"You guess? Never guess. You gotta know. I mean you gotta know what you're
doing. Because if you guess, you're leaving yourself wide open to suggestion.
And that to my mind is what's wrong with this whole country. I mean it's
going straight to hell. Everybody's open to suggestion." - Rory Calhoun as
Earnest Tucker in "Pure Country."
Friday was set
aside for the 90 minute trip down to school. I needed to get the ball rolling
on this associate's degree thing... and I wanted to see
Alex... and I needed to spend
some time getting the school paper ready for the fall. I did all three, so
I guess the trip was successful. But as with any good Thomas Fletcher experience,
the trip wasn't without a little drama.
Thursday night, I went with three friends to a minor league baseball game
in Franklin. I napped a bit
on the ride home... but didn't go to bed as soon as I got home... that would
hurt me later on. I crashed about three and woke up about 6:30 for an accident.
The three-and-a-half hours of sleep and the small nap would have to do because
once the accident was taken care of, it was time to head south to school.
I got to school, saw Alex and
got a hug. For a moment, she seemed happy to see me. My soon-to-be Deputy
Editor at the paper,
Jonathan, was there, too.
We sat around the office for an hour or so and talked.
Alex was friendly... and seemed
happy enough. But for some reason, I sensed some sort of distance that she
put between us. This is the way our friendship has always been. One minute
we are operating on the exact same wavelength. We have perfect moments (See
July 5th). It's a beautiful thing. I think
so. She says she thinks so. But then there are times when her unbelievably
large independent streak pops out. And there is this air about her that says,
"I need no one but myself to survive and be happy." For some reason, I was
getting some of those vibes Friday... and they weren't as noticible as the
other times I've seen them in our friendship... but enough to alarm me for
I had made a slight mention to
Alex earlier in the week about
us doing something together. You know, the two of us. But not in a date sort
of way. Afterall, we're just friends. Right? I wanted to see the apparently
cheezy "Autumn in New York." I got the vibe that it would be a good movie
to see with Alex. Afterall, we
had gone to movies together where people die at the end. And we enjoyed them.
(At least I think Wynona Rider dies in the movie -- I haven't seen it yet).
Jonathan, another friend of
ours and I were going out to lunch.
Alex couldn't come, she said.
Why? Well, it seems that she was going shopping and -- yes, you guessed it
-- to see the movie "Autumn in New York" with some family-type people. What
the hell is up with that?
Jonathan and I managed to
rearrange the entire newspaper office. We've had some problems with piss-poor
attitudes from staffers in semesters past. Lazy attitudes. We want to express
to them that things are different. EVERYthing will be different -- even the
furniture. We called up Alex after
her little movie watching and shopping trip and the three of us made plans
to go out and eat.
After Jonathan and I shared
three pitchers of beer during supper, I was even more curious about what
was going on in Alex's head than
before. But I started with the simple stuff. I asked her why she didn't go
to the movie with me. Her response was, "it wasn't a date movie." I replied,
"that's good because it wasn't supposed to be a date. We aren't dating are
we? Do you want to go out on a date?" She said no. She also said she went
to see it because her family-type people paid her way. I told her I would
have been happy to have paid her way... I think good friends can do that
without making it "a date." She wasn't fond of that idea, either. This didn't
make much sense to me. The combination of her words and the vibes I sensed
from her made me think there was something else going on in her head. And
I wanted to figure it out.
I told her that there were two sides of her that I'd seen. One was smart,
warm, beautiful and wonderful... It was the side that showed on July 5th.
I want to bottle that side of her. And then I told her that there is this
other side of her. It is a "I'm happy as can be all by myself and I don't
need anyone else" side. I was honest. I told her that that was the least
desirable side. Her response was, "I'm not here to make Thomas Fletcher happy."
(Yes, she used my full name -- it was like my mother was yelling at me for
something I did wrong or something). I don't think she is supposed to make
me happy... but I don't understand why she bounces around the mood scale.
