When I Left

May 6, 2008
By Noah Banks, Portland, OR

When I left my mansion that morning, I had no idea I would have given it all up by dinner that night. When I told my driver to really step on it that morning because I was in a hurry, I had no idea that that would be the last time I would ever be able to tell him to do so. Waiting in my car (a Bentley by the way) just as unsuspecting as I, was my dear wife. I did not suspect that she would also be gone by dinner that evening.

There is no way I ever would have thought I would be a member of what I had considered a cult-like group when I had first heard there was a group of religious people wandering the streets of Portland. I never thought a man who looked like he did would lead me to what would truly make me happy. He looked no differently than me, acted no differently, but there was something about his air that surged with power, justice, and authority.

“ I won’t be surprised when those guys commit a mass suicide. They always seem to do that,” I said as my wife and I were watching a news story about that strange group the day previous.

“You always think things like that are about to happen, and they never actually do,” retorted my wife, rather quickly and with a little more bite than usual.

“Whoa! Maybe it just seems that way to me sometime, and I do have a tendency to exaggerate… and stereotype,” I said, pausing at the look on her face,“ Is something the matter, honey? You look a little upset.”

“I’m fine… I just have a feeling about our money. We need to start thinking about it more, and start paying attention to it.”

“Alright I’ll find someone to take a look at our finances today, and make sure everything is in order, OK?”

“I appreciate it… Thanks.”

We parted, both of us with different ideas of what would happen about this issue. I had absolutely no intention of talking to somebody about my own money. I am sure I can handle it myself; I have plenty to learn with anyway!

We were on our way downtown to find the financial planner, which I was reluctant to even think about. Fortunately for me, my wife had done her research. I had very little to do, but supply the money that was to be dealt with.
Traffic was heavy that day, and I was concerned about making it across the street if we needed to. We were on our way to the second of our three stops, when my wife leaned over and did something. This something happened so rarely that I could hardly remember the last time she had done it. She whispered in my ear. It sure was not the whispering that was out of the ordinary, but what she said when she spoke softly in my ear.
“I love you,” she said, so softly I had to think about it harder than normal to understand it.
I do love my wife just as much as she loves me; she just always seemed to confuse me. I just had not heard her say anything so sincerely in such a long time that I had trouble comprehending it. I felt the same way I just could not force my mouth to form those words.
As I tried to speak to her about these feelings the driver turned around and told me we had just arrived at the office of the man who was our best bet for keeping our finances in order. We hopped out of the car and he drove off to find a parking spot or structure. We made our way to the door and the inside. The secretary asked about our appointment, and then told us to take the elevator up to the 12th floor.
On our way up, my wife turned to me. By the look on her face, I could tell that she was not about to talk to me about the weather or just leave the dead silence of the elevator (that would be such a waste of good, pure, unadulterated silence!).
“What was that about?” she said, just loudly enough for it to be heard.
“What was what about?” I asked, unsure of what I had done.
“ Did you honestly not think I would notice the way you looked at her? I’m not blind you know!”
I guess I had been looking at the secretary with a little more desire than I should have been, but that would only matter to my wife. She is just jealous that I have become tired of her, and she bored with me. We were both reluctant to leave one another, but we were also so close to it, thinking it was our only way to happiness. Thank God, the door opened and we finally were able to escape each other’s gaze.
“ Well, hello there!” a rather stout man yelled at me from across the hall. He was standing in the doorframe.
“ Hello. It is great to meet you,” I said back automatically, almost robotically.

I was finally able to escape the room and the man’s blank stare. I could tell that he could tell he was not going to get a call about out business, but I thought I would give him the generic goodbye anyways.

“We’ll call you soon and let you know,” I said.

I guided my wife into the elevator ahead of me. As the doors closed, she turned toward me and opened her mouth about to say something. However, she stopped herself and we enjoyed the silence on the way down.

We were on the way to the car (I had paged the driver as we were leaving the office). The driver had decided to park on the other side of the street. In an instant, what I thought would have been a peaceful day turned to the worst day of my life. My whole world changed in a fraction of a second, and it was all a blur of color, lights and people running about.

The traffic that had merely bothered me earlier was truly getting to me now. The driver of the car who had hit my wife was peeling down the now eerily empty street ahead of him. My wife was on the ground just a few feet ahead of me. She was unconscious, and I rush toward her. The driver of my car, being a large man, stopped anybody else from getting hurt, by standing in front of me making the other drivers aware of my presence. He had also called 911 and had an ambulance sent to our location.

I saw the lights and heard the siren, so I moved out of the way of the paramedics. I watched as they got her up onto a stretcher, and into the back of the vehicle. They felt for a pulse and, because they could not find one, began doing CPR. They tried three times to resuscitate her, before giving up. They came over and told me that there was nothing more that they could do. That was the moment I could finally make myself say it.

“I love you too.”

I was sitting on my couch crying. I was so sad. I had no idea this would overcome me, but I had to feel this way. We were close, just probably not in the usual sense. I decided it was time to finally get my mind off the subject, so I grabbed the remote and switched on the news. On the screen was one of the last people in the world I wanted to see: the leader of the group that was going around Portland trying to convert people. Since I had not listened to the report earlier, I decided that it was time to find something out about this guy.

“What is your main goal here in Portland, Sir?” inquired a reporter from the local news, who was interviewing him.

“My goal here is, I think the goal of all great teachers, to change peoples minds. I am here to show them that the way to true happiness is through giving to those less fortunate, and not letting our possessions become our obsessions.” At this point, he looks directly into the camera, “If anyone is interested in coming and following me, meet me and my followers at the Waterfront tomorrow. We will be teaching that about the ways to true happiness, how they are not where most people are willing to look, and how you will never find them if you can’t let go of things around you.”

What he said resonated within me, and I made plans to meet him the next day. I was so excited to seek this new opportunity, something I had not done in along time that I could barely hold it in. I could not help but smile and had trouble not being genuinely nice to those who helped me around the house.

I found him with a small group of maybe twenty people right next to the river. I approached the group, and he beckoned me to join them.

“Welcome! Thank you for deciding to join us today,” he said.

“Thank you for allowing me to.”

“Anyone is welcome, brother. Something seems to be troubling you, is there something that you wish to share?”

Now normally I would say something about how I would not want to bother anyone, and not talk about anything. Bu for some reason, I felt comfortable telling him about it without hesitation.

“My wife was hit by a car yesterday, and I can’t seem to get over this sadness. It feels like I have messed up, even though there is nothing I could have done about it.”

“I think you have grown to attached to those around you when the solution for your problem is inside yourself, a place you fear to look. I think it would benefit you to leave all that you have behind and follow me. You will learn and get to teach, for there are things that I know better than you, and then there are things that I know nothing about and you are an expert in.”

In that moment I felt so compelled to follow him that I turned on the spot and walked away. I went straight from there to my bank. I emptied all of my accounts, and took most of the money to the charity close to there. I donated my house to them as well, along with all of my cars. I told my entire staff to take the money I had given to them and make their families happy. I told them to live well and enjoy life. I went back to the group and told the leader I was ready to go.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened, had my wife never been hit by a car. I wonder what would have happened if I had decided to keep all of my money. I wonder where I would be if I had not left my life behind to follow him. However, I never regret it.

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