I was someone, once.
I walked down the sidewalk, back straight, chin up. I met your gaze. You might have tipped your hat to me, had you been wearing one.
I sat in the same pew every Sunday at the Methodist church; the big one in the center of town, not the new one on the outskirts, where the Yankees and people of questionable descent went. That church had a folk trio and people felt it was okay to wear jeans to the service. They called it contemporary. I called it hogwash. I might have called it bullshit, after a few beers, and only in the company of men.
My family sat with me. My wife, quiet and proper; our children, scrubbed until their ears were red, lips pressed together, hands clasped in their laps tight enough to make their knuckles go white. They knew better than to talk during the sermon, or let a stray hand sneak over and pinch their neighbor.
They knew how to behave.
The problem was the job. If the job hadn't gone south, I'd still be sitting in that pew. My conscience led me to say things that had to be said, but the devil in me led me down the path of anger and regret. I shouldn't have hit the man, I will admit it. Even if he had it coming.
Yesterday, I went walking to nowhere in particular. Sometimes I just need to clear my head, shake away the storm that brews up there when I think too much. I am close to old and my legs fight me now. Go faster! I silently scream and they protest, shuffling along the sidewalk. Stand up straight! I yell to my back and, just to incite me, it stoops lower. All the moisture in my mouth seems to have gone to my eyes, collecting there in great watery pools. People don't meet my gaze anymore.
I was someone, once! I want to tell them. But my dry mouth can't form the words, my lips purse over empty gums. They think I'm a fool.
My doctor likes to say things like quality of life and unfortunate circumstances and minimal treatment options. He likes to put his hand on my knee when he says those things, and that bothers me more than what he's saying. There are always forms to fill out, and the 'office manager' talks to me about gaps in my coverage and instead of treatment options she talks about payment options. The prognosis is the same, though.
I heard the truck coming up behind me long before it reached me. It rumbled and roared and blasted unfamiliar music that jarred my bones and made the ground tremble. The beer can hit me square on the back of the head, and the pools in my eyes overflowed and spilled hot rivers that ran down my face.
When it passes, I see it's just boys, young and stupid and a little drunk. They point and laugh and slap hands. I want to chase them down and hit their mouths until they bust open and spray their young blood. Instead, I stand on the side of the road with my head down and cry like a child. I whisper the words I don't want them to hear. I say them to myself and try to remember when I was someone, once.
2 weeks ago