He held his hand out to thumb a ride out of this place. As with most of his adventures he wasn’t sure where he was going, but he knew he had gotten all he could out of this small town on the edge of South Carolina. He had loved his time being able to dip into the Atlantic Ocean to clear his head, but things had gotten too complicated. He wasn’t a complicated man, but trouble seemed to always find him. And standing at 6’8 it was tough for him to hide from any of that trouble. People seemed to want to test themselves out against him. They wanted to see if they could handle fighting a giant of a man, with hands that were still almost too big for his large frame. His hands had seen many fights in his day. You would think that his 50 year old body would have long ago seen its last fight, but that would be far from the truth.
It had been like this ever since he was of school age. He was always tall, which was an easy thing to tease him about. His name though, that is what the boys really didn’t like about him. The name Lee wasn’t all that common, and he remembers the first time his teacher took attendance and said is “Lee Jenkins here”. He raised his giant hand and he could hear a boy chuckle and whisper “That’s a girls name”. He made the mistake of snapping and yelling at the boy, but that was all the other boys needed to know. They knew that was his trigger. From that day on, they knew his weakness. It’s a cruel thing boys do when you are young. They pick on your insecurity as a way of hiding their own. If we make fun of Lee about this maybe no one will know I can’t swim, or whatever else that makes you uncomfortable.
He knew, even at the age of 5 that he was going to have to fight his way thru life. His size simply made him a target. Some boys would learn how to fight at home, and Lee was no different. But, while most boys would have a brother or two that they could test themselves with, Lee did not have that. He had a father who loved to fight. He had that “every Dad in a movie” type feel. You know, the alcoholic coming home from the bar after a long day of working and just putting a beating on someone. For years, it had been his wife, or Lee’s mom who took the worst of it. Incoherent mumblings followed by a few left hooks. Lee had taken a few beatings too, but he wasn’t smart or strong enough to pick the fights with his father to give his mother the night off. He felt paralyzed watching his mother get knocked around. Everything in his body screamed to help, he pictured himself being the hero, but he NEVER moved. He knew what was right, but his body just froze. He watched silently for years. He would watch the beatings from the top of the stairs, and when his father had gotten his fix, he would stumble of the stairs passing his little boy, and the only thing Lee could muster was a quick stare into his fathers’ devil eyes. He would head downstairs and help his Mom clean up the mess. He knew enough to help clean the broken dishes or put the broom away, but he could never find the right words to say to his broken mother.
Luckily for Peggy Jenkins, her husband died when Lee was 14. His temper finally caught up to him one night outside a bar. He had finally said the wrong thing to the wrong guy. Lee envied the man that finally took his fathers life. He had killed his drunk father with his bare hands. There was pushing and shoving and just one punch. It landed squarely to the temple of Sam Jenkins. He fell to the concrete and smashed his head into the curb. He was dead instantly, which was the only thing that Lee didn’t love about it. He wanted his father to suffer. He cried when he heard the news, but not because he mourned the death, he was burying his dream of being the one to kill his Dad. He had gone over the scenario what felt like a million times. He didn’t get to play the hero in his own story.
After her husbands death Peggy never really got on her feet. Lee just assumed that once the evil man was gone that all would be sunshine and rainbows in their house, but that was not to be. It was almost like Peggy picked up the bottle that Sam left behind. She would drown her sorrows in pills and booze, and try to fill the love she was missing with different men. A few were abusive just like Lee’s father was, but Lee didn’t have the hate in his heart for these men, and it appeared to him that his mother sort of craved this type of attention. He hadn’t seen this as a boy, but it appeared to him that his mother was to broken to fix.
One day, late in the summer of 1997 at the age of 17 he just left. He didn’t pack a suitcase, he didn’t kiss his mother goodbye, he didn’t empty his bank account. He just decided to walk until his feet hurt, and when that happened he held his hand out and put up his thumb and hitched a ride. This was his first ride to nowhere. This was when he discovered the road would be his only friend.
TO BE CONTINUED….