I was raised by a long-suffering woman who welcomed the world into her home and treated them like her own children. She was a bridge-builder, a friend, a mother. I remember her wet shoulder where the world came to cry, her openness, her friendship.
They say you learn these things and they become you, but me, I wasn’t always the brilliant student. I apologize mom; I could have done better. I can do better.
Sometimes you go to the movies, and they have these superhero movies where the brooding good guy destroys half of the city he’s trying to save. Some days, I clap when he wins, but there are days when I wonder if the salvation was worth the devastation. Perhaps he should have taken the fight outside the city where no one will get hurt. Perhaps he should have let the bad guy take the tenth of the city he was trying to keep. In the end, I don’t know whether to be happy for the hero or sad for the city.
And then it occurs to me, are these not my personal metaphors? Is this not my life? Am I not the dysfunctional guy with the trail of carnage and foundered relationships behind me? And what was I trying to save? Our shared smiles? Maybe it was your memories of me? Was I trying to save tomorrow? Really, whose salvation is this?
And real life works a little different than the movies, so in the end you always come back to confront the desolation you left behind; and which face will you wear when you confront it? How much remorse will you serve before you run out? Did you bring some shame for dessert? Will you save some for tomorrow? What do you say to the expectations marshalled into a jury to try your actions? Will you plead guilty? Will you whisper your enfeebled defense in a plaintive voice and say to the victims that you were trying to save the city?
Your best intentions will testify for you, and you will find that best intentions are poor witnesses.
I always thought weakness was for the craven. I always wanted to be strong for myself, and in that strength, I’d find strength for everyone else. But sometimes too much strength can break a delicate thing, and sometimes, you break things you can’t fix. We learn these things when the cookie crumbles. So should I have stayed outside the city where no one would get hurt? Should I have gone to where the trouble and the bad guys would find me alone?
The jury of expectations is dismissed; they have returned a well-considered guilty verdict. The judge thanks them for their service and I rise for sentencing. I will expect no leniency; my record speaks against the very possibility. I wonder what this liquid is that crawls down my left eye. The judge assures me it won’t be my absolution.
Dear old friend, these are my letters from solitary confinement. I remember that strangers was not what we used to be, and, thank you for visiting every now and then; I don’t know why you come.
They say you learn some things with time, but I haven’t really been a brilliant student. I’m sorry, lost friend; I couldn’t do better.