Reflection Through The Smoke

Everyone has held something in, holding onto troubles and pain. We hold onto our pain and struggles and sometimes we can’t share them. Everyone has secrets, skeletons we keep in our closets. Everyone wants to find themselves, be themselves. I stared a man in the eyes; I could see that he was tired. His soul was pounding on the glass windows of his pupils. He smiled and looked perfectly fine on the outside. If you were to see him walking around or doing normal daily life he looked like the average Joe. Some of us become so good at holding our demons at bay. We’re like nuclear reactors, holding the sun in our soul and smothering. Eventually we all turn super nova within our walls. This man opened up, looked straight into my eyes and said “I see you, I understand you.” He opened his soul and poured out his thoughts. He shared his life. This man never had a childhood; he was a broken soul, doing what he had to do to succeed.

He was about twenty years old and felt like he had lived over one hundred. He smiled and cracked jokes. He has been working since he was twelve years old. His mother abandoned him and his siblings. Most children play with toys or play at the park. He laughed and said “What twelve year old can tell you how turn an ounce to an eight ball to a teener to a half to a quarter?” I stood there speechless. He went on with “You can’t work for six dollars an hour and expect to get enough money, to feed my brothers. I had to open my doors to the Mexicans and sell them white mans speed.” He laughed and coughed on his cigarette. At thirteen years old he saw the effects of a needle and what heroin does. He walked in to see his sister lying on the floor. Foaming from the mouth, rubber squeezing her arm. He felt her cold skin and called the police. He smiled. I stared into his hazel eyes, staring into a painful abyss and he smiled. He inhaled more nicotine from his stale cigarette. And said “That’s just a little bit of my childhood, do you want to know what really breaks a man?”

“Yes sir”

“What really break a man are death, betrayal, and love. Love can make you and break you.”

He threw his cigarette on the floor and quickly stepped on it. Sliding his foot back and worth as he gripped his knees. Squeezing his knees as if he was trying to convince himself to gather enough strength to speak. His smile turned to a straight stare. He softly spoke “I’m twenty years old and I’ve been through hell and back.” He stared me in the eyes and told me how one of his brothers killed himself. His guilt was eating away at his soul. He should’ve been there for his brother to stop it. He couldn’t. His straight stare turned to a slight frown and lost look. He whispered “how could I? How could have I saved him? My mother abandoned us for some quick blow and our father is alcoholic who’d beat us if we showed we were weak.” He had to work to feed his siblings but he completely felt the blood of his brothers on his hands. His cousin was shot in the back alley of 46th and locust. He pulled out another cigarette and stared into the fire as he lit it. With a resounding tone he claimed “you don’t know pain and betrayal until you father beats the shit out of you with bat. To walk yourself to the police station and tell them you got jumped. You don’t know having to tell your little sister that her brother died. When she asks why you have to stumble and make something up. You don’t know broken until you bike around town to spread your brother’s ashes because you can’t afford to bury him.” I had nothing to say.

He looked at me and told me “Shit will make you or it will break you. Everyone has always been against me. Every teacher, every friend, everyone said I will come out to be nothing.” He has fought his way, clawed through the struggles of drugs and death. He has seen a Beretta pointed in between his eyes. He has spread his brother’s ashes at all the abandoned building they snuck into. He poured his ashes in Lake Michigan where they would run to get away with his siblings. He’s in college and works full-time. He wants to be an officer, and rank up. He wants to save children from the pain that he went through. He is doing everything he needs to do to succeed. Some nights he gets four hours to sleep, from work, overtime, and school he’s struggling. But he will succeed.     He stared into my eyes, I felt as if he was reading my soul. I could feel the tears, the pain in his voice. I felt the connection I felt as if we knew each other. Everything felt so surreal, his story his pain.

I glared down into this abyss everything felt so calm. I looked down and stared into the flicker and dim of my cigarette. I tossed it and stepped on it rubbing the soul out of it. I take a glance up and see myself. Gazing into the reflection. There wasn’t anyone else just a reflection off the patio glass door.  I sat there smoking my cigarette and reflecting on my life.  From the reflection through the smoke I found myself.  Contemplated and reflected on the struggles. Sometimes people have to reflect and face his or hers own demons.


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