There I was, laid off from any-old-job USA, three days before Thanksgiving. My father had surrendered his last breath that same day some years back.
I knew what I didn’t want to know. An awkward silence hung in the air, and that gut feeling refused to make room for a lunch that came late.
The day was busy, and it passed quickly. There was still more to do, but I stayed only because I knew I was about to be slaughtered. No need to prolong this, I thought.
The whole building had cleared out; it was only them and me now, and I could sense them making their move. They were closing in, and I could feel all my hopes for the holidays crumbling around me like castles of desiccated sand.
“There is no easy way of saying this,” came the voice, “but we have to let you go … go … go …”
The words rattled on in the background—something to do with tough seasons and business being slow. I wasn’t really sure at that point; with my own heartbeat roaring like a volcano, I couldn’t hear much else.
But the voice carried on as I collected two years’ worth of things I might leave behind amid a whirlwind of mixed emotions. Then the voice turned into a pair of eyes that watched and waited steadily: Corporate protocol, you know.
Passing the bulletin board, I had to laugh at the company memo bragging about how “we” had ranked third in the nation in sales. And as I headed out the back door for the last time, Another memo called after me, “Christmas Party Dec. 5!” I turned and wished them all happy holidays, thankful that they were humane enough not to return the gesture.
As I walked to my car, it was already dark out. A cold rain fell steadily, and I could feel all the pieces of that most recent memory already falling away like the feathers of a young falcon. The holiday pay, the medical benefits, Christmas dinner (typically accompanied by a much-anticipated bonus), and all the time in between that had enabled me to pay my rent: all of it just falling away right there in that wet and desolate little parking lot.
Liberating, somehow, but I couldn’t quite process it just yet. I sat in my car a moment, thinking, “What now?” as the rain outside tried to wash it all into the nearest gutter. “Just me again,” I thought to myself, stripped of all my little security blankets and star stickers.
It had actually happened. The man back there who once signed my paychecks will be out on his sailboat with his family, making amends with Jesus for the holidays and barely recalling any of it. Meanwhile, I’ll still be swimming away from the Titanic, headed toward the nearest iceberg.
Starting my car, I pulled back out onto the Road of Life. I gave it the gas and quickly wondered how I would pay for it. No parents, no wife, no close family, not even any children I could go home to and hug it out with. Nobody around to say, “Hey, I’ll pick up some extra hours for us” or slide a check into my pocket to get me through the holidays.
A bittersweet freedom—both a blessing and a curse. A reminder of loss at a time when so many were embracing gratitude.
I pushed through the Monday-night traffic in the steady rain, feeling as though I had no place to be. For a moment, I thought I should just go get hammered, but I soon realized there was no time for that. I needed to land on my feet; I’d had no warning and no time to prepare for this. Cascading waves of thoughts flooded my mind.
Arriving home, I found my housemates gone. The house was unusually cold, empty, dark and still except for the rain that kept tapping at the windows. Sitting on the kitchen counter, I stared into the floor, trying to collect my thoughts. So many damn thoughts.
I took some deep breaths, gave one last exhale and surrendered. I’d been liberated: a call of the wild for all those times I’d been rattling my chains and wished I were a river rushing river out of a broken dam into the ocean of life.
A wish granted for the opportunity to dive from the highest cliff into the deepest pools of my imagination and just flow—naked, wet and reborn—into a new year, a new America, and a new age of hope and change. To journey from here, wide open and thankful for every new moment…
Asheville resident Gino Tucillo is a writer, musician and graphic designer.