grey corpses and the stains that a dying body leaves behind in its methodical evacuation. I'm not afraid of death.

I'm not afraid of loneliness. I've never been one to surround myself with people in order to dull my senses, to anesthetize myself to the pain of being alone. I've spent most of my life by myself, an outsider looking in, and I've come to appreciate the way that glass panes distort people's faces. People look kinder through the window and I can't hear the ugly things they say to stoke their egos with the coal of someone else's humiliation. I'm not afraid of being alone.

While I recognize that fear is irrational and simply a byproduct of social conditioning, my fear is that I keep people at arm's length, that I never communicate face to face as I do in these pages. I fear that this inability, if it in fact exists, may leave someone feeling, in some way, cheated of a more meaningful experience.

But isn't it also the case that fear is merely a sign of unfinished business, a sign that there is still more work yet to do? Doesn't it merely suggest that we are not yet finished with our past, if in fact we ever can be? And doesn't it also imply that we are concerned that we have not yet learned the lessons that history seeks to teach us?

This is what I know right now - my history is a tapestry of death and dysfunction, woven with strands of sickness and abuse, betrayal and malice. I've done everything I can to unravel every last bit of it into its component threads, but I can still see the patterns like a ghost image on an old TV. Far from eliminating these influences from my life, I've been breaking string after string to free myself from their tangled web. Sometimes, merely unraveling is not enough.

Driving home a few months ago, I was alone on rain-slicked roads. I watched the moon keep pace with me, matching me mile for mile, a clear silver line drawn on glittering asphalt that showed me the way home. It peeked between clouds and bathed me in lights as I shivered from the cold and listened to old pop songs on the radio.

On nights like that, tires hissing on the pavement like a bed of snakes that I will lie down and sleep on, knowing they won't bite, my life makes sense. Celestial bodies hover overhead, reminding me that any problems I face are insignificant, that the world is a kind and generous place, even if its occupants frequently fail to match its largesse.

You've been sad lately. I wish I could do something to remove what's hurting you and leave only a smile in its place, but that isn't what either of us need. You will learn from this. It won't kill you. If life were going to do that, it would already have accomplished its task.

Instead, you will suffer. You will hurt. You will endure more than you could have ever imagined and you will grow. These moments will leave scars and those scars will in turn fade in time, but they will only make you more beautiful because anyone can be foolish and young but wisdom can only be acquired through experiences that transform us, that forge our personalities in blast furnaces and cauterize our wounds. Someday, we will all be whole and we will intuitively recognize each other - not as we are or appear, but as we are meant to be.

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008