There is no center point for
Alex. I don't know what normal
for her is. Every day is something a little bit different. And I'm not the
only person to think so. It's just that I've grouped her moods into two large
groups... the happy & beautiful mood... and the ugly, independent mood.
When she jokes with me... and is afraid that she may have offended me or
upset me in some way, she always comes back with the sentence, "You know
I love you." After she told me that she wasn't here to make me happy, I asked
her... "What do you always say to me when you think you've upset me?" She
replied with, "You know I love you." I had been having this conversation
in the doorway of her car in
Jonathan's driveway. I replied,
"This goes for both of your personalities... I love you to." I closed the
door and waved goodbye.
Regardless of what's going on in her head... I know that the girl thinks
about what I say to her. I hope that my final words Friday night stuck with
her. I hope she thinks about them. I hope that she figures out what she wants
"us" to be... and can let me know. I know that you have to like -- and love
-- folks for who they are. You can't change them. But you can't change something
if you don't know what it is to begin with. And with
Alex, I just don't know where
her center point is. I don't know if the wonderful side of her is "normal"
or if the wacked out side is. And that's something I need to know. But perhaps,
she doesn't know. If that's the case, I would love to be the person to help
her find out.
Gee, that was long. I needed
to vent. It's okay. I'm better now.
It's just that I need a sign. What is she thinking? What does she want? What
should I do? Am I a friend? Am I more? What is normal for her? Warm and charming?
Or fiercely independent? Can't she be warm, charming & independent? It's
worked for others. I just need a sign, that's all. Then maybe, I'll be happy.
Oh, that's right. She's not here to make me happy. [Note sarcasm]
last two months that I've had and how they've been so full of fire fighting
experience... it's forced me to reflect on what I want to do with my life.
(Okay, so it didn't force me... I reflected on my own free will).
And all of this reflection has done nothing but reinforce what I've known
for several years.
My involvement with the fire service came early in my life. My grandfather
was the former chief of the volunteer department of his town and I grew up
chasing fire trucks. I guess I never really grew out of the stage until I
started riding them. And, actually, a recent fire truck ride sparked most
of my recent reflection.
I was at the Central Station a few weeks ago when a report of a brush fire
came in. Usually, I would drive to the location from where ever I happened
to be at the time. Since I was at the fire station, however, I rode out with
the guys on duty. This was the first time I had ever responded to a fire
with the duty guys. This wasn't my first fire truck ride... but it was the
first one that involved actual fire.
The fire wasn't big. It was easy to put out. I believe it was started by
a kid playing with some matches. At least, that was the last story that I
heard. But here is the deal, these folks had a problem. They're back yard
was on fire and it was spreading to the nearby woods. They called us. We
solved the problem. When we rolled up they were happy to see us. That's a
feeling that I don't often get as a newspaperman.
When you cover a story, there is almost always someone that doesn't want
you to be there. I know. I've been on the receiving end of some dramatic
speeches about how the event in question "wasn't news" and I've been told
"you don't belong here" a few times, too. However, what's harder to handle
sometimes is not the people who openly don't want you there (because at least
you know how they feel)... The real problems are the people that are evasive
and take pleasure in making your job difficult.
Firefighters usually don't experience those things... at least not in my
neck of the woods. The fire department rarely shows up uninvited. At least
one person has to call them. And even if a fire is arson, chances are the
arsonist will stick around and watch the show. Many arsonists want the fire
department there as much as anyone. The point is that when there is a problem,
people turn to the fire department. In the field of public service, the FD
is the jack of all trades. The police? They do mostly crime. EMS? They handle
sick people. Fire Department? Anything and everything you throw their way.
They are here to help and most folks appreciate that. I want to be a part
of that on a regular basis. News is fun. It's exciting. But firefighting,
at least so far, is more so. And I'm dreading going back to school and giving
it up for a while.