Happened to look out the window during a momentary break in the insanity at The Booze Emporium the other day, and I saw a young couple walking across the parking lot holding hands.
Now typically I'm moving at 120 m.p.h. at work, politely ushering closet alcoholics through the register line, facing shelves, worrying over displays, giving advice to booze neophytes who are "throwing a dinner party', trying not to slap the wine snobs who ask questions as they simultaneously look down their noses at this bug with the name tag that says Joe. You know, generally doing everything I can to improve the financial strength of the NHSLC, that omnipotent and omniscient board of advanced intellects who guide and control my job. I can't call it a career yet. They haven't allowed that, even though I have applied for three full time jobs at this point. It's still just a job, but someday I hope that they will recognize me as a human being and maybe bump my pay 13 cents an hour so I can graduate from cat food to dog food. One can only hope.
But I digress.
As I stood there catching my breath, this couple caught my eye. A young couple holding hands. Symbolizing the hope that is young love. All they know at this point is that they are attracted to each other, they think they love each other, although they are too young to even begin to know the definition of love. Maybe they even laugh a lot together. I'm talking about natural laughter derived from pure happiness and easy joy, not the laughter that comes later in life that emanates from sex jokes and sarcasm. Maybe they are starting out in careers and actually believe that their employers will reward them for their hard work, intelligence and dedication. It was tempting to go out and warn them a little bit about life, but it is not in my nature to spoil someone's happy reality, even if it is delusional. That's why some people at the legion like me as a bartender. If a guy drunkenly tells me he helped to build the Eiffel Tower I say "Wow that's really cool." Everyone else will call him an asshole and laugh in his face. What is the point? Everybody needs their version of happiness like a junkie needs the powder. Let them be.
But I digress.
I was thinking about the next fifty years for this couple. How they will learn harsh lessons about life, especially about employers. They probably won't make the money they thought they would, probably won't have the lifestyle they dreamed of. They will hurt each other, make a lot of mistakes that they would love to take back, drink too much and get very, very tired. Disillusioned. We all start from the same place and we all go through the same shit.
But maybe they can take these experiences and get through to reality. Maybe they will figure out what love really is. If they have kids that process will be accelerated. Maybe they will survive this economy that republicans are hell bent on destroying, Maybe they can create a future for themselves even though republicans would try to prevent that. Maybe they can find a way to live comfortably even though the definition of that phrase is being shrunken down every day.
We all get bent and beaten and taken advantage of, we lose close friends and family members, we get fired and laid off, manipulated by executives with the intelligence and personality of a cockroach, we scale back our dreams and scale down our expectations, we trip and fall and cry inside and wonder why.
Some of us wind up bitter. Sarcastic, giving up hope for cynicism, spending our adult lives spitting poison, crouched in a position of defense against life. We lash out inappropriately and at the wrong people because we are so disappointed we don't even know what the proper response to any situation is. Just assume everybody is out to hurt you and make sure you hurt them first.
Others somehow, someway, end up digging life deeply. Stripping away the meaningless crap and getting to the heart of what is real. Living, loving, laughing, surviving and doing it genuinely. Holding hands.
I am trying to get there myself. I have been a very angry man for a very long time and I don't want to live that way anymore. I want to feel peace as much as possible in the time that I have left. I want laughter. Genuine laughter, not the kind that comes at someone else's expense.
I hope that couple end up holding hands. I hope they never stop holding hands. If they lose it, I hope they regain the natural laughter derived from pure happiness and easy joy.
I hope they walk by The Booze Emporium again in fifty years, smiling and holding hands. I'll be 107 years old and still working there. And even if some phony, conniving pseudo-executive from the NHSLC is in the store criticizing the fact that the bottles are 1/2 an inch from the edge of the shelf instead of the corporately mandated 1/4 of an inch, I will walk out into the parking lot and give each of them a kiss on the cheek.
Then I'll go home, kiss my lovely wife and say "Honey you'll never guess who I saw today."