Monday, June 13, 2011

hey man

hey man

his voice crawls over my shoulder, it could be for anyone of the souls in shoes standing in line, McDonalds is busy at lunch, but i know it is for me. how, don't ask, it's just a feeling and the man in front of me doesn't even flinch, he just stares at the brightly colored menu, his choices weighing on his leather belt.

my boys have wandered over to a table. they picked a booth and are looking out the window, unhindered by the bright sun streaming through. they are who i look for first, to make sure they are safe, because i recognize the voice. they are oblivious though, drunk on the thought of their happy meals, with plastic panda toys.

mom is working and we are out, just the men, or boys, all in how you want to look at it. we are just killing time until the nature center opens at noon, so we can visit the snakes. they have a hedgehog too, cute in all its prickly quills, just watch your fingers because if they get scared and sneeze you might get hurt.

his hand meets my shoulder and i can no longer look away but face that which i know i will see when i turn around. hey man. hey man. how long has it been, six months, but then he could not have touched me with those hands behind his back encased in steel cuffs. the night he beat his mother. i knew he was out, saw him hitch hiking, days ago, flipping me off as i whizzed on by on my way somewhere, anywhere and chances are he had no clue who it was.

my boys are walking across the brown tile floor toward us, curious who is trying to get dad's attention and i wish they would just go back to the table. they can not read my mind, but i can their faces and i know they know something is up and there is no stopping this moment.

he's all smiles, sunk in hollow cheeks, skin stretched over bone frame, gaunt compared to before, maybe twenty, thirty pounds lighter. the pleasantries are quick, we know each other and he asks about the boys now at my hands. yes, they are mine. nice, he says, smiling, all teeth.

yeah, i lost weight, its all muscle now, he says, but underneath it's probably meth, or something up his nose, shot between his toes. he knows, i know. its the twitch that be-lies the truth. what cha doin today man, and my boys let slip the happy meals and he says he'd love one too if he had the money and gives me a look. i don't bite.

it's quick, we are next and order, then eat, but i watch his back two booths over, head bobbing to the music pumping through the buds in his ears leading to his phone. homeless, i wonder what he sold to get it. he sits by the door with a friend, watching the comings and goings, looking for familiar faces. we finish and i nod as we walk out.

hey dad who is that? was he one of your boys? i feel his eyes and look back catching them through the window following us across the asphalt. yeah, something like that. what happened?

soda chortles in the straw as they suck for the last sip from their golden arches paper cups and i think of the ones i can not save, not that i can save any of them, but...

84 comments:

Lorraine said...

You carry a lot on your shoulders, I hope writing helps you bear it...I'm glad that your personal life, your wife your children,are there and love you....you deserve them x

annell said...

Who was that masked man? Interesting....

Melinda Owens said...

heartbreaking...my son and I recently watched one of his friends slide back into his addiction. like you, we grieve and are helpless. this story captures those feelings perfectly.

Daniel said...

Holy moley dude. This made me edgy just reading it. Wish you could just blink your eyes and transport to some other place in a moment like this. Ugh. However, I felt your pain and anguish about folks being too far gone, and the frustration at the waste and the loss. But, as you already said, the saving is not up to you. Perhaps, though, in time ... Who knows? Blessings.

DJan said...

You are able to transport me into your head with these words, Brian. I am in awe of your ability. This post made me feel protective of your boys from the creepy guy.

Corinna said...

nice writing, the ending had me in tears.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

God, heartbreaking. I know this feeling and the knowledge of how little control I have comes with the experience of that heartbreak.

I'm grateful for God and my own life in his light. I forgot.

Mama Zen said...

I've been here, and it hurts. Well told, Brian.

Slamdunk said...

The other reality for those who spend a lifetime helping others. Is it a wonder that many simply want to build a shell that protects personal life from professional?

Eva Gallant said...

That was a little scary to me. I hope it was just me, and there was no reason to be nervous.

Brian Miller said...

slam, you are right. we can set some pretty unrealistic expectations for ourselves and what we hope to see in the lives of those we are there to help.

my boys have met several of the boys i work with over the years, running into them at the store and stuff...usually i am pretty cool with it, but there are certain realities i want to save them from for now...it does open some conversations though...

Tina said...

