Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saved Every Sunday

Let's not forget that one day when we went across the fence into the field and we found that American flag bundled up into a hobo's suitcase, nestled in some old brown weeds near the off-ramp to the interstate.  Cars and semis flashed by.  It was cold and then it was warm because of the wind.  We stood above our find, dumbfounded.  Then you got that grin on your face and bent down on your knees and untied the flag and there it all was:  four dirty magazines, a half-emptied carton of cigarettes, and a big shiny Zippo lighter.  You picked up one of the dirty magazines and opened it and three ladies were spread-eagle on a large heart-shaped bed.  It felt like we were seeing something we'd always wanted to see but we only could get at it alone in dreams.

You just nodded your head. 

"That's filthy," you said.

I laughed.

You had wanted to blow somebody's head off before we took off earlier in the day, and I was like I always was, calming you down.  But now you were feeling great.  You had just uncovered treasure.  We took that stash back to your house.  We saw your brother fixing his truck, his head under the front of it so all we could make out was his headless body on oil-stained concrete.  His legs were twitching a little.  The truck's hood was up.  Your mom was upstairs sitting in her chair.  Big and fat, she had bronchitis and could barely breath but she was in a deep sleep.  When she was awake, she had a loud-mouthed psycho old-lady way about her, her laugh always loud and forced, like she was trying not to be depressed as hell but she was.  Right now she was Nyquiled into another world.  She didn't even see us take the stash upstairs.

Your house smelled like bacon and gasoline and septic-tank and lilac spray.

Your room was a miniature landfill.  You never seemed to wash your clothes, and you had unopened action-figure packages and eight-track tapes you had shoplifted all over the place.  When you shoplifted, I was your lookout.  Once I saw that no one was looking I'd give you the okay and you would grab this or that and then back your way up into a wrack of big coats, disappearing and then coming back to the world with whatever you wanted stashed inside your pants or jacket.   Every time walking out the hissing electronic doors of K-Mart or whatever store we targeted I would feel like I was about to lose it.   You just kept walking.  

Nobody understood why I hung out with you, but if they could have seen inside my head, and make out the way I saw you they probably would have been horrified.  You were the only person worth being around is all.  Everybody else was always so worried about getting through the day.  Worried about hallways lined with kids looking at them.  Worried about what their parents thought about them.  Worried about grades and sports and girlfriends and here the two of us were, 14 and stupid and wandering around fields, pretending to be little boys because we did not want to have to do anything else.  Or maybe you just couldn't grow up.  That was probably it.  It wasn't about will.  It was about what you had to work with.  In school you were always downstairs near the boiler-room in Special Ed.  Shaved-headed, skinny as a pole, old flannel shirts and dirty corduroy pants and untied hiking boots.  I was always hiding from everyone but you.  Me some fat pale white-trash kid who could get through classes without saying one word and still make Bs and Cs, one of those kids nobody really wanted to know, but he was still there taking up space. 

You let people know who you were.  You could not hide it. 

You threw the American-flag-wrapped stash onto your unmade bed.  You untied the top and opened it up, and then you said, "This is filthy.  It makes me sick."

Your face was lit up.  When your mom was not sick she was always taking you and me to church, that little Baptist one that had a trailer next to it, where the preacher and his wife lived.  The church itself was an old house they were trying to turn into a church.  Me and you and your mom would sit in folding chairs with the sixteen or seventeen other worshippers and you always made a big deal out of being saved.  You'd get saved every Sunday.  You'd go up and get saved and because everybody knew you were retarded they just assumed you had forgotten you'd been saved the Sunday before so they just let it go.  But I knew you just wanted to be saved over and over again so you could come back to being lost the next day.

You picked up the lighter.  You kept working it, turning the little wheel with your thumb.  You smacked the bottom of the silver lighter with your palm, and kept trying and trying, and then the thing lit up, a flame bigger than I thought it was going to be.  And you picked up one of those dirty magazines and you lit it.  The thing was a little damp so it was hard at first.  But it caught.  And you did that with the other three magazines and the carton of cigarettes that had been wrapped in the flag.

You stood back.  The flames from the stuff caught your mattress on fire.  I did not really care about the fire except that it was there and you had caused it.  I remember thinking that this was it.  I would never see you again.  You were laughing, looking around for something else to add to the flames.