A bitter man…A short story…

“Where the mind goes, the body follows.”

In the background the rock band, RATT, sings Round and Round. I’ve tried to explain to my nephew a million times that people choose to be a certain way or do certain things. These words appear to bounce off of his thick skull.

This is no time for this talk, we have several trucks that have to be loaded before we get off of work. People mill about us waiting for the next truck to be backed up to the dock. We have a few moments until we pull the next order, but this isn’t a conversation I want to have with anyone.

“Not true at all, unc. Some people don’t choose at all. They just end up that way or…”

My frown deepens. In his defense, he recognizes it and his words trail off. He runs a hand through his thick hair. I’m jealous, my hair vanished years ago.

“Listen to me, boy. Not making a choice is still a choice. If you give up the reins of your own life, that is a choice you make. No one is exempt from the consequences of your choices, those willfully made or not.”

“I don’t see it like that.”

“Of course you don’t, that’s why we are having this talk for the millionth time. You’re 18. You have been endowed with all knowledge from on high.”

I’m aware of what I don’t know, unc. I just don’t see what has you so bitter.”

These words stop me in my tracks. “Bitter? Me?” Anger floods my body, but I try to reel it in. I turn to my nephew and lock eyes with him.

“Excuse me?”

To his credit, there isn’t an ounce of back-up in his being. He continues with his observation. 

“You’re a bitter old man and I can’t figure out why. Is it because you didn’t get to finish your career? Or is it because you have never succeeded at love? Either way, you need to let go of those hateful feelings you have toward whatever and choose to be happy.”

I want to punch him in his perfect little face. My nostrils flare and my eyes narrow. I clench my fists tightly and release them. My mouth goes dry but I can’t think up a retort. 

“You’re my uncle and I love you. No one would blame you for harboring ill feelings toward either one of those things. Bitterness eats you up inside. Let it go and move on.”

“Just like that, huh. Do you have any idea what it’s like to walk into an office, and have them tell you that you’re unfit to do your duty?”

“No-”

“Then shut up before I wreck you.”

The long night continues to drag by, an awkward silence grows between my nephew and I. There is enough work to keep us busy, but the truth of my nephew’s words has hit home. As we load one truck after another, I think about what has been said. “Yes, I should let it go.” Nothing good comes from harboring these ill feelings but the pain of the past looms darkly in my mind.

My nephew steps from the shadows as I wallow in self-pity. He watches me as I struggle with my internal demons and finally asks, “are you okay, unc?”

“Yeah, just throwing myself a pity party. What’s going on?”

“I came to apologize. Look, I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes-”

“It’s alright. Maybe I am bitter. It would explain a lot, I suppose. Don’t worry about it.”

“You lost everything. I’m sure that was difficult. I just want you to know that I am in your corner.”

I nod and stand to my feet. My supervisor hands me the clipboard and I slap my nephew on the shoulder.

“It’s the last truck. Let’s get this done, I’m getting hungry.”

Together we walk through the doors to fill the last order. Mist rises from the cooler floor and I am struck by the irony. “A foggy cooler and a foggy mind, what are the odds?” The darkness in my heart threatens to smother me. 

Yep, I’m bitter.