By Destiny Gonzalez
Denver Online High School
Turning of wheels as they screech along the far, long intersections. My pale skin is scorched by the rays of sun. As I dwell upon my sunburned skin, my mind reveals my own truth. The world has not one worry about my daily situations.
It was exactly three years ago. I remember the dirty, dry sensation on my lips. BOOM! BOOM! Blasting my ears and probably breaking my eardrums. The jets are back and the other so-called “team” is underground, finding new strategies to win over our world.
I’m back to reality, and I can still feel dirt on my lip. I ask myself, “Has anything changed?” The worth of a quarter to me is the worth of the capital’s gold tip to the city. I’ve probably gone mad. I always catch myself talking to nobody. “Is there a chance for change?” Maybe I can give you can idea of how much hope I have left. It’s smaller than a millimeter and smaller than the air itself. That’s just it though. It’s small but it’s there. It’s lost. My hope has been lost since Iraq scarred my memories.
Every Sunday, I walk around Downtown Denver because the Broncos are playing and maybe generosity will cross people’s minds as they pass by me. I sit and let the laughs and yells of joy sink into my brain, dreaming if I could only be one of them.
My name is Deene. Ironically, my name means “hope.” What a joke. It all started on March 19th 2003. We the people made the decision to invade Iraq. My family and I were very close, that was until I left for war. My mother and sister waved goodbye in what seemed to be my worst nightmare. We were hiding in ditches, out of breath and gasping for air that was only dirt and smog from the choppers.
My eyes are filled with darkness and my body feels like it’s floating. My body weight and existence feels lesser and lesser by the minute. As I focus on the weirdly random sensations my body contains within, it barely occurs to me that I have passed out.
“Get up, Deene! We need to go! Get up now!”
As my eyes tear open from the darkness, I am in a solid, green tank. My gruesome reality is back.
Six years have passed, but not one detail from that day has escaped my psyche. I asked for nothing in return. I’m not selfish, but how did I end up on the corner of the road? What happened to the supportive family I had waved goodbye to before I took a step onto that plane to Iraq?
My mind twirls through the hypnotizing emotions I hold, and I start to wonder. What if I could go back to the day my caring mother and sister waved their soft, worry-less hands at me saying, “Goodbye, son. I love you,” and, “See you later big brother.”
What would I change?
Taking the extra step through the white airport doors, my heart bled with anticipation. “This will change it all,” I said to myself.
But then I think, I am not a person to live in regret, because at one particular moment I knew exactly what and why I walked through those double, white doors, onto the gravel to save the life. The life that once had given me life. The life of the people. Though this runs through my head, I ask myself, “Is regret the same thing as simply wishing for a different path?”
Frustrations twist through my brain as I understand the differences between these two contrasting ideas of my past. Those doors. Those doors. Those doors. That’s all that’s on my mind. They led me to protect the civilization that once had given me hope and pride. But they also led me to the extinction of my hope and pride. My path has turned into the unknown of Mother Nature. Sunny one day and rainy the next, that’s all.
It’s a Tuesday and today it is raining. Foggy car windows have happy faces that children draw with their innocent fingers. I just need to find somewhere to stay dry for a while. I walk into a couple of convenience stores, but after a while the clerks kick me out because they believe I’m stealing. I don’t blame them, but I get fed up with the rude, negative vibes I get from the people who I protected at one point in my life.
I walk up to a tall, dark man, who has the nerve to tell me to “get lost.”
I slowly say, “If you had respect and any knowledge of my past you would be thanking me. Check your head, man.”
Nobody takes the time to ask me why I’ve ended up on the street-corners, because they’re worried about taking their families out to eat or they’re worried I’m a crazy man trying to steal their cars. However, the only way I consider myself crazy is that I protected people who are more worried about themselves than anybody else. I understand they have their own success to worry about, but what about me? Why am I automatically counted out?
