The Search For Happiness
It had been one of those weeks and we decided to keep Sawyer home from school. Usually Sawyer doesn’t want to leave the house when school catches up with him, but on this day he suggested we go to the Japanese hobby store that he visited with his camp last summer. He had suggested this before, but I did not know where this store was, and he said he did not either. On this day, however, he said, “It’s near the music store where I got my guitar and then had to give it back.” So we went, driving past the music store and down into a vast, chain-link fenced wasteland of a parking lot surrounding the Gene Juarez Hair Salon Academy. We parked by a crowd of young women smoking cigarettes and laughing. When I was a teenager I was drawn to girls with black, black hair who wore a bit too much makeup and very tight pants. There was no subtlety in their fashion sense, and I appreciated this. Life seemed to be accelerating in its capacity for complication, and I hoped their company could slow this down. When I would see one, I was frequently overcome with urgency. “Go to her now, Bill,” I would hear. “What if she is the answer?”
As Sawyer and I left the car and began our search for the Japanese hobby store, it seemed as if we had stumbled upon a beehive of girls with midnight black hair, too much makeup, and tight pants. Winding our way out of the parking lot and then up the street toward the mini-mall behind the Academy, another and then another and another emerged from a car or appeared from a doorway.
Sawyer did not notice the swarm of future-beauticians. He was looking for the hobby store, and with every step he took desperation that he would not find it began to grow in him. Arriving at the mini-mall he became frantic. “It used to be here! I know it was here!”
Then we passed a small urban clothing store and Sawyer stopped. “I think it used to be there.” His voice choked. “I remember that counter.” I ducked inside and the clerk confirmed what Sawyer feared. I stepped outside and broke the news.
“No!” Sawyer howled. I led him to a bench and sat next to him while he wept. “It’s ruined,” he cried. “Everything’s ruined. All my happiness is gone!”
All the things I thought to say at that moment I had the good sense not to. I waited and he eventually wiped his face dry and suggested we visit a different store. We walked together back to our car, all his desperation drained out of him now, weaving our way through beautician after beautician. Always the writer, I was still thinking about what I might have said on that bench, wondering if I could ever answer my son’s questions as articulately as life just had.
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