I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen. So… I made a rope and I went up to the summit, to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log, snapped the limb of the tree, so I-I – , I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over *nothing*. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?

— Chuck Noland, “Cast Away”

THE NIGHT I MET WIZ

A few weekends ago I met up with my mom in Fort Lauderdale. It had been almost 5 months since we saw each other, so we thought a little weekend getaway would be fun.

I decided to leave my bus home parked in Northern Florida where I have been living out of it full time, so a buddy picked me up and we drove south to Fort Lauderdale beach. Once my mom flew in from Vegas, both of us living out of a hotel and driving a rental car, we definitely felt like tourists on vacation.

It was nice to get away from the bus and the day-to-day routine of living in a tiny space parked in a small quiet community. I was enjoying the change of pace and different scenery.

My mom and I drove from the hotel to the beach and looked for parking at a busy tourist place, near a pier with shops and restaurants. We found a metered parking spot but didn’t have enough coins, so I walked across the street to the convenience store to get some change. And did I get it!

I walked in and made my way over to the counter on the right. “Hey there. Could I get some quarters for parking please?” I asked the gentleman behind the counter, as I was passing him a $5 bill.

“I have to politely ask that you buy something, and I’ll be glad to give you $3 worth of quarters.” Dude man says to me.

“Fair enough,” I told him, and I start looking down waist level, through the immediately available, calculatingly placed deliciously enticing candy.

I bought a roll of mints. Fuck the system.

That was when I noticed the dude standing in the corner right next to me. These two must have been in the middle of a conversation when I walked up. Shorter fellow, no odor, bland clothing.

I stuffed the mints into my pocked and held out my hand for the change, when I noticed corner dude looking at the tattoo on my left forearm. He leaned in more.

“That is some cool ink. Can I take a closer look?” He was looking at the beat up, straw-filled volleyball with a bloody hand-print face.

“For sure! It’s Wilson from Cast Away.” I told dude man as I leaned my arm closer to him, while grabbing the money to pay for the parking meter.

“Oh wow! Interesting. I love that movie. Such a great story.” Corner dude says to me.

“Right?! It’s a constant reminder to always be your own best friend. To be comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone.” I reply to him.

“I get it! Have you played around much with solitude?” asked corner dude man, wearing a sand colored shirt and dark grey cargo pants. I moved away from the counter since I got what I needed, and turned toward corner dude so that we could talk face to face.

“Here and there, yes sir. That story means a lot to me. Survival through some of the darkest moments, only to continue breathing.” I lifted up my shirt sleeve to show him the tattoo on my right arm and shoulder. “This here is the tree of life, and that’s a white blaze for my 6 month Appalachian Trail Hike. Out there in nature”

“Incredible! Very interesting stuff. Thank you for showing me. But yeah, I see things and hear things that other people don’t. Something that comes with experience.” Dude man told me with a big smile on his clean shaven face.

“Well bud, I’m Patrick.” I told corner dude man as I reached out my hand to shake his.

“I’m Wiz.” He told me as we shook hands and continued eye contact.

“Wiz?! Whaat?! You sure are!” I told him in amazement. My eyes wandered up from his. I noticed his marine core hat.

We went into the details of Tom Hanks’ character living on the island and surviving through the harsh weather and the solitude. Then we started talking about groundhog day.

“Have you read the book? The one that inspired the movie? Did you know that the guy lived in that town for over a thousand years?” Wiz asked me, both of us facing and turned toward each other.

‘Whaaat? I had no idea it was a book. That makes the story even more incredible.” I told Wiz.

“Yeah. Makes you wonder. At what point do you consider suicide? How long would you have to live, re-live the same day, to think about it and then actually do it?” Wiz asked me.

“Well, I definitely have an all or nothing way of thinking. It’s either this or that, drastic extremes at times. I love and live life to the fullest and then I can really get depressed and go inward.” I told Wiz, who at this point was no longer a random stranger, but a friend I had not yet met.

“We all do. We enjoy things too much, we worry too much. Too much. It’s all about moderation. Moderation is Key.” He looked me straight in the eyes, as we stand in the corner of the convenience store, near the exit door. As he took a pause, through the doors in the distance, I caught a glimpse of my mom walking over from where we parked the car. This conversation had been going on for a few minutes. Time didn’t matter as I gave Wiz my full attention; he is a wonderful human being.

“See it like this. Someone loves chocolate, and they eat it nonstop for a couple days, maybe 3 days and they’ll get tired of the thing they love. But the person that looks at chocolate like a treat he loves to enjoy, and they eat one piece every evening or occasionally, well, that person is going to enjoy chocolate their entire life. Moderation is the key!”

Right then my mom walked into the store. Wiz was first to step back a few feet, to make room for this customer to walk up to the counter.

“Hey Wiz, this is my mom. I gotta go put these quarters in the meter, then were heading to eat.”

“Oh! Hi mom. I am so sorry to have kept Patrick. I apologize.” Wiz told her, breaking off our conversation. It was time to head out.

“Well, have a great rest of your night. Remember, moderation is key!”

“Take care, thanks for the chat. You truly are a Wiz.” I told him as my mom and I walked out of the convenience store. “Mom, that guy was really cool. What an amazing moment. Really good conversation.”

Greatest of luck in your travels everyone. Embrace the moment and enjoy random conversations.

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