My son and I went on an expedition last night. He made a 7p.m. appointment with a man he found on Craig's List. We drove for a little over an hour while it was pouring down rain, and the traffic was heavy; red brake lights stretched ahead of us for as far as we could see. Charles had a geography lesson; going south from Northampton, we passed Holyoke, next we waved goodbye to Springfield, then we crossed the border from Massachusetts to Connecticut. Later, Charles asked about the high rise buildings he saw up ahead. "Charles, that's Hartford!" He had no idea it was so big. "This I said, "Is the problem with using GPS!"
We arrived safely at West Farms Mall. The location is a popular mecca for shoppers within a radius of two hours. Charles and I used the Mall Map successfully to locate the Starbuck's he had chosen as a safe, public place to make the trade. His contact kept Charles posted with his e.t.a.s as they were recalculated on his iphone.
The Craig's lister arrived, a young, neatly dressed Hispanic man who had a retinue of two other young men. I was there merely as an observer, discretely settled in a lounge chair in the corner while the four of them made introductions. The young men chose a square table for four, then pulled out chairs and settled down to business. Charles and the Craig's Lister exchanged their offerings so they could each assess whether the deal would go any further. The nods and smiles led me to believe all was well. Within eight minutes, the deed was done.
As we left, Charles walked on the balls of his feet with a little bounce that had not been evident on our way to the mall. He guarded his new laptop he had exchanged for his iPad as we wended our way back to the parking lot. We had a lengthy discussion on how to protect his computer from the rain. Charles wrapped it inside of a canvas bag we had brought for that express purpose. I was instructed to hold it close to my chest while Charles escorted me to the car. His arm was fully extended as he held an umbrella over my head.
On the ride home, the anxiety and uncertainty that was in the air on the way south had dissipated. With the rhythm of the wipers, my son and I were insulated. It was one of those moments that I will always treasure. Charles talked about how he saw himself now and his goals for the future. He was passionate, secure and detailed in his articulation for the next five years. What was memorable and made the drive home special was that it was the first time I saw Charles as an individual. I perceived him as a young man -- not merely as my son. What's more, I realized that he was a young man I really liked.