Reminisce

Something big is coming. In a short while, I will complete a large project, bigger than anything I’ve written before. Below is a a taste of the story I will be writing. Enjoy the preview 😛

The red light grew in size. The thick color it produced covered the entire sky. John’s eyes refused to open, but did after the third attempt to separate his eyelids. The light felt oddly familiar to John. After a few more flashes, the light died out. John stood up in utter confusion and immediately collapsed back to the ground. The trees that surrounded him dripped black dew and sap. A fog began to creep into John’s vision. Owls were very alive that night as they howled aggressively. Once John felt enough energy course through his body, he got to his knees and began crawling towards the dying light. His knees rubbed against the cold snow creating several cuts and gashes on his pale legs. He noticed that his left pant leg had been torn off from the rest of the pants, but nothing deterred him from his mission to find out the origins of the light. Any information would satisfy John at this point. Being inches away from the light. John reached towards it. His fingertips slid across the dome-shaped object as it sent an electrical charge through his hand. The small object had “Help” written on it, with small, child-like font. The interaction lasted seconds, not enough time for John to come to any logical conclusions. A wild animal of some sort rushed across the tight quarters John was in and knocked him over. The light he was holding fell to the ground and broke. The thing that hit John that night created numerous questions from friends, family, and locals for years on end. The way John described the animal and the night left many confused to the type of creatures roaming the woods of Little River, Washington. His day hike turned into two days stranded in the wild. The only thing that mattered to John was what he thought truly happened the nights of April 27 and April 28, 1993.

The Backstreet

A ball soared across two courts and bounced off Lawrence’s head. The courts were packed for a Tuesday. “What the fuck?” screamed Lawrence in his thick Jamaican accent. The basketball game stopped. Defenders broke their athletic position. Two jaded men, barely recognizable to Lawrence, walked toward center court in the flying ball’s direction. The stale fog that had settled over the court opened up as a man dressed in a black turtle neck with a tan colored leather jacket appeared. His large Afro barely fit under his brown top hat and park lights sparkled in his gold necklace. The other man had a black trench coat with a cigar tucked between his fingers and a walking cane clenched in his other hand. The last bouncing ball echoed to a stop. Bystanders sitting on bleachers close by scattered. Lawrence’s teammates and opponents followed soon after. Lawrence walked toward the direction of both men. The man, two or three years older than Lawrence, created a good tempo with each slam of his walking cane. “Tell Jaxson he owes us. $4,000 to be exact. We need that by Thursday.” The words slid from under his thinly trimmed mustache. A ball rolled over from a different court. “Over here” yelled a distant voice. Lawrence picked up the ball and stared at it. The man pointed his green, plastic-looking walking cane at Lawrence, “…and when the money is absent, when we can’t find him, we will know where to find you, Mr. Basketball.” The man’s partner stayed quiet, almost seemed uninterested, while he talked. Veins in Lawrence’s lengthy arms hardened as he squeezed the ball once more. “I will let him know,” Lawrence stifled. “We know you’re a good kid, but your brother needs to be more careful with our money” the walking cane swung closer to Lawrence’s face. “he’s not my brother” Lawrence replied. “$4,000 bones, and hey, good luck on your game Friday.” The cane lowered as the other man pulled out his zippo lighter and lit his partner’s cigar. “We’ll be back” the silent man snuck in a few words before the figures dropped back to the fog. A distant voice yelled again “Over here. Over here.” Lawrence rolled the ball back.

The streets of Harlem reminded Lawrence of his home back in Jamaica. The deteriorating apartment buildings in New York resembled better versions of old Jamaican shacks. Each building looked like an old leather-bound book. Lawrence’s apartment was on the 14th floor of a brownstone building in Lower-East side, New York. The apartment building looked sad. Because Lawrence’s building did not have a fire escape in front of it like others on the street did, chips in the brown brick covering the outside became more noticeable after Winter. Snow buried bikes and barbecues scattered on the building’s shared lawn. Lawrence hated the cold. Drug dealers and street dwellers challenged the cold weather, never missing an opportunity to make more money. They all left Lawrence alone though. They Respected him. Arleen, the migrant woman who took Lawrence in, kept Lawrence away from Harlem’s drug empire.

