Fast Cars and New Beginnings
While meticulously tucking in my bedding like my life depended on it, I noticed a book hidden in the back of a bookshelf. It was under the third shelf from the top and I wouldn’t have noticed it unless I bent down. It intrigued me that the bookshelves were empty. It would have been nice to have something to read, but I guess the shelves were for storing personal belongings.
My shelves stayed empty, except for the hidden Bible. My mission was getting home as quickly as possible, so I left my belongings in the brown paper bag they give to you at check in. I made my bed better than I did at home. The twin air mattress is easier to maneuver compared to the king mattress at home.
And a well-made bed equals a faster ticket home.
It’s kind of like boot camp. The main goal is to get through it and get out. At least for me anyway.
In the hospital, they monitor every little thing you do. How many hours did you sleep? Did you participate in group therapy? What about recreational therapy? Did you go outside with the group? Did you eat? How much did you eat? Did you shower? Is your glass half full??
One time, I think they even counted how many times I blinked.
Needless, to say it’s an intrusive process. I caught on pretty quickly and realized the things needed to secure the freedom ticket as quickly as possible. Everyday felt like a marathon to me.
I’d wake up early and make my bed. Then there was breakfast and morning meds. I’d either eat all of my food or give some away, so it always looked like I ate most of it. The homeless patients never let anything go to waste. They would take my extras.
Then there was shower time, which was a usually a sprint for me. You are issued a small travel size bottle of soap that smells like stale bread and a washcloth. The shower is tiny but I didn’t mind, because I could hold the bathroom door closed with one hand. Considering there was no lock on the door and the very real possibility of a serial killer being two doors down, I held on tight and showered with great efficiency.
Then the day was spent in classes and therapy. There was downtime, which usually consisted of watching movies or playing cards. Two more meals and two snacks – meant you never went hungry. You’d visit with the doctor for five minutes every other day.
Before you knew it, it would be time for night meds and then sleep. Then you’d start the marathon all over again.
Mr. Rembert had been doing the marathon for quite some time. Except, he didn’t run the race because he had nowhere to go. He moved around in a wheelchair. His legs and hands were swollen. His fingers were crippled with arthritis and no one had helped him clip his nails in quite some time.
I’d open his cracker packages and milk for him. He’d give me his iced tea. It wasn’t charity. It was a bartering business. He wasn’t one to ask for help and I understood completely. Having to depend on others is a tough feat.
One time he asked for my chocolate éclair. I agreed in exchange for his fruit. He was diabetic. At least that’s what the doctors told him. The caretaker caught us and made him give it back. He waited until she turned her back and swallowed that éclair in one bite. He moved pretty fast when dessert was involved.
We talked a lot and watched old Westerns. At least I tried. I’m not much of a television fan. I just had a lot of annoying questions like, “what’s happening here?”
“Is he the bad guy or the good one?”
Mr. Rembert was very patient with me, but I’d get a sideways glance during the intense parts of the movies -- so I’d slide on out of there.
Robert was usually in there too. He was an older gentleman who always wore a yellow sweater vest. They knew each other, because they both had quit the race some time ago. You could tell they bonded over the movies.
Mr. Rembert was like a grandpa. I would have taken him for mine. I missed my Grandpa. We’d eat our cookies and drink coffee. We talked about fast cars. We both liked classic cars.
“What car is your favorite?” he asked.
“That’s easy – Eleanor,” I replied.
“What’s an Eleanor?”
“Well, let me school you on a movie I have actually finished. Several times actually. The acting is okay, but the cars – that’s what it’s all about. She’s the last car of the heist in Gone in 60 Seconds – a 1967 Shelby GT500 fastback. She’s gray with a black racing stripe and I love her,” I said.
I think I lost Mr. Rembert somewhere in my excitement and he went for a nap. I spent a few hours in my room alone. Honestly, I was hiding from this other guy – super sweet young man. He just needed someone to talk to and I was his earpiece. I really didn’t mind, but his heavy childhood was weighing on my heart.
Mr. Rembert was already sitting in the cafeteria with his coffee and cookies watching movies when I emerged from solitude. I just needed coffee. Turns out it was decaf. Robert ruined that placebo for me. I also wanted cookies for the billionth time. Robert called them manna from heaven.
“Where have you been?” he asked.
“What were you reading?”
“The Bible,” I replied.
“Oh, I haven’t read the Bible in a long time,” he said.
“Don’t have one. What book are you reading?”
“Revelation. For the fiftieth time,” I replied.
“Ooh, that’s scary. Isn’t it?” he asked. I gave him a one eyebrow raised look considering this question was coming from a grown man.
“About as scary as showering in this joint while imagining the shower scene from Psycho,” I chuckled. I don’t think I ever made it through that movie either. At least without my hands covering my eyes.
“Nothing. It’s only scary if you stop half-way. Got to make it to the ending, so you can read about the new beginning. Want to read it?”
“I don’t have a Bible,” he said.
“I do. It’s not really mine. Someone left it behind.”
He sat in his usual spot in the cafeteria reading the last book. His crooked fingers struggled to turn the thin pages. He skipped movie time and read straight through. He handed the book back to me when he finished.
“So what did you think? Was it scary?” I asked.
“A little,” he replied.
“But you made it to the end. What did you think about that new beginning?”
“Sounds pretty nice,” he said.
“Yeah, it does. Doesn’t it?”
I made sure to say my “good-byes” on my last day. Mr. Rembert was sitting in his wheelchair in his usual spot in the cafeteria. I had my brown paper bag in hand, waiting for the call that my ride was there. It was bitter sweet. I was worried he wouldn’t have anyone to open his cookies. I told him not to sneak too many sweets.
My ride showed up.
“Where are you going when you get home?” he asked.
“The beach. I will head to the beach by myself tomorrow.”
“Driving a fast car?” he asked.
“A Camry. Nothing special. One of those cars for responsible people.”
“I thought you drove a fast car. Eleanor,” he said.
“Oh, how I wish. I’ll save her for the next life – the new beginning you read about,” I said as I headed out the double doors.
“Take care Mr. Rembert. See you on the flip side. We’ll drive some fast cars,” I added.
“Sounds pretty nice.”
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4, NIV)