Outside the sky is blue and covered in flecks of white dots that double as clouds. Cumulus nimbus is what my junior high school teacher called them, at least I think that is what he said. Canâ€™t say that I remember all that well, or maybe the problem is that I remember far too well. I remember the days when I fit in and felt like a part of society.
I know, it sounds screwy. If you know me youâ€™d never have a clue that I am a lonely man. You wouldnâ€™t guess that my days feel like they have no meaning at all. I am a good actor. That smile I paste across my face and the silly banter are all part of my disguise. A shield that I use to keep people from seeing that the man is nothing more than shell of a person.
I know, youâ€™re thinking that it sounds tired, a cliche and somewhat pathetic to say these things. It is hard for me to write them and even harder for me to accept that the boy who showed so much promise grew into the man who has yet to fulfill one of his dreams. Not one single dream, not one.
My friend Mike says that the reason that I havenâ€™t managed to fulfill one single dream is that they arenâ€™t ordinary dreams. They arenâ€™t the type of thing that you can just do. He says that I should take it easy on myself because dream fulfillment doesnâ€™t take place over night. He says that it is better this way because if I fly too close to the sun than Iâ€™ll really earn the name Icarus.
I tell him that I need to do better, that I canâ€™t wait for Godot to show up and help me. He just laughs and tells me that I am being too hard on myself and that if I would just ease up Iâ€™d be happier.
Maybe he is right.
The thing is that when I look around all I see are people who look happier than me. All around me are couples holding hands, looking dreamily into each otherâ€™s eyes. All around me are people who walk confidently into wherever it is they are going. Surely they donâ€™t feel like I do. They couldnâ€™t possibly exude that much confidence without feeling it.
Mike says that I am crazy. Mike says that some of those people are hiding behind their smiles, just like I do. I tell Mike that I feel like one of those sneetches that didnâ€™t get the star. I feel like the kid who missed hearing the teacherâ€™s instructions. Everyone else knows how to play the game of life and I donâ€™t.
Every now and then Mike makes sense to me so I try to do as he says. I take his words to heart and try to apply them. I look around my office and imagine that they are all scared and lonely too. It works for a while and then I start to get nervous.
I start wondering if maybe Mike isnâ€™t confused. I start thinking that maybe Mike isnâ€™t so smart and that maybe he is the one that needs to be set straight. And every now and then I find myself in a heated argument with Mike because sometimes he needs to be confronted about these things. I may feel like I am lost. I may feel like I am the only one who doesnâ€™t get it, but even I know a thing or two.
I may hide behind my smile, but it doesnâ€™t mean that I havenâ€™t learned something. And then in the middle of my righteous indignation I remember that Mike really isnâ€™t such a good role model. He really doesnâ€™t know any more than I do.
And most importantly I remember that the reason I have never introduced my mother to Mike is because if she saw me introduce her to the guy in the mirror sheâ€™d think that I was making a joke and she might laugh. And if she laughed that would hurt Mikeâ€™s feelings. He might not know so much, but he is still a person and you shouldnâ€™t intentionally hurt a personâ€™s feelings.
Sometimes I forget when and where I met Mike. I donâ€™t know if it really matters because Mike is the best and truest friend I got. He is the only one who never leaves me and the only one who listens to all I got to say.
And believe me, I got a lot.
There used to be others. There used to be them that got my best interest in mind and those that claimed they did. I donâ€™t remember all of their names because when you live the hard scrabble life you start to unlearn that which you once knew.
You canâ€™t carry all them hopes and dreams you once had because they arenâ€™t real. The streets are real, oh yeah, they are real. If you ainâ€™t real you donâ€™t make it for very long on the streets.
That is part of why I like Mike and why I need him. He keeps me focused. He doesnâ€™t let me feel bad about what happened because it wasnâ€™t my fault.
We were walking down Michigan Avenue. It was bright and sunny. She was holding my hand and she never let go. Even after that car jumped the curb and pinned her against the building she never stopped holding my hand.
