For Mom and Dad
The ball I threw while playing in the park
Has not yet reached the ground
SAN JOSE, CA 1990
Jason was staring out the passenger side window of a pickup truck driving along a Santa Clara Valley freeway as he agonized over his future. Seemed like I had it all, Jason thought, a good job with room to grow, all my friends were together, Christine and I didn’t have a care in the world, the future looked bright…has it all come to an end? He beheld how much his life had changed over the previous few months as the memories gathered and came to a painful recollection. And poor Randy, he further lamented, and regret weighed him down.
The morning sun above the eastern Mount Hamilton range shone across the hazy, late autumn sky as the truck exited off the freeway and merged onto a busy thoroughfare. Faceless buildings cast shadows on half filled parking lots and dry landscaping. Jason looked at the sterile, Silicon Valley expanse of unadorned, one and two story concrete tilt-ups and was dispirited by its plainness. Was it ever really that good, he wondered, was it just too good to be true?
“So what do you think about all this?” Hal asked from the driver’s seat.
Jason was knocked off his train of thought. “Huh?”
“You know, what’s going on in the Persian Gulf. They’ve been talking about it on the radio all morning.”
“Oh, I guess I wasn’t paying attention.” Jason once again noticed the news talk over the radio. He was a little annoyed at the interruption, then wondered how long his mind was somewhere else.
“Don’t you follow the news? This is going to be major.”
“Of course. I was just thinking about some other stuff.”
“We may be going to war soon,” Hal emphasized. “What’s more important than that?”
“Look, I hear ya,” Jason agreed, “but I got a lot of other things on my mind right now.”
“More important than what’s going on?”
“Probably not, but it’s important to me.” Jason sensed Hal waiting for an answer. “Personal stuff, you know.” He tried to hold onto the series of memories he was thinking of as he waited for the intrusion to end.
“Okay, I won’t pry. But you might want to start paying attention to what’s going on. I’m too old to be drafted, but you aren’t.”
“No one’s been drafted in years,” Jason replied. “I’m not worried about that.”
“Well if things gets worse, you’ll hear about it,” Hal warned.
“I’m sure I will,” Jason answered reflexively. They drove along passing by one nondescript business park after another.
“It might be good for the economy,” Hal pointed out. “Wars usually are.”
“Yeah, as long as you don’t get killed.”
“Seriously, look around at all these tech businesses. This whole valley was built because of the Defense Department, and with the Cold War over we need something new to keep the gears turning.”
Hal continued to talk as Jason looked out the window lost in thought. He tried to turn his attention back to the present and what he had to do that day, but the past kept drawing him in. When did it all start to change? he pondered, the year started out really good, every weekend was a party, I almost had my sixty units so I could transfer to a four year school, everything was looking bright.
Jason then remembered how credit card bills suddenly piled up at around the same time the rent on the house he was sharing with friends increased. When was that, he tried to recall, March? April? He further remembered how his parents let him move back home so he could pay off his debt quicker, how he told himself, and everyone else, that it was only a temporary situation, and how everyone agreed. But he was also bothered by the idea that he was taking a step backward.
Jason leaned back and rested his arm on the window frame. Did life already hit its peak? he worried, is it all downhill from here? and how did I end up here in the first place? He pored over his memories from the beginning of the year onward and looked for a turning point. His search began to focus on a company meeting at his old job in the early summer, not long after he moved back home but when life was still good. That was some day, he remembered fondly, they said everything was looking up, and the future was only going to get better…we were true believers.
Jason thought back to that day.
©2016 Robert Kirkendall