This I Believe

Jessica - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Entered on October 23, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: carpe diem

I believe in the importance to end every conversation as if it were the last.

Walking home from school today, a beat up truck coming towards me started to slow down. My mind jumped to a story I’d heard about a woman who’d been dragged into a car, killed. Even as the truck sped up again and drove away, the uncomfortable thought came: what if that was me? What if today, walking home, that happened to me?

Reassured by the quick consoling thought that I am destined for more than that, I ignored the story; but my thoughts started wandering. The last thing I’d done before leaving school popped into my head. I saw myself talking to a friend, how we’d made small talk and then, as the conversation died and we’d both started to walk away, I called back, “Have a good day.” Not expecting me to say anything more, he turned back, surprised, and said, “You too.” I remembered wondering if it had been necessary to say that, if it made me sound too formal or too generic. “Have a good day” isn’t usually part of teen slang. But walking down the street, I thought, what if that was to be the last thing I ever said to someone? Would he realize it? Would he remember? Would that be the way I was remembered- the girl who made sure to say, “have a good one” to people she left, even if she didn’t know them very well.

I think I would be happy with that.

Almost home now, a dusty looking man crosses the street towards me. My reflex is to walk a little faster- automatic for a me, used to walking alone. As he gets closer, I see he’s going to his car parked on the street close by. He’s carrying a hardhat. Internally chiding myself for my paranoia, I send over a polite smile to the construction worker as I go by. He looks at me and asks, “So how was your day at the office?” I laugh a little, thinking, “I’m in high school,” but reply, “Not bad, how was yours?” He laughs and says it was dirty, grimy work. I laugh apologetically, taken by surprise at the conversation. As I continue to walk away, he calls, “Have a good day!”

Instantly I pull together how I had been wary of the man’s conversation, and how my first thought had been a defensive one. I also realized that the man probably knew that I would be surprised that he was talking to me, that it has started to become more and more unacceptable for strangers to talk on the street, especially middle aged men to solitary girls. He bothered to add on this simple wish for me, even as I continued to walk away, realizing now that I had never actually stopped walking to talk.

Now THAT is someone who is going to be greatly remembered. I grin and call back, “Yeah. You too.”