I tried to pull it off of her. Tried to push it. Did everything that I could do but it didnâ€™t matter, cuz she died anyway.
I couldnâ€™t save her. Couldnâ€™t hold her and make her feel better or stop the pain. Donâ€™t know why it hit her and not me. I was so much bigger. Why didnâ€™t it hit me. Why did they have to take her. Why not me. She was better than I was and so much better than I am now.
She told me to stop screaming. Said that I should calm down, even as the life was running out of her and heading somewhere else she was taking care of me.
I should have protected her better. I should have seen it coming. I should have heard it. Could have done something more, I know I could have.
Mike tells me that I should finish letting go and just forget. He says that there ainâ€™t no point in thinking about her or remembering â€˜cuz it only hurts us.
Mike says that it is good that I hit the driver â€˜cuz he was drunk and it is his fault that we are what we are today. He says that I should be proud that it took so many people to pull me off of that guy. He says that it is good that I crippled that guy because I am crippled now.
But sometimes I donâ€™t like it when he says it because she wouldnâ€™t have wanted it. She would have told me it was an accident and that I should let go. But that is the thing, I did let go. That accident forced me to let go.
I ainâ€™t who I was and havenâ€™t been for years. Now I am just a shadow who walks the streets. Mostly I keep to myself, but sometimes people mess with me. usually I growl at them and they run away but sometimes the stupid and mean ones do more.
That is ok with me. I like stupid and mean because when I am angry I fight. And when I fight I forget about being so damn lonely.
They say that a fighter who learns to like the pain is one fight away from death or worse. I don’t fear either because I am already dead and I know what hell looks like.
Mike says that this is why I should fight because when you just don’t give a damn is when you are the deadliest. I tell Mike that it don’t matter much because we ain’t fighting for money. He laughs at me and says that it don’t matter whether we fight for money or for pride because all we has to do is win.
He says that man was born for this and that we are one step away from being animals so we might as well be who nature intended us to be.
Sometimes she visits me in my dreams. She ain’t broken then and neither am I. We’re at Charlie Trotters and I can’t be happier because the prettiest girl in the world is mine. I don’t know why she picked me but I know that when she smiles at me I can be anything she wants me to be.
In my dreams she holds my hand and tells me that I got to stop fighting. She tells me that she forgives me and that I should forgive myself. Sometimes I wake up crying, but I make sure to stop that right quick because out here that is the kind of thing you can’t do.
Beside Mike won’t tolerate that. I already told you that he says that I should have done more to punish that guy. He thinks that we need to find him and finish what he started. I told Mike that don’t make no sense to me because he didn’t start nothing, but Mike just tells me to shut up.
He says that if he hadn’t started it we wouldn’t be sleeping in this alley. I says to Mike that without that I wouldn’t have met my best and truest friend, but Mike tells me to shut up. He says that I can’t forget and I can’t forgive.
But she doesn’t believe that. When we dreamwalk she tells me that she still loves me and asks me to promise to take better care of myself. She says that if I stop drinking I’ll be able to think more clearly and that things will make more sense.
I always do my best to do whatever she asks because she is my girl and she deserves better than I can give. Most of the time I manage to clean up for a while. I go back to my place, shower and put on clean clothes.
It is hard though. We got a big settlement on account of that accident so I don’t have to work. She tells me that I need to say goodbye to Mike, that he is bad news.
One time I told Mike what she said and he cursed her and told me to tell the “dead bitch to fuck off.” I don’t think he expected me to get as angry as I did. No one is allowed to talk that way about her. I refused to talk to him for a week, probably would have gone longer but she didn’t dreamwalk with me and I started to get a little bit rougher around the edges.
I started to think that maybe she didn’t forgive me for not saving her. I started to think that maybe she finally realized that it was my fault for not pushing her out of the way of that car. I begged her to come back, swore that if she would forgive me I would do anything.
But she didn’t come.
So I finally gave in and told Mike I was sorry. And like every best and truest friend he forgave me. That is why I love Mike because he never left me and everyone else I loved did.