[Editor's Note: Jack Grisham is an author, hypnotherapist, T.S.O.L. front man and all-around troublemaker. This column, True Story, may or may not be factual, with characters who may or may not be real.]
In California, the winter sun is warm, but unlike coastal summers, the light is soft and diffused, and there are mists in the air--even on the brightest of days.
The doors to our house were wide, and a cool ocean breeze climbed up the stairs. I was in my favorite chair: a large recliner that gave me a clear view of the street.
There was an old man standing on the corner--lost, it seemed, for his eyes were those of a seabird drifting in darting stabs from house to house. He was searching for something. I stood to walk outside and offer my assistance, but as I rose, he turned and looked directly into my eyes. I won't say he was glad to see me, but I won't say he was disappointed either.
His stare was vacant yet intense, and without breaking his gaze, he sailed toward me. I was not afraid, but his presence made me uneasy--my mind staggered as it sought solid ground. He was familiar, but the memory of his face had been abandoned, and it wasn't until he reached the threshold of my door that I could put a name to him.
"Michael." I smiled and offered my hand, which was silently taken in his, a hand not warmed by the winter sun. "I thought you were dead."
"I wasn't sure if this was your house," he said. "I thought it was, but you've changed--you're not what I expected."
"Yeah." I laughed and said, "Married with five kids."
I invited him inside, and as he entered, he touched the small cross etched into our door. "Is this you now?" he asked.
"No, not really," I replied, "that image is of pain, not love. I prefer forgiveness rather than torture."
"Good for me," he said. "That's why I'm here. I wronged you, and I plead your forgiveness."
I knew what he spoke of, and the uneasiness of before returned. He'd abused me when I was a child--sexually forcing his way on me.
"Fuck, don't worry about it," I said. "We were kids. I'm over it, and I've done more than my share of hurting people."
"Yes, that's how it goes," he replied. "An anchor thrown into the ocean on a calm day will send waves from ship to shore--miles they travel. And a hurt done to an innocent boy will also create waves, and miles they will travel, although with boys, the waves can become violent and mean."
I had nothing to say. I wanted him to leave; as if he read my mind, he walked toward the door, pausing once again at the threshold.
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"I hurt people," he said. "Yesterday, I killed my wife, and then I turned the gun against myself, against the memory of the man who had sexually abused me. I wish I could've learned to forgive--like you did--but I couldn't, so I offer you this instead."
He walked from my house a dead man.