A resident, three doors down, smoked crack four times a day. Neighbors knew because harsh smells from the smoke maneuvered through the building’s air ducts. Another resident, all the way down the hall, sold cocaine to apartment residents at the Big n’ Tall store down the street. Lawrence’s immediate neighbor, the room to his left, preached at the church near Lower Manhattan for thirty years. No matter what Harlem residents did as a job, they always ended up in the same project. Lawrence wanted out.

Lawrence always knelt down to avoid hitting his head on the door frame when he entered the apartment. When he bent down, his face nearly grazed a carved wooden jar, the size of a milk jug, nestled in the corner of the room. The jar, among a few changes of clothes, a picture, and a basketball, somehow made it over to New York. Fleeing Jamaican residents healthy enough to make the trip to the United States left with a basket full of items light enough for travel. Lawrence survived two raids Somali pirates planned on his neighborhood in Trench town. Word quickly spread of the a third raid. Political tension between the two countries became worse. The struggle to survive Somalia’s five-year feud with Jamaica fueled Lawrence’s desire to be successful in the states. Hoping for the best, elderly residents and small children stayed in Jamaica while those healthy fled. A framed picture of a Lawrence’s mom knitting in front of her Jamaican home sat next to the jar. A red bandanna dress covered the woman. A leaning stool propelled the relics in the air. Green, yellow, and black acrylics bleed in the wood’s deep cuts.  Each time he left the apartment to go to school or Rucker Park’s basketball courts, he ran his fingers along the letters engraved deep in the wood and whispered a few words to it.

The apartment, about half the size of a classroom, was better fitted for two people than three. When Jaxson graduated from Harlem High School, Lawrence moved from the living room couch. Jaxson’s old room did not properly scale to Lawrence’s large body. Jaxson slept on a queen size bed, so Lawrence’s feet hung off of it. Jaxson barely went up to Lawrence’s shoulders but Jaxson weighed at least twenty pound more. During the night a breeze broke in the window and hit Lawrence’s exposed feet. Lawrence pressed his back against his bed and launched a ball into the air. Whether laying on the dirt back in Jamaica or on laying a bed in an apartment room in Harlem, Lawrence perfected his craft: basketball. Lawrence stapled up Dr.J,  Magic Johnson, and Wilt Chamberlain posters over most of the magazine centerfolds of East Coast Hip-Hop rappers that Jaxson had up. The apartment felt safe.

The small television hissed. Lawrence searched endlessly for a public stations broadcasting NBA games when in the apartment. Wednesdays were the best day to catch a double-header on the television’s lower channels. If channel one, two, or three did not broadcast games, sometimes the higher channels intercepted live game feed intended for the ESPN New York network. He heard announcers counting down a game’s tip-off as he skimmed up to channel 40. He adjusted the television’s mangled coat hanger from the couch to fix the screaming fuzz on the screen.

A corn flake dropped and splashed up milk. The Lakers-Celtics game caused Lawrence to miss his mouth almost every time he ate dinner with a spoon. Basketball dominated screen time entirely now that Jaxson was not there to challenge with VCR copies of Slick Rick’s rap battle or the Beastie Boy’s music video collection.

The way Magic Johnson bounced that ball was memorizing. He would go behind his back and then throw a no-look pass to Kareem for a baby hook shot. Magic Johnson was 6’9, only one inch taller than Lawrence. Time spent away from Rucker Park or basketball practice was spent watching NBA games. Coach Millsap, Harlem’s basketball coach, gave Lawrence film of the opponents before each game. Besides watching professional games or opponent’s game film, Lawrence’s life outside the apartment revolved around basketball. He always had a ball with him.