What Lorraine said. You amaze me with your compassion. The way you share your stories touches hearts and makes us understand "your boys". You give them a voice. And I can hear your heart breaking with every word.
Tina @ Life is Good

Heather said...

yikes, it's hard to know the truth about the people we meet on the street. sad...must be hard running into the ones you have tried to help, but they c an only help themselves, as you know...but, that's the best part of being a kid, life is still full of goodness. glad they were there with you, though!

AmyLK said...

It breaks your heart when you can't save them all. And they all deserve it. I hope writing this helps you to heal.

Pat Hatt said...

Can't help those who won't take the first step and help themselves
Still using stuff that can make them see magic little elves
I'm sure it does make you a tad more paranoid too
When it isn't just you
Wanting to protect
And the guy won't take the hint know matter how much you deflect
At least the three of you got out unscaved
As sounds like for that moment the guy behaved

Bonnie said...

It is an uncomfortable situation when struggling souls get in the bubble of our children. The unpredictable factor can be handled just fine by you ... it was having your children exposed to who knows what that made it edgey for you, I'm sure. Whole different ball game if you are alone. Well handled Brian.

happygirl said...

"his choices weighing on his leather belt"

this line just got me.
The story is one I know well for working with women in the pregnancy care center and living in a smallish town. You can't spare them the realities of the world...

A Daft Scots Lass said...

So what do you want for Father's Day

Valerie said...

I was on the edge of my seat reading this, Brian. I too have felt the frustration and fear when dealing with similar types.

Bossy Betty said...

SIghing here. I would have just gone out and hugged those boys of mine as tight as I could.

ninotaziz said...

As my girls begin to leave home for pursuit of the 'world' out there, I experience this tightening in my chest. How do I protect them and yet expose them to the realities of today?

How do we teach them to open their heart to the unfortunate and yet keep them away from the unforgivable?

How? How? How?

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

Hi! Brian...
Your post is very well-written, very descriptive, and most definitely, very vivid, thought-provoking and Of course, very sad...
...With that being said, On the one hand, I think no matter how we try to protect our love ones from "reality" it's impossible.

Because I feel if children don't see it today...they will see it tomorrow, but on the other hand, I most definitely, "hear" your message loud and "clear" [holding on to innocence for as long as...]

Thanks, for sharing!
deedee ;-D

Stranger said...

This hurt good.
I worried for your boys all the way through this.
It also reminded me of people I wanted to help but was unable.
Beautiful.

Everyday Goddess said...

very scary. i'm glad you know how to make it safe for your sons.

Nancy said...

You are such an amazing writer. Truly! This story had me on the edge of my seat.

lori said...

You relay complicated emotions so well here. That feeling, of knowing the voice is for you and wishing it weren't. The truth of life is hard sometimes. I wish they all had happy endings...

Sue said...

My son is a marriage and family therapist who used to work for the county at a juvenile detention center.

Imagining just such a scenario (with my grandkids) has creeped me out many a time. Even sadder, as you express so well here, is the feeling of powerlessness. My son has always wanted to make a difference.

I am going to send him over to read this. Thanks.

=)

PS. "he just stares at the brightly colored menu, his choices weighing on his leather belt." (Had to chuckle at this deft touch.)

The Empress said...

HOw this must kill you.

For me, the not knowing, can you trust.

Can you truly help.

And where do you draw the line.

Whosyergurl said...

Scary times. Or, seems scary to me. I just came over to visit from Farmlady's Blog and after reading this entry, decided to follow. Great writing. I have a brother- 51 who has so ruined his life that he now lives with our parents, again. Sickens me. And, breaks my heart. He was in jail for three months and I thought about him every day, thought of how if it were me I would go mad for not being able to go outdoors or see the sky or the moon. He says he is clean now, but has had difficulty holding a job for long. Has so ruined his brain that he is like Ozzy Osborne. What a waste. There was a time he and I were like twins- two years apart in age and knew what the other was thinking without words. Now I can't see for the fog. Hold onto the hands of those little men you have there. Best, Cheryl

Vicki Lane said...

Beautifully told -- I wonder how long you will be able to do this job without imploding . . . I hope the writing is a help.

trisha said...

beautiful and touching brian. you should go easy on yourself.

you are blessed that you can help others so much.

Manda said...

Wow, this was captivating... you had me from "his choices weighed heavy on his belt"

ladyfi said...

Oh, so moving the way you describe gritty reality.

Magpie said...

In times gone by, you would have been the revered Story Teller sitting by the fire at night passing down the tales of strength, valor, morals, and fright. The tales told to warn children and adults alike.
You had my insides squirming with this one, Brian.

