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Same streets

When was the last time we spoke: 1965? 1966? On my part they were, no doubt, cruel words, or words of ridicule. Is there really any difference?

Twelve years old: Does it get any meaner than that? Surely the words hurt more at 12, before the defenses harden, when those who sling the ridicule have not heard that “you reap what you sow.” How soon the harvest often arrives. How soon we fail to understand it.

Nearly 50 years later, both of us rattle along the same streets. Your gait is that of a ship whose cargo has shifted to starboard. Occasionally, our eyes meet. You regard me warily, but with no hint of recognition. I suppose you see the same in my face, or maybe the same thing with a greater attempt at blankness, because I remember that our history goes back farther.

You would call on the telephone and then just scream on your end of the line. You’d scream, then take a breath, then scream some more. Such odd behavior, but I was too young to think it much more than odd. "Odd" puzzles us; "strange" is scarier.

And then there was the time I visited your house. I could not see the living room floor; so much was scattered over it. Toys? That’s what I remember. But as a kid, what do you do with scattered toys? Pick them up. Maybe that’s why my memory says, “Toys.” Maybe the alternative is "strange."

I remember the time in class when the teacher asked you something. You paused, then answered, “Now, let me think.” The whole class laughed—with you, not at you. Later, you were at the middle of the same kind of exchange; again, everyone laughed with you, not at you. You were at the center of our little universe that afternoon. You were a star. Soon enough, though, you were a black hole again, someone from whom no light shined.

That’s all there is in my mind’s file on you. Those episodes replay in my head as I watch you walking, limping, with a little bob to your head in time to the rhythm of your short leg, long leg, short leg, long leg.

Unthinkingly, I label you outcast, simple, loner, fringe element. Why? You may be happier than I. Your simplicity, such as it is, may be steeped in satisfaction. Do you lack possessions? Maybe that lack leaves you not always wanting new things and not disappointed when you can’t have them: Maybe you are immune to advertising and envy. What are your aspirations, your dreams? And are one man’s dreams any more significant than another’s?

Maybe you have similar thoughts when you see me. Your memories may be fuller, more detailed. You think: Look at where his life has taken him:

We’re both still walking the same sidewalks.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 26th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC)
You are on fire with writing fever these days, felixwas. On fire, I say.

As a reader, I was fascinated with the people. I want to know more, more, more, even though you've given me exactly enough.

As a writer, I'm amazed that you've taken the concept of a thought that has lived in my brain for days and weeks on end, and captured it so perfectly and concisely...not a frivolous or unnecessary word to be read.
May. 27th, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jamie. I always appreciate your encouragement.
May. 28th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
I agree with nodressrehearsal -- you are on fire!

There's so much I enjoyed about this piece. "Your gait is that of a ship whose cargo has shifted to starboard."--Brilliant.

May. 29th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
Thanks, Sara, for reading and commenting. These short entries about people are cheaper than therapy, although not as private.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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