I sit across from a crooked, old man in a wheelchair. He is dressed in a wrinkled suit of tan linen with leather shoes and a deep brown felt derby hat. As I put the hard questions to him, he remains as calm and cool as the earth tones he wears. He explains away the rough patches of his life in stories with movement and flair, dancing around everything but a simple answer.
“You know about the Good Old Boys?”
He smirks when I shake my head.
“They ran this town in the 80’s. They had all of the drugs and you didn’t mess with them.”
I picture the “good, old boys” from my hometown with their pick-ups and lips full of chew, wearing flannel shirts and scuffed boots. Sure, they had guns, but they kept the safety on and used them for hunting or to run off trespassers and the occasional out-of-towner.
“I needed money, so I got mixed up with them and ended up in little bit of trouble.”
He refers to a hefty prison sentence for an armed robbery which involved cocaine, and an unregistered handgun.
“A little trouble, huh?”
Just like how the Good Old Boys of his past weren’t really “good”, this wasn’t what would be considered a little trouble. A speeding ticket or a warning for loud music was more like a little trouble than ten years in prison, but who was I to judge?
How easily could our backgrounds have been switched by being born to different families in different environments? In a parallel universe, maybe I sit across from him with a fly looking hat, a monochromatic suit and endless tales of adventure and danger. And in that world, I hope he can withhold judgement just long enough to listen and learn a thing or two about life on the streets.