Though I cannot touch your shirtsleeve, I reach out. You answer me, pull me close with softly written words. Soothe. Calm. We shield ourselves with flannel paragraphs, Hold life’s storms at bay, Understanding, no matter what our whethers, Friendship moors us in undeniable harbour.
One rounded, one jagged.
Puzzle pieces never able to click-fit.
Don’t make trouble, I begged,
Never understanding she didn’t.
Her heart broken in shards, impossible to mend.
My wrists cut in bloody despair.
She salved, bandaged my wounds
Before fading from view.
Many’s the night you’ve walked these same miles, without ever lifting from your chair.
Dreams like loosed cobblestones, a path crumbling underneath your worn, hobo shoes.
Brief solace sometimes sought, diversions for your wearied soul.
Slippery side streets and names you no longer remember.
You find it a bore most days. Fifteen years in an indelible ink rut. You keep your head down and get on with it: tramp-stamping nineteen year olds, piercing the folds of chubby bodies, asking drunken longshoremen if they want it spelled M-o-m or M-u-m. You grind your teeth every time one of the morbidly tattooed requests another skull.
You’re thinking of that and you’re thinking of nothing as you clean the machines in the back, when the bell clangs purposefully against the shop’s front door. You step through the strings of beads to check out who’s come in.
You see him waiting by the poster of Janis Joplin. A waifish sort. Pale with red flushed cheeks. Black hair that makes him look paler. You’re about to tell him you don’t tat minors, when he reads your mind and produces photo identification. He wants a tattoo before he enlists. Not only has he got i.d. but he’s also got cash.
You walk him to the client room and ask him if he knows what he wants. He pauses, then pulls a piece of notepaper from his pocket. It’s folded into precise eighths and he takes his time revealing the image he’s drawn. At first you think he’s kidding. It’s hardly an appropriate brand for an army recruit. But he’s not kidding and he won’t be deterred, even after you tell him it will be three hours and five hundred bucks.
By the time you’ve finished, you’re perspiring and feeling light-headed. You pretend it’s from the ink fumes. You take his money and say goodbye.
As he heads out the door, you thank him for lifting you up out of your rut today. Then a cry catches in your throat. And as you watch him disappear down the street, you silently plead to whoever is listening that if that boy gets stuck in a rut, in whatever land he’s bound for, those full-size angel wings now so delicately inscribed on his pale freckled back will lift him up and bring him home.
This piece was written about 5 years ago. The only time I’ve tried second person point of view. A shout out to my friend Edward Lorn for reminding me about the power of second person and how darn difficult it is to get right. Edward is doing a series on his Youtube channel called ‘From the Desk‘ that provides extremely valuable insights for fledgling writers like me, you, us.
Two in the morning, I can’t sleep so I wander into the front room and take your favourite book from the shelf, a garish, broken-spine paperback, not to read but just to hold, because there must be some molecules of you still attached to its tattered pages. I smooth the front cover, perhaps hoping the book will act as a talisman and that my actions might affect time and ignore the laws of physics and recreate you, and perhaps hoping that God or whoever can hear my thoughts will bring you back to me.
I’m dizzy with loneliness and I understand now why we humans think the heart is where love resides for it there I feel empty and yet full of pain at the same time. I ache for the impossible. I need to see you.
When I was at the grocery store yesterday, I stood at the cash register lineup and I remembered you, three months ago, so tired and weak but still insistent on helping with household chores, leaning on me for strength and resting your chin on my shoulder. You only did that once. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to share that moment of peace forever. And, I wanted you to know you were safe.
It’s silly sometimes. I remember exactly how high I reached when I straightened your shirt collar and how you would lean down a little bit to make it easier for me to tie your tie, even though you made a much better job of it than I ever did. I remember the comfort of your arms wrapping around me. I remember the warmth as you slept beside me.
So tonight, I take your book, and my memories and strange notions back to bed. And I pull the blankets around me for warmth, and I cradle your pillow in my arms, and I close my eyes so I can see you and be with you, again.