It Could Have Been Me

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The sky is gray and the Texas wind is blowing. It cuts through the man on the bench, like a knife. He looks around the area for what might be available for him to help him get warm. The trashcan sits under the two trees to his left.
Standing up, he walks over to the can and looks inside. Eureka, his mind yells.  He bent over the can, and got out newspapers. He found over the years, newspaper acts as great insulation from the cold, if it is crumpled and placed between the skin and clothes.
He has a military issue coat with the name Jones printed on the front left hand side. The army green coat is threadbare and disgustedly dirty. He feels it is not good enough to be a coat anymore, but it is all he has. His more gray-than-brown
hair stays matted, because he does not have a comb. His facial hair makes him look like an old grizzly character with a bushy beard, he has seen on TV in the past. His hands are hard and crusty. His fingertips are yellow from years of smoking. The nails have a black ring around them. What has happened?
His name is not Jones, as the coat says, it’s Farmer. John Wesley Farmer, is his given name. He knows who he is, and he knows what city he is lives. Sometimes that changes, when the voices direct and taunt him.
As he sits in the little neighborhood park on a bench, he remembers a place with a bed and food to eat. He does not know what happened, one day he had to go. The people give him the name of a person to contact in Odessa.  His mind remembers, “The
card was lost a long time ago. He was driven to the bus station and a ticket to Odessa placed in his hand. The people just walked out and left him. He didn’t even have money for a cup of hot coffee”.

He does not talk to anyone any more. It is not because he does not want to; it is because they do not see him. He can smile at someone with his wide toothy grin, and yellowing teeth, and they act as if he is not there. He has his voice to help keep him company, but his voice tells him, “John you are a lousy man, you couldn’t even save your wife and child”

Every once in a while someone comes along,  shoves a sandwich and a bottle of water at him. It is some church group doing their Christian duty to the unfortunate people. Why will they not take time to sit down and get to know me?
Someone starts walking toward him and the closer he gets, John can see he does not have a smile on his face. His voice tells him this person is going to hurt him, take him away, and stick him in a hole without a window.
The man says, “You have to get out of here, we don’t want your kind hanging around our neighborhood, scaring the families, and the children, who come here”. John just looks at him, trying to understand what the man is saying. “Get out of here now. The police will be here soon.” When John hears “police”, he jumps up and starts running as fast as he can away from the park. He is very afraid of the police, they have been very cruel, and hurt him many times.
Now where could he go? He starts putting one foot in front of the other, ending his steps at the railroad yard. “Careful, careful” his mind screams. “I have to spend the night in one of the unlocked cars.” He sleeps in rail cars as much as possible. “I don’t want those mean men and dogs finding me, they hurt me when they can.”
He has a dollar in his pocket from panhandling downtown today. He needs to buy himself something to eat. He is trying to think where the vending machine is located but he cannot. “I’ll wait until morning; I am too tired to walk anymore.”
He finds an open trailer and crawls into it, gently sliding the door closed. He does not want to arouse the men and dogs. The trailer floor is hard, ridged planks. He figures the ridges are to keep things from sliding around. It makes for a tough night’s sleep.
As his eyes close and he  drifts into a deep sleep, his mind makes him remember things about his life he does not want to remember. He can see his wife playing with their daughter in the living room of their home. He sees his wife’s lovely oval face,
with her green eyes and black hair. His daughter Angel Lynn was beautiful with big brown eyes and dark curly hair. She is such as joy.
He longs to see his wife and daughter but he cannot. He can hear their screams as the flames came up around them.
Oh God, where was I? Why can’t I help them? I remember now, I was not around. I was sent to Afghanistan to fight the terrorism battle. I could not have gone; I sell furniture at Wallace Furniture. “No, I am a soldier, I am a weekend
warrior, but I am a husband and a father
“, his mind screams, as he was drawn further into his personal nightmare.
Now his mind is trying to rescue his family, his hands and feet burn as he crashes through the living room door. The smoke so thick he cannot breathe. Coughing and sputtering he is fighting his way through his house, with the anguish in his voice
calling to his wife and daughter. “Where are you?” “Where are you”?

John woke with his smelly clothes wet with perspiration. His body aches as if he was beaten. The sad thing is he remembers every vivid detail of the reoccurring dream. “I have to get out of here“, he says to himself.
John climbs out of the train car and quickly slips out of sight. Walking down the road with his chin on his chest looking at his feet he thinks of how he is now. His mind is reviewing his life up until this point in time. His voice tells him “John, you are a lousy man; you couldn’t even save your wife and daughter“. John took a swing into the early morning air. “Shut up, shut up, I am not going to listen to you anymore.”

John looks up and sees an open service station, he decides he’ll use their facility and clean up a little bit. Inside, the  restroom has three sinks, three mirrors and three stalls. As he walks in the door, he looks into the mirrors on his left and freezes in his tracks. He takes a good long look and says, “could this be me, am I this man?” He turns and steps up to the sink and
says into the mirror “this is going to stop; it is going to stop now“.
John turns on the cold water and splashes it on his face.  He takes soap from the dispenser and starts washing.  He is going to wash the filth away and start his life over.  His voice starts talking and John immediately say’s “shut up, I told you I was not talking to you any more”.  He went on with his ablutions, and a determination to make his life work.

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