The game went to halftime and Magic Johnson talked about his life as a child growing up in the projects. He talked about not always having food or clothes. His story showed Lawrence that someone with similar circumstances could be successful.  Lawrence envisioned becoming someone like Magic. “I have something for you” Arleen delightfully said as she opened the door. A smiled carved her face. “From who?” Lawrence said while another spoonful entered his mouth. “The NCAA, they are  coming to your game Friday ” Lawrence set down his bowl and twisted his body towards Arleen. “Man, I cannot wait, been waiting forever for this chance to show everyone what I got.” Lawrence said running his hands across each other. Arleen has not seen Lawrence this happen since the first time he walked in her classroom. Arleen taught young adults grammar when she lived in Trench Town. “Magic for three to win! No one saw this coming!” the ecstatic announcer on the television declared. Lawrence snapped back to catch the replay.

Lawrence snarled and shifted positions. His eyes opened slowly when Jaxson finished tapping his chest. Lawrence made sense of Jaxson’s figure hovering over him after a few blinks. Jaxson flung sweat from off his head on the couch. He back peddled to the front of the living room blocking Lawrence’s view of the second game of the back-to-back. Lawrence sat upright rubbing his eyes. The television shook from Jaxson stomping back and forth. Jaxson’s unzipped red Gucci jacket nearly looked brown with scuffs and tears along the sleeves. A gold chain rested on the outside of Jaxson’s cotton-covered black t-shirt.  Jaxson only visited when he needed money from Arleen or clothes that he left in Lawrence’s closet. “Yo, move, I’m watching the game.” Lawrence said. The television shook even harder as Jaxson’s pace increased. “I can’t believe he’s gone” Jaxson blurted. He took a blue bandana from his back pocket and dabbed away sweat from his forehead. “They just took him, pulled up to the curb and snatched him”. Jaxson nervously patted his hair, his expression of nervous habit. “Chill man, took who?” Lawrence’s struggle to pronounce certain vowels made him sound direct and stern. “You don’t understand, you have it good here, my mom loves you, you don’t know what’s on these stre—.” Lawrence interrupted Jaxson. “These streets? You know we grew up in the same conditions, now move.” He avoided bringing up his run-in with the two men earlier that week. An arm extended from the couch and a hand waved from side to side. “Fuck you, and forget your stupid ass basketball” Jaxson threw his hair pick across the room and kicked over a lamp on his way out. Jaxson picked up on curse words faster than Lawrence.

Arleen had been sitting in the apartment’s hallway the entire conversation. A tear ran down her face as her head rested against the wall. Her thought process remained the same each time Jaxson had an outburst. Shut mouth. Look Down. Close door. Jaxson received high honors in the Jamaican school system but changed when he moved to America. His senior year at Harlem High, he started hanging with the Heavy Loaders. Everyone called them heavy loaders because they brought guns and stacks of money to school weighing down their pants. He wished for the life they lived: the nice jackets and nice shoes they all wore motivated Jaxson to start selling drugs and making money. Lawrence experienced success during Jaxson’s senior year. The Harlem Hurricane’s basketball team made it to the semi-finals at state but lost in the finals. Lawrence’s sweet jump shot or late-game buzzer-beaters became material for barber shop talk. Lawrence’s senior year came around and his scoring total, assist total, and block total doubled in numbers. Members of the community showed their support and an influx of basketball fans packed the gym every Friday. Lawrence kept to himself until basketball practice. Receiving good grades came second to basketball for Lawrence, but he gave an effort to succeed in both.

Frost covered the outside of the windows. A fog immersed the school. The flag pole popped its round top through the fog. The school’s pipes hissed. They could be heard after students cleared the hallway. A single light illuminated the dank gym. The court looked dead until fans packed the bleachers. Dribbling balls or practicing free throws in dark gym made its way into Lawrence’s post practice routine. The big game could not come sooner. Arleen never game. She insisted sitting baseline every time. She loved watching Lawrence perform. Scouts from Clemson, Syracuse, Yale, Georgetown, showed interest in Lawrence’s outstanding senior season. Lawrence’s hard-working mindset never left him.  Every practice, games, and countless hours examining game film came down to Friday. Bringing a championship trophy home showed the community which part of New York represented the best ball players. Another swish snapped the net. The whipping sound echoed the empty gym. Jaxson rebounded for Lawrence most days but stopped after he moved to a different project in Harlem. A shot sprung off the front of the rim and rolled down the court to the side doors. Lawrence walked over and reached down to grabbed the ball. When he looked up, he saw a police officer holding a few papers.

