Walls

Walls

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

Walls

Tis friends and not places that make the world.

Bliss Carman

People often talk about the “walls” that some individuals build around themselves. I was one of those individuals. Long after I divorced and became a single parent, I still wore my wedding ring. To this day, I’m not exactly sure why I did that. I told myself that it was because it was too much trouble to get involved with anyone again. It sure beat admitting that men were not lined up to date me. Maybe it was because I didn’t want anyone to know that I had failed at something in my life. Wearing that ring helped me pretend that everything was okay.

You think that people can’t see through those kinds of walls. But they do. They just know enough to not let you know that they see you are pretending. One day at work, however, pretending didn’t come that easily. I was on my coffee break, preoccupied and worried. My car had died. Suddenly. And I didn’t have death benefits.

I needed that car to hold down my job. Without it, I would have to walk fourteen miles to and from work in North Bay. Even I could see the humour in that. Worse, my boys would get home from school before I did. That meant two things: The house would look like a cyclone had hit it, and Ontario Children’s Aid would be all over us like a rash.

One of the walls I had built around me was coming down faster than Jericho.

Just before I went on that coffee break, the garage had called and said the car repairs would come to $726. That car and I had a lot in common. We had just been kicked in our rear ends. I not only felt sick, I looked it. I didn’t have a credit card, and I certainly couldn’t call the $28 in my bank account “savings.” But every problem has a solution, and in my case that meant I had to ask someone else for something—even if it was only a lift downtown after work. This might not seem like a big deal to someone else, but I was a hard case: It’s difficult to give someone the equivalent of a Heimlich maneuver when they’re choking on their pride (as I was). Nevertheless, I got past my pride, and my colleague Jane volunteered to give me a ride to the garage after work.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to come up with bright ideas about how to pay my garage bill. I figured I could borrow $200 from my mom and pay her back at a rate of $2.50 a week. I thought of what I had at home that I could live without and therefore sell. I finally decided the best I could do was to offer to type up invoices for the garage—mine included.

When Jane dropped me at the garage that evening, the owner asked me to step into his office. He closed the door and went behind his desk. He cleared his throat and said, “There’s something I want you to see.” He opened a drawer. In it was a lot of loose change and small bills. “Do you know what this is?” he asked. Before I could say anything, he added, “People you work with have been coming in here all afternoon. Must have been 100 of them. Each one put money in this drawer. The lads in the shop have never seen anything like it!” He cleared his throat again. “They even decided to cut their labour costs in half. As it stands now, all you owe me is twelve bucks.”

I did three things I had never done before: I cried in public; I baked enough cookies to feed an army; and I stopped wearing my wedding ring.

Mary Lee Moynan
Powassan, Ontario
Submitted by Barry Spilchuk

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