Bernie said...

I am glad there are people like you who at least try to help these people get back on their feet. Don't focus on who you couldn't help, think of the ones you did. It is a hard job you have but one that is so appreciated especially by families of those who live with addiction.....:-)Hugs

laurenmichelleotheim said...

this story had me from the get-go. The nearly stream of consciousness style writing was beautifully crafted. A very sad write.

hedgewitch said...

Nothing truer than what someone told me once--"You can't save everyone." Tt has the feel of a time honored saying or quote but if so, don't know where it came from, but I do know its true. Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night, as Blake says, and you have to keep moving regardless.

Claudia said...

reminded me of a friend of my son who watched his father kill his mother when he was fourteen - and yes -we tried to help and couldn't and sometimes i was kind of afraid of him as well. he's 20 now, his dad still in prison and he never managed to make his way in life...still hope he one day makes it
and hey...hedgehogs can be tricky but the really dangerous animals are turtles... i hardly survived a severe turtle attack when i was five...smiles...only say this to cheer myself up a bit after that sad stories..

Reflections said...

Well shared tale... you capture the depth of feelings, the momentary fear for your boys, the desire to hide them from his grasp.

wolfsrosebud said...

Praising God for the ones you have been able to save... I was caught up in the moment.

wolfsrosebud said...

Praising God for the ones you have been able to save... I was caught up in the moment.

Baino said...

Hmm. . no can't save them all but who knows. Maybe he's alright these days. Then prison is an awesome teacher and rarely of the right things.

Titanium said...

There is so much of The Dark in this world. When it extends its tendrils into the world of real life and our little ones, it seems as though the two spheres collide.

I bitterly resent the intrusion of my work life into my real life- you handled it much better than I do. My daughter has learned to read my expression, my body language, and stay hidden behind her book/iPod until I give the "all-clear" sign. There are places we do not go to eat, places we do not walk together.

This piece is so fiercely real.

David Allen Waters said...

having worked in ministry so many yrs, Ive seen addiction takes its toll on people...this is a dark, powerful write my friend

hugs

Barbara Shallue said...

Such a tragedy - and it's got to be so hard drawing the line, knowing you did what you could and not letting yourself take any blame for his choices. Very sad. Great job putting us there with you.

Fireblossom said...

I'd have been scared with my kids there.

Myrna R. said...

I can relate to this. Uncomfortable, awkward, sad. After a while, my daughter knew about confidentiality. She stopped asking about who I ran into. Your boys will too.

Appreciate this write.

Sheila Moore said...

sounds like an intense interaction - esp. with your little ones there. I was doing inhome visits while pregnant and when a domestic dispute developed I left and never went back. that was as close as my work ever got to crossing paths with my family. guess we wouldn't have worry about it if we had "normal" jobs :)

Kathy's Klothesline said...

You really can't save them all. Sometimes you can't even save your own. There comes a time when help isn't really help ..........

Pat said...

I was nervous reading this whole post. It's bad enough to run into to someone like that, but with your kids along, *shiver*!

ayala said...

Well said, Brian. It's hard to watch any life wasted and even more so one that you have tried to change. It is heartbreaking. I've been gone and I missed commenting on your great work .

Me said...

You got me at the end...teared up for him and for you and for the fact that boys grow up into men that can't be saved...

Margie said...

What you share about your life through your poetry touches me greatly!
Sad tale but you captured it wonderfully!
Amazing writer you are, Brian!

Take care and have a wonderful evening with your family!
I know how much you love them and that makes me smile :)

Betsy said...

What a sad story. You can help only so much and then be wise enough to know when they must live with their choices.

Your first line got me the most...voices that crawl. hmmm.

KB said...

Heartbreaking stuff.

Casey Freeland said...

Very well told. Intense scene and I'm glad it turned out the way it did.

Cheers,

Casey

CM said...

Wow, this was a tense moment, well told. I was afraid he was going to take a swing at you in front of your boys. Glad it was a better outcome. You know, although you want to protect your boys, it's okay that they see what that man has become because it is a reality. They just don't need to know all the details.

This is why I live 30 miles away from where I work.

Oh and I'm glad you didn't give in and buy him the happy meal. Although that might sounds cold, he has made his choices and he was just trying to use you.

kkrige said...

I bet that was a difficult moment, having your two worlds collide. Glad that nothing came of it, aside from difficult moments & memories.