Lawrence hated surprises, big or small, especially ones that came from strangers. An arm extended out and embraced Lawrence’s back. The cop sported a buzzed haircut with a hat so tight a vein appeared on his temple. He looked like a marine. Before a word left the officer’s mouth, he never stopped shaking his head. He was holding a crinkled paper. The paper never stopped rattling. Murmurs escaped the shaken man’s lips. “I hate to tell you this now, but Jaxson was reported missing last night”. The cop’s mustache absorbed snot running out his nose before he sniffled. Lawrence fell to his knees and pressed both palms against the locker in front of him. “Witnesses say that two men followed Jaxson from an apartment in Lower-East side Harlem at around 7:30,” the officer concluded as his eyes dropped below the paper. Rivers of dirt on Lawrence’s shoe ran down when tears dropped several feet from his face. “This can’t happen, not today” Lawrence struggled getting the words out.

Tears fell for minutes; each tear a different reason. Lawrence rose and up and slammed his fist into the classroom door. Crumpling into himself, he fell once more. The officer walked over to where Lawrence landed “Well, we got 48 hours to find Jaxson. The perps could flee New York by Saturday.” The officer extended his arm and helped Lawrence up. Lawrence found his balance rolled the ball back in the gym that he left by the side doors. He left the school with the officer. Arleen looked at Lawrence from the passenger seat of the cop car. The exhaust pipe created a grey cloud around the car. Snowflakes running down the window reflected tears dropping off Arleen’s face. Lawrence opened up the door and slid onto the plastic backseat.  “Your game is going to have to wait, Lawrence. We need to find Jaxson. He needs us more than ever.” Arleen pleaded. “Let’s go get my brother,” Lawrence said after minutes of silence. The car slid out of the parking lot and the single light in the gym stayed on the rest of the night.

Monsters

The moon lit up faces of other politicians, pop stars, and Disney characters leaving behind a yellow tint as we passed them. Each jack-o-lantern we walked by had hard and unchanged faces coated with a layer of frost. My ears are barely holding up the beard that could of went with any costume, but Jesus was the choice for tonight. The poorly conditioned entanglement of brown hair, about to my shoulders, needed to be combed to make my costume slightly more obvious. The dark blue, fleece bathroom robe, wig, and sandals made people think I was the Dude from The Big Lebowski, but sometimes claiming that costume helped my situation when I entered a party with hardcore atheists. Tom, who had a giant inflatable tube around his waist, did a fantastic job of directing everyone to the next house party as he coordinated the night. My exposed feet felt like bricks. With each step I took I sent a sharp pain through the rest of my legs, but Tom reassured everyone that our last destination would be down the street. His brother, Nick the wizard pointed his staff towards the house’s direction almost whacking other party-goers passing us, confirming that was the place.

The two-story house had a porch with at least 10 stairs that creaked with every step and old walls that did a bad job of containing the music. The door we approached had a watchman posted in front of it. “Who do you know?” uttered the large figure. “Kevin” said Tom, the watchman ushered us in. I was hit with a smell mildew and tobacco. After sitting down and playing cards for a while, the dancefloor called my name. While doing high-knees to the living room of the house, I feel two thuds on my shoulder. “Hey, its Amanda, Lindsay’s friend. she sent me”. I was surprised someone I never met knew what I looked like. Oh great, now I have my girlfriend sending spies to watch over me. I had to escape. I wonder through the house exploring rooms. Luke, my friend, who was too short to be Jason Voorhees, walks out of the last room I notice. Out of curiosity, I cautiously walk in the room with my head extended past my shoulders. The long, curly hair hangs down as I tilt my head to see the entirety of the room. I walk in.

