Kisses From a Stranger

Deceitful are the kisses…

The aging man, doing his best to push back the inevitable devastation of his accumulated years, jogged tiredly along the sidewalk that wound through the park.  His pocket companion had, just moments before, informed him in a perky female voice through his ear buds, that one mile was complete out of the five he intended to cover in his circuit that afternoon.  The elapsed time for that first mile was more than a minute slower than the time he wanted to hear from the vivacious announcer-in-a-box, so he picked up the pace a little.  His mind was miles ahead already, wondering how many more calories he could consume later today, thanks to this little outing.

Rounding a turn leading to a secluded bridge across the lazily flowing creek that cut across the path, the old guy suddenly noticed the whirring sound of bicycle wheels on the concrete beside him.  He moved over to the right, expecting that the bike wheels would continue past as they always did.  The sound of the wheels never passed him, but continued at the same volume directly to his left.  Glancing over, he saw a young man, perhaps eighteen or nineteen years old, now matching his slower speed along the winding walkway.  The cheerful teen called out a greeting and proceeded to strike up a conversation with the runner, who pulled the earphone out of his left ear to be able to hear him.

“How far are you running?”  It seemed at once, a logical question, and a strange one.  Logical, since the man was running through the park and it would make sense to talk about the activity in which he was engaged; strange, because the man had never in his life laid eyes on this boy.  Years of experience have taught the old fellow to be cautious, and perhaps even a little suspicious.  Nevertheless, he answered honestly, if a little breathlessly.

“Another four miles.”

“Oh man.  That’s too far!  Why are you running that far?”

The alarm bells were sounding faintly.  “Just getting some exercise.  Trying to lose a little weight.”

“Hey, you look good!  You don’t need to lose any weight.”  Oh, well-played!  Those were exactly the right words to quiet the bells–for the moment.

The appeal to his vanity drew him out a little more. “Well, not as much now, but you should have seen me three months ago.”  Smugly, he stretched out his pace a bit.

The young man smiled, knowing that his flattery had hit a chord.  “Oh, you don’t look like one of those guys who could ever be a slob!”

The alarm bells began to ring once more and it was time to bring the conversation to a close.  “I don’t know about that.  Nice talking to you.  I’ve got to keep moving.”  As he shoved the ear bud back into his ear, his meaning was obvious.  If he had actually said the words he was thinking, it couldn’t have come through more clearly.  You won’t get whatever it is you are looking for here, time to find another mark.

Disappointed, the boy turned his bike around and headed back toward the park they had just left.  The old fellow shook his head, and mentally deleting the flattering comments from his psyche, pushed ahead to the long hill which was coming up soon.  Only three and a half more miles to go now…

As he ran, thoughts raced through his head.  He wondered what the boy had been trying to get from him.  He wondered if the same tactics had been tried on other aging men and worked, extracting the prize (whatever it was) that the kid wanted.  But, as he ran further, his thoughts shifted.  Why is it that flattery works so well?  A stranger approaches someone and knowing nothing at all about them, wriggles his way into his heart and perhaps, all the way to his soul.  A few hints from the victim, a few well placed compliments (and a lot of baloney) from the aggressor, and the deed is done.  Without a battle, the war is won, the weaker victim taken captive.

Faithful are the wounds…

Now, as he jogged along, his mind was drawn to a memory.  The little girl standing beside her Grandpa at the dinner table, poking him in his fat mid-section, speaks to him honestly and bluntly, as only a child can.

“I don’t like your fat belly, Grandpa!”

The scene shifts and he is in the doctor’s office, with his friend and family doctor looking over his vital signs and medical history from the last few years.  The doctor isn’t happy.

“Your weight keeps going up and so does your cholesterol.  You have to make a choice.  Either you do what is necessary to get both under control, or I’ll prescribe medication which will do it for you.”  The words are delivered in a not-unfriendly way, but there is no doubt of the good doctor’s resolve.

Again, in his reverie there is a change in locale, and he sits in his easy chair near a Lovely Lady who echoes the thoughts of both the little waif and his friend the doctor.  “You’re the only one who can do it.  I’ll help you, but it has to be your choice.  You know I won’t tell you what you can or can’t do.”  No punches are pulled; he understands that he has made bad choices for too long.  He also knows that she says the words only because she loves him.

The scenes fade from his head and, becoming aware of his surroundings, he notices the approach to the steep hill ahead.  Putting his head down, he digs in and speeds up again as he starts up the incline.

Friends who wound?  Strangers who flatter?

Choices, choices.

“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”
(Norman Vincent Peale~American minister/author~1898-1993)

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
(Proverbs 27:6~NASB)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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