Biographical Non-Fiction posted August 18, 2017

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A story from my hitching days

Mein Vegebund part3 Black Label

by gene roush

After three days of fasting in the desert, I caught a ride with a defeated priest.

(Part 2 conclusion)

"So you're on this journey of yours to become mysterious?"
No. It was more about finding the mystery within me. People that I admired seemed attracted to me. What did they see in me that was deserving of their friendship and guidance? That's what I was looking for.
Bob nodded. "What made that beautiful high school girl pick you out of the crowd of junior high kids?"
Part 3
Black Label

The thought was intriguing. Could a few minutes on a dark stage have affected me so deeply? I wasn't a victim. But I was never quite sure if it was to be celebrated or mourned.

He glanced at me a few times, before speaking. "Maybe it's not about her picking you out. Maybe, it's about never seeing her again."

Why had I guarded the secret? Maybe, because Len told me to never tell Mom. Or was it Dad's off-handed remark, "They all look the same with their skirt over their head."? Had it just been a rite of passage--part of a conversation that a gentleman never initiated?

"You don't have a girlfriend, do you, Gene?"

"No, but I had one for a couple years in high school. And I was kinda' seeing someone before I left. But I broke that off."

"The girl in high school, was she the most beautiful girl in the school, that you mentioned?"


"What happened to her?"

"I went to college, and she moved to California."

"The break up was mutual?"

"I broke up with her. She needed to follow her family to California."

He waited for more.

"After high school her parents moved to California. She and her older sister got an apartment in a town near home, and she was going to a junior college. I broke up with her the next spring. I spent the summer watching her date other guys, and trying to pretend that I didn't notice.

"One night, I was sitting in a parking lot with a group of friends. Jay and another girl joined the gathering as a couple of Neanderthals from a biker gang showed up. One of the bikers hit on her. When she brushed him off, he got vulgar. She looked to me for help. I would have helped any other girl, but I couldn't help her. I just stood by and watched. Eventually, he got distracted and Jay left. She moved to California a few days later."

"Why couldn't you help her?"

"I told myself at the time that I couldn't let her know that I still cared, but looking back, maybe I just wanted her to be gone."

"And what if the biker hadn't gotten distracted?"

I suppose that I'd have stepped in. I'd probably have gotten my ass kicked.

"And Jay?"

"Hmm ... I'm not sure. Maybe it would have given her closure ... or maybe it would have given her hope, that we could work it out."

"And you just wanted to move on."


"So what was she to you?"

"She was the perfect high school girl friend. I guess I knew that from the beginning. We were supposed to be good for each other--a growth experience. I never expected her to fall in love. I was amazed that she wanted to date me to begin with. I was too young to be in love, and I thought that she was too young too."

"So you didn't love her?"

"Define love. Jay was an achievement--a confidence builder. In the end, I just felt guilty for leading her on."

"And you couldn't believe that she loved you?"

We were kids, love was for adults.

"You never saw her again?"

I'd hitched up to San Francisco to see her. I wanted to see if I'd misjudged my emotions. Maybe she understood things better than I had.


"She was dating a cop."

"Was she in love?"

"She seemed happy. I never asked."

"Why do you think that is ... that you never asked? Didn't it occur to you to ask? Or were you afraid to ask?"

"The cop came by one day in his squad car. I watched her from my bedroom window. She was leaning in the car, bouncing on her toes like an excited child. I remembered her doing the same thing with me. I didn't need to ask."

"And the girl when you were thirteen--did you ask her?"

"What could I have asked her?"

"Her name, for one."

"It was all so overwhelming. I was just along for the ride." The expression came out without a thought, but I took a moment to ponder its implication.

Bob let it simmer before speaking. "You were a victim, and in all likelihood, so was she. Her behavior was abnormal. And whether you acknowledge it or not, you've spent the last seven years coping with it."

Coping with it, is that what I'd done?

"Was Jay a passionate lover?"

"Probably with the cop--I never gave her the opportunity."

"What do you mean?"

"I was selfish. It was all about getting my rocks off."

"She was just along for the ride." Bob flipped on his turn signal and slowed for an exit. "I want to change my clothes before we get to Tucson. Are you sure that you don't want more than a glass of water?"

I'd probably spend the evening with Witt smoking pot and catching up. What difference would a little alcohol make?

We pulled up in front of a roadside bar. Bob rifled through a suitcase--draping a change of clothes over his arm. I was to grab a couple stools at the far end of the bar and order him a Johnny Walker Black Label and whatever I was drinking, while he changed in the restroom.

The bartender was leaning over a group of customers when we entered. Looking up, he gave Bob a smile of recognition, nodded toward the restroom, and continued talking.

I found a pair of empty stools at the far end of the bar. The place was small and dim--a dozen stools, and a handful of tables. The brightest light was a Coors sign behind the bar.

The gathering around the bartender erupted in laughter and he turned toward me. "A Black Label for him, and what'll you have?"

"Do you have Cutty?"


"Give me a Black Label too."

"Two Black Labels it is."

When I concentrate, I have a habit of folding my hands as if in prayer, and resting my chin on my thumbs. I'm pretty sure that it comes from years spent on kneelers, pretending to pray. The practice shuts out the rest of the world.

Bob caught me in the position. Smiling, he gestured a priestly blessing, and sat beside me. He took a sip of his drink and sighed. "Have you ever been intimate with a woman?"

I'd had sex with over a dozen women.

"Not sex, intimacy. Have you ever immersed your spirit with another person?"

No, I'd never immersed.

"How can a guy that fasts regularly not understand immersion? For the Franciscans, immersion is a way of life." He raised his glass. "You are a Franciscan at heart." I toasted his analysis and waited for his reasoning.

The Rule of Saint Francis calls for members to practice simple living and detachment from material possessions. Austerity allows the Franciscans to work for social justice. The practice of daily self-examination and regular expression of thankfulness are "the roots from which our lives and ministries grow and are nourished." But it's the discipline of self-denial that places God and all his gifts above man. All men are subordinate to the higher nature of God. "When I walked up, you were in retreat."

"I was just thinking."

"Silent retreats and quiet days provide an opportunity to rest and grow physically, mentally and spiritually."

"Is that what I was doing, growing? Or was I running away?"

Bob took another swallow. "It isn't running away if you return."

He went on. Simplicity calls us to examine our giving of self as well as the material things over which we have control. Our cluttered lives, our preoccupations with "belonging", can interfere in our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to a life of simplicity, to eliminate those aspects of ourselves and our lives which prevent our full expression of God's love. "You're simplifying."

I wasn't sure if I believed in a God any more. I'd seen too many of his representatives do ungodly deeds.

"Don't confuse God and man, Gene."

"Don't confuse God and god, Bob."

We laughed and finished our drinks. I let the flavor linger in my mouth. The taste is one I treasure to this day.

Bob gave me an examining stare. "What does a person have to do to prove their love to you?"

That was a question that I wasn't prepared to answer.

A new bartender stepped up. Her long sun-bleached hair draped her tanned shoulders and muslin peasant blouse. Her dark blue eyes locked with mine. "Would you like another?"

I'd spent my education vacillating between catholic and public schools and Universities. I'd lived around and with priests and nuns. I'd witnessed them in moments of strength and weakness.
thanks to Gaili G for the art work
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by GaliaG at

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