The holes in the wall and stained white paint I noticed raised questions, so I tip toe to the wall in front of me. I put my left eye up to the softball sized hole, then I begin to feel pressure on the wood beneath me. I turn around and see six or seven people enter the room. The door slams behind them and the people situate themselves on the bed with one person standing and one person leaning on an old dresser. I get out of my crouching position and slide to the closed door. As I walk closer to freedom, a man dressed as a cop scoots the sliding lock shut. “Can I leave?” I said, the fraudulent cop quickly said “no”. I sit in the corner closest to the door as I observe the group of characters. A silver plate is then removed from a black Jansport backpack. A white powder covered the entire plate and I knew the substance wasn’t pixie dust, so I begin to tamper with the lock to intimate my escape. The jingle from the lock caught the cop’s attention, “you better not leave”, Captain America chimed in, “yeah, you’re going to watch us do coke”. What a nightmare. I look over at Pocahontas, who was shaking just as much as me, accompanied by a lumber jack. The plate made its way to the bed where they sat. The lumberjack was coaching Pocahontas and before I could hear another snort, I look away. After trying for several minutes to escape, I make my way back to the hole in the wall. The cop slid the empty plate in the backpack ending their session. The door finally unlocked. I run out and find my friends and tell them what happened. As we gather our things, we head to the front door and before I stepped foot out of the house, I run into in the cop. He greets me with a handshake and says “welcome to Pullman”. “Thanks?” I said hesitantly as I escaped his grip. Halloween would not be the same as some monsters we dress as during our childhood carry on with us through our lives.

 

 

The Visit

The seat-belt pinched some of my skin off when I clicked it in.  I sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s grey Honda Civic. I loved to count the amount of trees we passed before seeing the space needle. The car ride with my mom and younger brother, Cody lacked the energy I usually felt visiting Seattle. I could tell because sweat beads multiplied on my mom’s forehead the closer we got to him. My mom looked to her right, “you better be careful” she murmured. Because I was soon to be in the hands of my other loving parent, I looked down at the new reddish-orange Morgan Middle School sweatshirt I received for being Mr. McCloskey’s teacher’s assistant several times in the car. I couldn’t wait to show my dad my what I earned. The car seemed to be spiraling down towards the equator as we took a series of off ramps.  My dad’s new neighborhood looked different. A sign read Welcome to Delridge as my brother pointed out with his finger pressed against the window. The car’s tires were already familiar with the steep, rough roads of Seattle, so traveling through uncharted territory seemed easy. I could begin to see the layers of poverty and diversity. At the first building we saw after the welcome sign, we saw a flurry of businessmen exit a building that had trimmed grass and clean windows. We drove two more blocks and I noticed how much dirtier the buildings look.  My mom nervously waited to see how deep the car reached before we reached my dad’s apartment complex.

The spoiled milk hit my throat twice before I realized it was expired. The taste felt familiar. Drinking old milk or helping pay for pizza became routine when I visited dad. I put the milk down and looked out the kitchen window. North Delridge, Seattle was a rough neighborhood. My brother, two years younger than me, examined the people walking by out of one of the room’s windows. Parts of West Seattle looked like something out of Boyz in The Hood. My dad lived in a rough neighborhood in Yakima before he moved to Seattle. He had his bike stolen weekly at his old apartment. Even with a gate around his new apartment building, he still locked up his bike.  The new apartment complex had a gated fence around the perimeter of the property that blocked off outsiders. The residents did not want to risk unwanted contact with the outside, or maybe the outsiders fenced in the residents.

Inside the gated fence looked like a swap meet; televisions, fish tanks, and sofas stored themselves on the small squares of brown grass provided for apartment residents. North Delridge was the only place where someone could buy bootlegged versions of Spider-Man in front of a 7/11 and walk 100 feet down the street to eat some of the freshest Saudi Arabian food West Seattle offers.

