Once Upon a Time in the Creek Behind the Dirty Book Store
Me and Keith never seemed destined for a memory like what went down, but I guess that’s how it goes. You move through so many years thinking you can imagine- into reality- what will unroll around you. It isn’t arrogance, I don’t think; it’s different than that; it’s more innocent.
You are greener than that and I am too. We both watched too much TV back when we were kids, maybe. Too many movies. Our imaginations morphed into visions. We pictured ourselves living masterful lives. None of us think we are going to end up drunk on the couch with a rapid heartbeat and the Christmas tree towering over us like a state cop in a ditch by the side of the interstate.
We never thought we would end up this messy. Or that certain incidents would come along that make us think, years, or even decades later, that everything is so flawlessly random. And that this whole thing just has to be a dream. I mean, it just has to be.
I don’t know. Somehow most of end up half-believing that we can somehow wish into existence the kinds of people and experiences that we used to daydream about in algebra.
Get me the fuck out of here, we told ourselves.
Hook me up with the compelling people. Drop us off down at Better Days.
I look back now on the hot summer of my senior year of high school and I see Keith. His white teeth cutting out of his black face like a good thief opening up his bag of jewels. His smile/ sharing it with me in the parking lots of the forever mall. Him looking through me, like I wasn’t even there. Maybe I wasn’t.
It’s becoming harder and harder to say for sure.
In the final weeks of my junior year in high school, I found a summer job. It was a good one too. Paid like $5.50 an hour, no benefits, no nothing else, like most of the jobs I have ever had. But the work was simple and satisfying. I would show up at the King of Prussia Plaza early in the morning, at 7am, and I would run this big industrial street sweeper vacuum along the outside sidewalks. Stomped on Coke cans, styrofoam take-out containers, crumpled up cigarette packs, plastic bags, people’s dried loogies, pigeon shit, pizza crusts with beautifully specific chomp marks, snapped in half Walkman headphones, evaporating lakes of human piss, Chick-Fil-A aluminum foil wrappers with glumps of sauce pushing out from the balled-up insides like some soldier’s belly spilling out of his skin, Kool butts, Camel butts, Pall Mall butts and Parliament butts, whatever people chucked on the ground I could suck it up with this heavy-ass machine that took no prisoners at all.
I’m pretty sure I could have even sucked up a toddler if I had ever run across one just laying there on the sidewalk outside one of the entrances or whatever. Just pulled back on that smooth handlebar and eased that roaring mouth out over the kid like a third inning thunderstorm.
Cans, cigs, and one dumb ass kid.
All in a day’s work, dude.