I Used to Want To Be...
“1, 2, 3,” and she would look at me and smiling, holding my gaze and then when we were in that perfect space, she would rip the Band-Aid off so fast I hardly noticed.
Each impact took just a little more of my breath away.
I knew not to speak. I was too tired by then even if I wanted to. And it’s true, what so many like to point out. I could have and should have said much more. Done so much more.
But I said a lot of things to a lot of people over the years. I found my cozy corner and I told all the people I met there who would listen and you know what? It made a difference.
But I didn’t ever leave my safe little space. If I had maybe I wouldn’t be on my side in the fetal position staring down a flight of cement steps outside the back door to the building.
The tepid raindrops pelted my aching body.
They seemed far away. Their voices echoed in the scantily lit parking lot and the rain started coming down harder. I could swear I heard one of them say something decent before doing it. Something like “why are we even doing this?”
I stared up at the night sky as an orange orb-looking object passed over my head like a shooting star, shedding sparks as it went, only to be beaten down by the rain. Then I heard one of them say, “it’s not my call and you know what it ain’t yers neither. So just do it.”
First the grunt. The sound of exertion reached me first. There was a delay. Like a lightning strike, followed by the thunder because sound travels so much slower.
When you’ve been beaten enough times, you learn to control certain things. It’s impossible to explain.
After the sound I felt the heat between my shoulder blades and tried to guard my face with my hands because I knew I was rolling down the steps like a piece of trash, only I couldn’t. They were bound behind my back.
I landed on my back and looked up to the top of the stairs to see the doors closing as I lay on my back on the wet asphalt and drank the rain as it hit my face.
I tried to lift my head. My vision became blurry and chaotic when I did.
The rain provided some relief. And hydration. I remembered being drunk and on some other drugs in college and standing out in the pouring rain to sober up. This was definitely a different experience.
There’s a few people in here who keep saying shit like never ever in my wildest dreams or this is like the kinda thing they do in other countries.
Well duh. I laughed and then rolled over so I could vomit. Then I laughed more.
I opened my eyes to daybreak and a clearing sky.
Hands and feet bound I lay in the fetal position, face down in my vomit, soaked from the nights rain. In my peripheral vision I counted five of them.
Three soldiers, one Health Service Worker, I think, and the Social Worker.
“I used to wanna be one,” I said, barely getting enough air to form discernable words.
“The famous Catchy just couldn’t keep his mouth shut is that what happened?” One of the soldiers asked. He could not possibly be older than 18.
I wiggled to itch my back. Every piece of me hurt.
“Well, is that what happened?”
“Ah, ah, gimme a sec ill check my notes,” I chided him with leftover wit and guts.
Assessing whether it was worth it becomes pointless almost immediately.
The boy soldier stood over me and let several beads of saliva drip in rapid succession onto my face. He was literally drooling on me.
“Like that genius? It’s because of people like you we all have to be here in the first place. So, what was it you wanted to be?” They were all laughing an obligatory laugh. Maybe they felt trapped maybe they didn’t, I’ll never know. All I know is they didn’t help me.
The others lifted me to my feet. My head weighed 100 pounds and my body throbbed.
He demanded to know what it was I wanted to be. He said, “we ain’t goin inside til you tell me yer dreams Catkin Key.”
Nobody calls me Catkin and he knew that.
“I wanted to be a soldier. Protect my people, freedom, and all the rest,” I said hanging my head.
There was a moment of silence and the social worker huffed and puffed like she was being inconvenienced.
The soldier walked up to me, grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him.
We locked eyes and he smiled.
I made sure to muster a smile too. I could feel the dried-up pieces of vomit on my cheek.
“Well, here’s what you get fer being so goddamn sharp.”
First the sound of the exertion…
Then the sound of their shoes and boots on the cement as they walked back up the stairs.
The sound was familiar. It reminded me of the sound of shoveling snow as a kid and so that’s what I thought about as I lay on the asphalt, face back down in my aging vomit, baking in the warm sun.
The heavy metal doors slammed shut.