Mike, he has this way of standing too close to you for comfort, just inside your personal bubble of space. He was standing next to me like that, his face right in mine, intimate, breath absolutely reeking of whatever it was he had drank earlier.
“A dog, you know that but you go on. You know but that you go on.”
He nodded, and all I could think about was ice cream sandwiches melting between my fingers and sparklers on the fourth of July, my mother smiling and washing the windows and making cookies, my father teaching me how to shoot a basketball. Mike shook his head about two inches from mine, his hard crooked Polish nose practically rubbing against my cheek.
“I have a one way heart man, it only beats through, me, through, me, through, me, and me and on and on. Is there any way out, you know, heal me?”
“I try to, Mike. I dunno. I dunno how.”
I remembered this time when Mike invited me over to his place in his parent’s garage, and he was playing his guitar. It was maybe junior year of high school or so. He had this soft, driving way of playing, chords coming straight from his heart. It was torture just to listen to him. It was like everything that was wrong inside of Mike was starting out small inside his fingers, then riding the strings into the air, exploding, then disappearing. His five fingers tickled each of his guitar’s six, and she hummed electric for him. He’d play lightly and build thunder like a locomotive, generating momentum until he was finally banging the strings with his thumb and forefinger like it was a percussion instrument. He never opened his eyes when he played.
Inside my room, it was close to one in the morning, and Mike was swaying back and forth slowly, like a charmed snake, pleading with me to help fix him, to take him in, to be his brother, his friend.
My mom worked as an emergency attendant in the crises center at a hospital when I was little, around nine or ten years old, and I remember that when she didn’t have the time or money for a babysitter she would just bring me to work with her. I used to play around the colorful plastic chairs and the long comfy couches with my Transformers or He-Man figures. I would only play alone, because otherwise I would get a little embarrassed that I still liked to pretend. I remember, I would play for hours on end, lost in my pretend imaginary world, and then all the sudden somebody would bring the crying daughter of a mother who is in ER, getting windshield glass removed from her skull. I’d be making Price Adam dig deep for the powers of Greyskull and then out of nowhere some mother would be wheeled through the closed double doors of my own private