Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
In the middle of Pennsylvania, after driving through sleet and ice for five hours, it is a relief to smile at the two older men sitting for coffee at the gas station. I offer a delirious grin in their direction.
I ask the clerk about the remarkable church on the hill just above us. “St. Basil, I think,” she shrugs as though she’d barely noticed it. The whole time I fueled up my car, I kept staring over my roof rack at the steeple. Perhaps I noticed the church because of the Thomas Merton I’d been podcasting, or the prayers I’d been practicing in gratitude for windshield wipers, GPS, and hearty tires. However, I’d also like to hope I am feeling more attuned to all of my surroundings. I often worry that when I come home to the United States, I’ll get into the rhythm of home and forget to pocket these small moments. So I’m collecting them carefully.
The little old men are at two different tables, but they face each other. So from time to time they call out a comment, but don’t have to commit to a conversation. I tell them Happy New Year, head to my car, remember the receipt didn’t print at the pump, and smile sheepishly at them as I wipe my shoes again to approach the counter. I smile once more on my departure, “See you in a minute,” one calls, and they both chuckle. I blush and beam, as all those nerves from the slick roads and slow-going fade away in their laughter.