Flashing back to the days before Bill, Linda and BizzaroTech, still employed at the steel mill, I had a co-worker named, Frank.
Frank was a short man. A fellow of few words. He had a thick dark mustache, jet black hair, and when off the clock he had a tendency to drink too much.
I lived close to the mill and could walk to work. My apartment was a stone throw away and during a raging snowstorm on a Friday, Frank appeared on my doorstep late at night. Apparently his apartment was close by as well. I had no idea he knew where I lived.
I barely knew the man.
I opened the door and he was still dressed in his coveralls and steel toe boots. He reeked to high heaven and had the same streaks of dirt and grime on his face from when he left the mill earlier that afternoon. I was hesitant to allow him entry, seeing the bottle of Jack Daniels in his grip, but I couldn’t turn him away for some strange reason. His visit had a purpose.
Before entering my home, he stuttered, “I… I’m not… dist–disturbing you, am I?”
“I was just getting ready to hit the hay, Frank, what’s up?”
He stumbled into the kitchen and placed the bottle on the counter top, “I need you to do something for me.”
Oh boy… what the hell is this?
“Can I sit?” He pulled out a chair from under the kitchen table and flopped down in it before I could respond.
“Of course, have a seat. Coffee? Water?”
“No, no. I’m fine.”
I sat across from him and provided some distance between us. My eyes darted around the room in case I needed to do something quick and drastic. My family was sleeping soundly upstairs and their safety came first.
I’d like to say, if I have any special powers, one thing I can do is read a room. I can walk into a bar, a grocery store, or an event and “feel” the atmosphere. On more than one occasion, during the days of the Old Life, I’d enter a bar with friends, read the room and turn back around. “Nope. Not today. I’ll pass. Catch you guys another time.”
The following morning I’d hear a story of a fight or some act of violence and I’d smile knowing I made the right call. I like to steer clear of potential trouble if at all possible.
Frank, sitting in my kitchen, was no different. I felt his presence and his aura was making me uncomfortable.
When he thrust his hand into the coverall pocket, my chair slid back, my eyes narrowed and I positioned my feet under my seat so I could react quickly if need be.
“Calm down, Jere, calm down. I’m not going to do anything.”
That’s what you say. Sorry if I don’t believe you.
He withdrew $500 in cash and splayed it across the surface of the table.
I locked eyes with him and my mind raced.
“So, Frank, what brings you by tonight?”
“This.” He pointed down to the cash and walked his finger tips across the money, spreading the bills apart even further. “I need you to hold onto this for me.”
“You want me… to hold money for you?”
“Just until tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be back for it.”
“Just out of curiosity, why do you need me to hold…”
“And you can’t ask why.”
“I can’t ask why? Apparently you don’t know me very well.”
“No. I don’t know you at all.” He scraped the money into a pile and tapped it into a neat stack. “And that’s why I’m here. I need to trust someone.”
“And of all the people you know, you come to me. What makes you think you can trust me?”
His eyes wandered the area and drifted to the lights overhead, “I don’t know. I just need to trust you.”
Those who know me quite well, know I have trust issues. It’s not a big secret. Those issues stem from a long line of circumstances and situations, and the details are unimportant. Today, I’m a bit more guarded, reserved and selective with whom I associate. I have to be. I have difficulties making new friends, feel awkward in social settings, yet I hold in high regard the friendships I do have.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Because I understand how vital trust is to some, and how devastating a breach of trust can be, I agreed to Frank’s cry for help. “So, you’ll be back for it tomorrow afternoon?”
“At noon, sharp.”
“I’ll make sure I’m here for your arrival.”
Frank leaned in across the table, “Do you have a Bible?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Where is it?”
“In the next room. Hold on a second.”
I entered my living room and from the top shelf I withdrew my Bible. When I reentered the kitchen, Frank had his forehead on the table’s surface and he wiped a tear from his cheek. “Here it is, Frank.”
He shot up from the table and snatched it from my hand. He opened the book to the middle and placed the cash between the thin pages. “This is where you’ll keep it. Right here. Safe and sound among the scriptures. Now… where can you hide it?”
Where can I hide it? What the devil is going on?
“I suppose I can hide it in the bathroom. I keep a stash of reading material under the sink. It’ll be well hidden there.”
“Do you keep your doors locked at night?”
“OK then. I’ll trust you. If anything happens to that money…”
“Frank. You’re problems are safe with me. I won’t speak a word of this visit to anyone. If trust is what you need, I won’t do anything to break that trust. You can trust me. But it’s getting late and from the looks of it, you need to get some sleep. Can I give you a ride home?”
“It’s late. You’d do that?”
“You’re just around the corner, right? You shouldn’t be walking in this weather.”
Before we left the apartment, he opened the drawer under the bathroom sink and double checked the Bible. He had to ensure the money was still inside before leaving. Then he turned back to me and dropped his face into my chest.
He sobbed like a baby for a handful of minutes.
All I could do was pat his shoulder with light sympathetic taps. Occasionally a, “Shhh. It’s OK,” would sneak out. I had no idea what the situation was, but this poor soul needed me, and I couldn’t ask why. All I could do was speculate.
The following day, at noon sharp, I was sitting in my kitchen and the Bible was placed on the table waiting patiently for his arrival. Frank knocked on the door and I told him to come in.
He was sober this time and dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt with a thick winter jacket. I rose from my seat and handed the man the book. He opened it to the middle, withdrew the money, counted it and smiled his thanks.
“Jeremy. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for this. It’s quite possible, you saved my life.”
The comment sucked the wind from my chest.
I’ve come to the conclusion over the years, it’s the little moments of kindness that mean the most. What may seem trivial to some, can be life changing to others. A small favor or an act of helping can make all the difference in someone’s world.
It would have been so easy to turn him away. The money could have been stolen. Money for gambling, drugs, or more alcohol… I didn’t know. But what I do know, is I helped another human. Even if the situation was a bit unorthodox, sketchy and out of the ordinary.
As Frank left my apartment, he stopped at the open door. “Jeremy. It feels good to trust again. Thank you and see you Monday morning.”
He left the mill two weeks later for parts unknown.
As I continue my journey through the New Life, my trust issues are diminishing little by little. It was a trial by fire for the longest time but I’m coming out of my shell a bit more now. I still feel awkward in social settings, I still don’t make friends easily and I’m still a bit guarded and my shields are ready to be raised at any given time, but I’m starting to trust more.
That trust began with self respect. Because I know who I am, and what I want to do, the trust is returning incrementally. I had to stop hiding. I had to stop pretending to be something I wasn’t.
Trust leads to respect. I had to respect myself first and foremost. From that respect, comes the trust.
To quote Frank back in 1996, “It feels good to trust again.”
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