He lives his life running forward facing backward. It’s a precarious journey, subject to all kinds of stumbles and setbacks. Not a straight line when you’re running while looking back. Swerves and curves. Smacking into roadblocks while you’re not looking. Not looking ahead. Looking back instead.
Back was good. Wife, kids, job, Porsche, money. Lots of money. Lots of money down the drain. Wasted down the drain. Drain waste, looking back. It went fast. Everything else followed the money. Everything good followed the money down the drain.
“I will not allow the kids to see you like this! Do you want them to think about you sleeping on the sidewalk?”
Maybe. Maybe he wants them tucked into their pillow-topped, $3,000 mattresses with thermal pillows wrapped in car pillowcases. Porsche pillowcases to inform their dreams. Maybe he wants them to know that while they are nestled and warm their daddy tries to fit into a corner between a dumpster and a concrete wall shivering with an eye infection and a runny nose. Dreams informed by drunken thieves, mean women who scream their insanity up to the stars, hungry kids who think silence can produce a half-eaten apple – mostly core. Maybe he wants them to see this. Think about him sleeping on the sidewalk, just for a moment before falling into the softness of a safe bed.
No. Better to look back. A handsome daddy bending down, smelling of smooth scotch and designer cologne. Back to soft fingers and manicured nails strumming the guitar and singing a lullaby.
“DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT’S BEEN SINCE I’VE HAD A MANICURE?!!” He is up in my face. His fist is clenched and raised above his head. I know he isn’t going to hit me, though, because he’s looking backward and I am the future. His eyes bug furiously out of his head, incredulous that a manicure has become inaccessible. And the back he is looking for as he runs forward is getting further and further away.
I fold my hands together to hide the roughened cuticles and the ragged curves of my own nails. Shame drapes over me for a moment, then I clear my throat. Manicures are behind me, part of my past. I don’t see them in my future because I’m looking straight ahead.
“Did you know that when a store gets a new guitar they immediately take all of the strings off and replace them? Perfectly good strings!” He hops into the dumpster and deftly finds some footing as he looks for the needle in the haystack – the guitar string in a dumpster. With a sudden cry he lifts his chin to the sky and a smile lightens up his cracked skin. Both hands rise up, filled with pale filament that curls and bounces down his arms.
“I found them!” his raspy voice raises an octave and he smooths the bundle over and over and over with his stained fingers. And the strings grow longer and curl around each other, forming braids and steps and handrails, until they make a kind of bridge away from backward. He turns and takes a tentative step on the bridge. He moves forward, looking forward. He’s found a place where guitar strings can be had for the taking. And that’s enough.