Right Place / Time

Last week, Lori and I were leaving a friends’ house after dinner when I made eye contact with a young man walking a bicycle up the street. He shouted my name and I realized it was someone I knew from a long time back, who we’ll call Doug.

Doug is a little younger than me and somebody I talked to a lot when I worked at the game store, just out of high school. He was a kind of energetic, eager kid brother that I never had, really enthusiastic about anime and video games. Had sort of a funny tendency to ‘shift personalities’ every few weeks, meaning he was the sort of person who was all about [thing] right now and [thing] was the Best Thing ever and could never be topped. Then time would pass and seemingly without warning he’d be all about [new thing] which was so much better than [thing], which was old garbage and no longer worth discussing. But the thing is, I wouldn’t have called him a liar; he always seemed genuine.

He asked how I was doing and I said “okay”, which is generally what I say these days, with varying intonations and pauses before answering. Reflexively I asked back, and rather candidly he said “shitty!”. Rapidly and nervously, he went on to say that he’d fallen in with a bad crowd — he didn’t say the words, but I got that drugs were probably involved — and he was looking to change. “I thought about Teen Challenge but I don’t know, that’s like, not really my thing…” he said, while looking away.

Then suddenly, looking at me again: “Do you think I should do it?”

“Well,” I said, “They’ve been in our church a few times and it seems like they do really good work in people’s lives.” And then, drawing from something I’ve been learning lately, I added: “At least you can go introduce yourself, and see what they’re all about. And if it’s not for you, then you know.”

Doug seemed to take this in, and said yeah, maybe he would go do that, then. “It’s just, you’ve always been somebody I really looked up to, and whose opinion I respected, and you introduced me to so much good anime and like…” — his voice got a little thicker, here — “I love you, man.” After which he stammered unnecessary apologies about not meaning it in that way.

All of this conversation happened very quickly.

“No, it’s cool, I get it.” I said. “I love you too.”

After this, with no further eye contact, he quickly said goodbye and hurried away up the sidewalk. Lori had long finished loading Cassidy into the car, and heard most of the exchange. We chatted about it a bit on the way home, but it was really the next morning that I started to think — oh, shouldn’t I have said this, or that, or done more and on and on.

But I mean, I’m not meant to be his Saviour, I don’t think. He’s not my project to fix. I think I did what I could do, which was to be present at a time and place where I could listen for a moment and then say just something to let Doug know that somebody cares about him. And of course, I can pray, and have done in the days since, when I think about the situation again.

I may not get to know what becomes of Doug, and this may not be the moment that changes anything for him. But I wanted to write it down.

Thing I Saw: My little girl mastering the (extremely short and simple) courses I’m designing for her in Super Mario Maker 2. She saw me play as Cat Mario and was intrigued, so I made a single-screen level in which Cat Mario basically has to run to the right to hit the goal. Then I’ve been slowly adding more elements; backtracking, blocks to break, a little bit of vertical movement via trampolines, etc. In just a few days she’s starting to grasp how to push the stick left and right, so I think jumping is the next challenge to overcome, but a good jump requires doing two things at once (left hand on stick, right hand to button) and I’m not entirely sure we’re there yet. Plenty of time!

Thing I Learned: If your neck and shoulders are sore and seizing up while working in the office, try raising your mouse and keyboard!

I’m Grateful For: Sunscreen and mometasone furoate, things that let me be outside with Cassidy during sunny summer days.

It’s like the soundtrack to a Legend of Zelda game I’ve never played