My fraternity brothers were putting together a Saturday afternoon pickup volleyball game in the back yard. I love my third story, corner room. It’s the best one in our huge frat house. After my third year at school, I made sure I got back in time to get this room. It faces the east in one corner, so I get the morning sun. It faces the south on the other, which gives me extra warmth in the long, cold, Indiana winter.
In the spring and fall, I can look down on the back yard. This is the spill-over place for parties when the weather’s good. It’s the place for receptions for parents at the beginning and end of the year. Mr. Milton’s not only my faculty advisor, he’s also our fraternity advisor. He’s really a great guy. How do I tell him I am not sure about criminal justice?
Looking down from my room, I see a lot. No one notices I’m watching. Is that how God is? Does God snoop around and watch people, like ants, screw up their lives? Does God ever do anything, or just watch? The October sun is shining on the bright-colored maple leaves. Then they fall off. Life goes on.
Next year I won’t see these leaves, in this back yard, from this room. School will be finished. Another chapter of my life. This won’t be my room. Where will I be? What will I do? I’ve played football for four years in high school and four years in college. Is there life after football? I’m too old to live with my parents. It doesn’t feel like home – not to stay – not anymore. It feels like a place to visit. It’s not going that well with Sarah. My friends from high school are scattered. My fraternity brothers and friends from this university are going to move all over, following jobs. Some are engaged to get married. Some will go on to graduate school. I can’t imagine life after football.
“Here’s your deodorant.” Black Jack’s voice startled me as he came in the door. He could tell I was lost in thought. “You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, sure,” I lied.
How do you tell your friends that, for the first time in your life you don’t have a plan? How do you get a plan? How do people find a direction? Is it just dumb luck? Fate? God?
If it’s God…? The question stalled in my mind. It seemed – for a moment – the whole world stood still. I looked out the window at the people in the back yard. A couple of my fraternity brothers were firing up the grill and popping a couple of Budweisers. Black Jack was walking out my bedroom door.
“Hey, Black Jack,” I said.
“Yeah,” he turned around.
“See you tonight at Skip’s?”
“Yeah, sure – some of the guys are going to hang out around 9:30?”
“That’s cool,” I said, as Black Jack disappeared down the hall.
I got to thinking…. The parties are getting a little old. Don’t get me wrong, I like hanging out with my friends. It is probably my favorite thing to do. And I like having a few beers – especially with chicken wings. I like the hot sauce…real hot…the best. That, and a cold beer – that’s awesome! Yeah, I drink too much. I get drunk…sometimes. Why? Who knows?
Partying, school, and football – that’s all we do. Last year, on spring break, I drove my car, full of guys, all the way from northern Indiana to South Padre Island, straight through. Man, that’s a long trip. We got a good deal on a place at the beach. It was really cool. That’s about all we did: lie out in the sun, party, and drink beer. I can’t do this the rest of my life. There must be more. And…football will soon be gone. There must be something for me. How do you find that?
I feel empty.
The Saturday afternoon sun feels so warm in my room. I’ve got homework to do. It can wait. Screw it. It’s only Saturday, I can do it tomorrow.
So here I am, lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I’ve never noticed all the cracks in the paint before. This old house has been around a long time. It used to be a hotel, they say. This is the last year for it. They’re going to tear it down and build a new one, next summer. Nothing lasts forever.
I won’t last forever. My grandpa died a few years ago. I cried my eyes out. I didn’t want to – not around anybody. But I did. I couldn’t help it. He was my first relative who died, that I was old enough to know what was going on. He was my mom’s dad. He was a gentle man and a strong Christian, too. He and my grandma were always at church. More than that, it was real to him. You could tell. He lived it…walked the talk. You know?. He didn’t just go through the motions.
My grandpa’s death hit me hard. I think sometimes my friends and I get the idea we’re going to live forever. We all know that’s bullshit. Everybody dies. Life’s short. It seems long – especially during exams. Or when you’re 21 points behind in the fourth quarter and the other team’s kicking your ass all over the field. But nothing lasts forever. I won’t last forever.
I haven’t prayed for a long time. I prayed only at church, sort of. I didn’t want to offend my parents. But I haven’t been to church in a while. And truth is, I don’t pray much. I don’t get it. I mean, I don’t know why people do. Do they think it makes any difference? Hell, I don’t even know if I believe God exists.
I stared at the ceiling for a long time. The voices from the back yard drifted from my consciousness. I don’t know how it happened. I just started talking to God…or at the ceiling. “God, I don’t know what to do with my life. I’m messed up. I don’t even know if you’re real. I mean, honestly, I don’t know if you even exist. If you exist, show me. And give me some kind of direction. I’ve got no clue.”
The sun was still warm. I must have fallen asleep. I like to sleep. You don’t have to think. I think I dreamed about high school…a less complicated time.
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?
by Kent R. Hunter