Car keys scratched the outside of the door. Cody and I heard the scratching from the inside. We bolt over from the room we settled in to greet our dad. I had almost forgot what my dad looked like, but I could tell he was loving his new beard that I have never before seen. Once he changed from his work overalls, he walked out of his room with a bag. He stuck his hand in the bag and lifted out a pair of basketball shoes. “Hope you’re a size 12” he smiled. “Someone left these in an apartment I cleaned.” he explained. Apparently being an apartment manager came with a few perks: the items left by fleeing tenants were be collected by my dad.  After talking for a while, my dad received a call from work and needed to return. The front door slowly squeaked shut and before it closed, I heard a faint last request: “If you go anywhere, bring your brother. And Jesse, that orange on your sweatshirt might be a problem around this neighborhood.” The afternoon rolled around and we grew hungry. In a panic for food, I settled with the nutritious meal of Top Ramen. My brother still has not eaten. I rummaged through cabinets in a kitchen, not much bigger than me, and looked for more food. I opened a cabinet and found poorly hidden, empty alcohol bottles. How old are these bottles? I thought my dad stopped drinking? There was no way an investigation conducted by a middle schooler would answer these questions. I closed the cabinets before my brother saw the empty bottles and gave him half of my Top Ramen. Cody blinked heavily. “Ready for bed?” I asked. Cody answered with a nod. We washed our dish and walked to our room.

A yellow mist filled up the room. The smell of spam traveled from the kitchen to mine and Cody’s room and drug us out of the bed. I shook my brother, who was brave enough to sleep on the top bunk. We both wobbled to the kitchen. My dad stood over the stove top in a greasy mist, but he seemed stressed. The bags under his eyes and persistent grey hairs were the focal point of his face. My stomach growled. The monstrous sound prompted my dad to cook faster. He threw the spam on paper plates and handed them to us. We high kneed to the dinner table. A smile surfaced on my face as my stomach grumbled one last time. My dad was good at cycling through question he asked us if the room stayed silent for too long. “Want to see something?” Me and my brother stuck out two standing up thumbs. My dad promptly brought in four separate doors detached from their hinges. Like a magician, he flipped one door over. My dad painted doors a variation of colors and abstract shapes as a new hobby. He was selling the doors too. We were proud he found an activity he enjoyed. My brother and I noticed the excitement in his eyes: something we rarely saw.

He brought in four more doors.  My right leg tightened up as a pain shot through my calf. My leg fell asleep from sitting so long. After a few more displays, Cody stood up and threw his arms over past his head. While holding back a yawn, Cody suggested we get out of the apartment for a bit. Despite hundreds of activities ten miles in downtown Seattle, we settled for eating pizza. The pizza place was located in the middle of a neighborhood called White Center, a few minutes from North Delridge. Ironically there was nothing white about White Center. This trip was the first time I have felt like a minority. “The total comes out to $10.80.” My dad looked at me as he is rummaged through his pockets. “Do you have 3 dollars?” My dad asked. “Maybe” I reluctantly said. I pulled out five of the nine dollars I brought for the arcade.  I gave it to my dad. While he handed the money to the cashier, I noticed my brother staring out the window. I walked over and saw what caught his attention. There was a Caucasian homeless male getting jumped by two Hispanics. My mouth dropped. My eyes never left the beating. I looked back at my dad in disbelief. “Stuff like that happens, something like that can happen anywhere.” He said calmly. What if that was my dad out there getting assaulted? I quickly squashed any negative thoughts. It was time to go back.

The next day, sunlight stabbed through the window and attacked my eyes. My hands gripped the bunk bed bars as I swung myself up. The first season of Scrubs cycled through its episodes twice before we noticed the television glaring. We walked out of the room and saw that my dad left the television on before he left for work. We remembered him saying that we could leave and get something from the 7/11 down the street on Delridge Way, a convenient store home to at least one armed robbery. The two blocks we walked felt like 100 miles. Each person we passed gave us a look that reminded us that these were not our streets.

The last haggard face we passed looked at us for ten seconds. My leg quickly extended four feet in front of me. Step length increased, so we could pass the man sooner. I placed my hand on my brother’s back and gave him a nudge. “Spare some change?” The large brown man wearing a Steelers jersey interjected before we passed him. He asked for money almost the same way my dad asked for money the day before. “We don’t have any” I said as I looked down. We continued to head to 7/11. As me and Cody approached the cashier’s checkout stand holding skittles, we noticed the same man we passed earlier walking in the store. The rugged man walked toward us. I pulled out a dollar threw it on the checkout stand’s flat surface. “Keep the change” I said shaken. The man suspected that we had money after all. Before we saw how the potential encounter would transpire, we bolted out of the store to the safeness of the gated fence.

