There was a break in the rain, so I walked out to one of the greenhouses where I like to go sit in my mother’s little office where she keeps her records on all the plants. My parents love these greenhouses and treat these plants like their own personal creations and not the product of nature. I came out here where it was quiet so I could think, but even though it was quiet, the powerful smell of fertilizer and insecticides made it difficult to hold my concentration.
I got settled in, and the first thought that crossed my mind was, it’s somebody’s birthday today; a chance to start over on a brand new year, rededicate themselves to their chosen life. My next thought, ringing with self-pity, was my chosen life is gone. I was going to play pro football for the next ten to fifteen years, become a coach in the pros and be a highly valued member of my community. I would probably be asked to come back to Chamberlain high school to speak to the football team, maybe the whole student body. The FSU football program would probably want me to talk to the young players; I would be an Icon at Florida State, maybe publicly acknowledged by the whole football world. ‘Well, that’s gone forever’, I moaned out loud.
My next thought and big idea was maybe I’ll go back to Las Vegas, start over, and become a solid citizen there. That faded quickly; replaced by the sobering thought that I have no real ties in Las Vegas. I didn’t make one single friend while I was there. I had been nothing but a working tourist, and after a couple of weeks, I didn’t even go back to visit my cousin who had helped me so much when I first got to town.
Suddenly, I saw Las Vegas like a blank artist canvas, a beautiful white, pristine canvas the way it would look before I could put a mark on it or a line or a blotch, a smear, a footprint, or dirt, tear drops, broken promises, disappointments or sniffles from self-pity. I squinted in my mind to turn away from it, but I couldn’t look away, couldn’t help but see that it was going to look almost exactly like the mess I’d run from in Tampa.
“Jack, Jack”, I jerked out of my stupor when I heard my mother’s excited voice calling me. “You got a call from Tallahassee, here’s the number.” She knew I had been looking for some excuse to go back to Tallahassee, and she wanted for me whatever I wanted.
It was my old friend Keith calling to tell me that a big FSU football booster in town heard that I was available and wanted me to come manage a new entertainment complex he was putting up on the outskirts of Tallahassee. Keith was the only person I’d told in Tallahassee that I was in trouble and he’d gone out and gotten me a job to try and get me back on track. I hadn’t asked him to help, but I didn’t have to, he was a real friend.