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

No, you cannot "save" them but you can grab their hand and hope that you can pull them forward JUST ENOUGH to make a difference. And then there are the ones that will not hold on...

Tara Miller said...

My heart beat fast reading this play out. I know you always do your best to help those you work with showing them how to make wise choices while building confidence within themselves. It's up to them as to the choices they make and how they respond to the help you offer. You are a blessing to each and every one of the boys you work with....always know that even when you feel like you're not getting through to them. <3

The Retired One said...

Very chilling...I can hear your protective love for your boys and concern for their safety loud and clear...and as you should!! A parent has hairs on the back of their neck that forewarns them of people like this...even if you hadn't known him before.

nance marie said...

i think that it is a hard type of relationship that develops between people that once was mainly talking about very personal things. it can easily set up feelings of friendship, where there can not be one.

Flea said...

Fantastic writting as always Brian!!

PattiKen said...

Hard to deal with that with the boys watching, wondering, asking. Hopefully, it's all an example of how they don't want their lives to go.

adeeyoyo said...

I am covered in goosebumps! Beautifully written Brian... all the detail! Loved the phrase: his choices weighing on his leather belt.

One can only do so much, the rest...

Shadow said...

quite the chill here... well written!

Syd said...

I felt fear reading this as if there could be reprisals for you. I think that it must be difficult work that you do at times. Some people are beyond all human aid. I hope that he eventually finds what he is looking for before he dies.

Jannie Funster said...

Hey, Brian, I am familiar with that "Telling twitch" you speak of. Maybe he find peace and comfort.

And please don't tell a soul -- I scarfed a Big Mac meal the other day, first time in maybe years - and it was soooooo freaking good. Just felt in the mood and to the drive-thru didst I go. :)

xoxo

blueviolet said...

Here's hoping things change for that one and many, many more.

TechnoBabe said...

You and your wife and boys need to have a family sit down and teach your boys that dad comes in contact with people with problems. I would teach my kids that we need to have an emergency code or something to alert them to a change of plans because of possible danger. Maybe over reacting, maybe not. For me, just showing my children as mine to someone I myself am not comfortable around is enough to keep my children from them. And to discuss things with my children.

darsden said...

Felt it too Brian all the way to the core! Your talent at writing sure out weighs my ways of telling you!

Hilary said...

There are just some situations/encounters you just need to protect your children from. You instincts are at the ready.. your expression of events.. always incredible.

Steve E said...

Yup, many times I wish--for the same reasons--that I was someone else, somewhere else.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Your work on this--the best!

Heaven said...

A simple meeting in an ordinary place but you made the encounter thoughtful and soul searching.

I have not shared your experience but I am very protective of my children. We don't want them going the other road, the road of endless suffering.

gayle said...

Reading this I felt as if I were right there. Hope you never have to see this guy again.

zongrik said...

"his voice crawls over my shoulder" is a good beginning for a poem.

slommler said...

Tis a heavy burder; a heartbreak and a repulsion all at the same time. A hard one for sure!
Love your word imagery
Congrats on your POTW
Hugs
SueAnn

ellen abbott said...

you can't save those who do not wish to be saved. you can only enable.

texwisgirl said...

wonderfully shared angst, guilt, fear, repulsion...

Mom said...

WOW...powerful picture, son.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Wow, that was very powerful Brian. You tell a great story.

High Five on your POTW from Hilary.

jj

TSannie said...

What a fantastic writer you are! Very deserving POTW.

It sounds like you do a lot of good in your line of work - though frustration is a part of it. Off to explore your blog. Glad I was led to it.

Cricket said...

Yeah, you pretty much nailed it here. Don't know exactly what your connection is, but it sounds like you know some of my friends from home.

And, you know, I have, in some cases had, mixed feelings there. Hey man, can you "loan" me $20? You know, I know what you want the money for, but my $20 isn't going to be what does you in.

Just 'cause you're sleeping under a bridge doesn't mean I can't still buy you a drink, I guess. Hell, you probably need it more.

A friend of mine acquired a taste for Listerine and Aqua Velva, over ice, if possible, no lie. He insisted on it even if I offered to get him something else.

What can you do? Here's the $20 and, I guess, some reassurance that you still have friends even though you've pretty much ruined your life. Go with God. It's in His hands now.

A tough post, but a good one. Congratulations on your potw.

Michelle DeRusha@Graceful said...

This gripped me, Brian.