The gated fence kept us safe for the night. Good thing because we made it to the last night in Seattle with our dad. What a reason to celebrate. My dad kept a jar full of quarters that he kept in his room. He snagged it before we left for out final dinner together. Italian was the dinner of choice and I could not be more excited. I was curious to how the money will be presented to the waiter after we ate. While sitting in the sub shop, we all shared laughs about the trip surprises.  Life seemed good and it looked like I had my dad back. I never saw him this happy with my mom. I took the another bite of my sub sandwich as I stared at my dad’s blank expression. He had been sitting there with a half-eaten sandwich on his plate. I read wrinkles and silver hairs now familiar to his face. During my deep gaze, he looked at me and said “Do not stare at me like that, people get beat up for doing that”. I made eye contact with my sandwich during the rest of the meal and realized my mom was right all along.

My Light

Silence fills the stale air and sometimes that silent air consumes our lungs. Breathing alone can not constitute living a fulfilled life. What we chose to do with our breath can move people and sometimes move mountains. The air I was breathing on this very saturated Saturday brought back an influx of memories: the time I was lost on a raft with my brother riding the rapids or the time I first experienced loneliness when my girlfriend pierced my heart at the vacant football bleachers. The air has all tasted the same to me and with each inhale memories never fail to inform me the person I am.

The city lights helped guide me to my worn down, inner city apartment that was 2 blocks away from several bars. Anyone over 6’2 would hit their head on the door frame. The apartment felt lonely once again, my bootleg candle is producing company and the only source of light. The sweet smell of tropical breeze helped my nose escape to paradise,but my eyes still told me to get a job, to make something of my life. The wallpaper looked floral, but the ripped material made the room look like a psychiatric ward, but this is home. I continue to question if I am alone in this struggle, if others have to stare at the same damn wallpaper. Friday evenings come and go, but this particular day went slower than usual. The rain drops grew louder and the city’s bedtime is approaching. As I stumble off the pull-out couch, I noticed two thuds…”Open up, it is Jeff, your landlord”. I threw on some ripped jeans and uncrusted my eyes as I stumbled to the door. The door squeaked opened and my landlord looked as he was just told the Mariners lost. Jeff’s eyes said it all, but the mouth confirmed that this Friday evening would be the last one in the apartment. I was waiting for the day where Jeff kicked me out, I haven’t paid rent in over three months, I understand it is a business. I leave my keys at his office and left my tropical breeze candle to burn in my absence.   

I survived the night but with the help of others just like me. The area I stayed for the night was under a bridge down the street from Safeco field with similarly haggard faces. These people had such beautiful lives, some had wives, husbands, beautiful kids and for them to sleep under the same bridge as myself proved that life can be unpredictable. The spirits were high and the campfire style set-up reminded me of the first time I ever experienced love and attention at fifth grade camp. The light and heat helped us survive the dark time we were all going through, The night-crawling, homeless committee and myself shared stories through the night and the cold air reminded me of how tough my skin is and how tender my heart is.

Two weeks have passed and I look around, I am now used to dirt stained skin and rotten breath caused by food we scavenge. The last bite of food was gone, so I wandered off looking for more. I hear “Ken Griffey Jr. up to bat, 2-3 count… bottom of the third” from a distance. I start to follow that voice. The lights from some open stores illuminate my path as I draw closer to the voice. The rancid smell of the bars I pass reminded me why I was in this position, walking down a dark path looking for food. I finally arrived to the lit up stadium, every light behind me has darkened, The lights and the voice from the stadium attracted me and I find myself walking in because no one was watching the gates. I see thousands of dedicated fans around me screaming for the Mariners to win. I shed a tear as a nostalgic memory of me hitting t-balls entered my brain. How could all that innocence go away? What happened? At this point, nothing else mattered, I forget about my divorce, my overdose, my job that paid six figures, I forgot it all. I take a deep breath, take on the strong forces of memories and I exhale, I realize I am at ease when I hear the crack of the bat and I find my new home.