I stress and must control my anger towards the disgusted, selfish looks society gives me with their laser eyes. I’m treated like a savage, a crazy animal locked in a cage at the zoo. Why not, though? Why not act like a wild animal? I mean, that’s how I’m treated. This is why I grieve over regret and taking another path. Hasn’t anyone heard of perspective or “being in somebody else’s shoes?” Maybe they have, but it’s taken as a joke like everything else is these days.
I walk into the gloomy, dark day once again. I remember the rainy days when mom and I would play board games all day, drinking hot chocolate. I wonder if she still plays board games on days like this. I wonder if she is still in the same house. Curiosity overpowers my mind, and hey why not take a look for myself?
I walk the lonesome streets to find my destination. There it is. Memories go through my head like a beam.
I remember when my sister was still in my mother’s tummy. I remember playing Go Fish on the light brown table, the table full of stains from when Mom always dropped nail polish remover there. I can still smell the disgusting scent of the remover. Mom never learned.
I walk towards the door and clear the dust off the window with my old, grimy hand. I expect to see my family crying for their long lost son and big brother, but that’s just a wish I have. Reality is completely different. They’re playing Monopoly, and my mom is letting my little sister win. I know because she used to do the same exact thing for me, just to see me smile. My mother gives my little sister, Karen, a high-five. Karen won. Smiles gleam and shine from their faces as they fight over who gets the TV remote control.
My eyes drift towards the backyard. To the window, the window where my room used to be. I hope my old Kiss posters are still hung, so they never forget about me. However, I am prepared for disappointment. The disappointment fills my sighs when I see boxes stacked up. My room used to be royal blue, my favorite color, but now my room’s white. What used to be a seven-year-old boy’s room is now a storage room for Dad’s old tools and suits. My presence has escalated to air above the house, the air nobody bothered to notice. It’s gone now.
My heart sinks beneath my feet. I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing right now. I can’t believe they’ve forgotten me. Our memories, moments, and laughs, all gone.
On my sister’s sixth birthday, our backyard was filled with guests, my sister’s friends from school, family members, and even my dad. I was sitting in the kitchen as everybody stood outside gossiping. Nobody noticed that I was nowhere among the crowd. They never did. I sighed as my father walked into the kitchen.
“Aren’t you going to come sing Happy Birthday to your sister?” he said.
I got up slowly. But my dad told me to sit back down. Why couldn’t I have just pretended to be happy? Now I know I’m headed towards one of those serious talks, the kind of talks you appreciate in the end but wish they never took place.
“Got damn it, Deene, look what you did now,” I whisper to myself.
“What’s wrong? You seem so quiet lately. I know something’s bothering you.”
“Nothing I just… I don’t know. Ever since Mom’s therapist said she should start paying more attention to her daughter, I feel like I’m not as important to her anymore.”
“Look, your mother is just going through a lot right now, but no matter what I’ll never leave your side. No matter where I’m at, what I’m doing, I won’t leave.”
I remember that day as clear as a crystal glass. And he kept his word. He never left my side. Oh how I miss the delicate sound of his voice. I miss his reassuring smiles that reminded me of how proud he was to call me his son.
Since he got into that car crash, my life has never been the same. I knew my mother was going through a lot, and I always tried my best to keep that in mind. But was she going through so much that she would even forget her own son?
I was not and never will be hateful towards her. I do not see the point in revenge. My thoughts are nearly covered in pain. The kind of pain you get when logic doesn’t seem good enough anymore. The kind where your headaches are no longer in your head but in your heart.
I walked away from the house because I was tired of it all. Tired of not being appreciated, not being treated with respect, tired of being forgotten and not knowing how to be remembered again. Regret did not sit at the edge of my heart anymore, waiting to fall down the abyss of my feelings. I wish my mom cared, I wish my little sister remembered.
However, that’s not the point anymore. Because if I had never been a soldier, Dad would have never seen that I changed. He cared for me, but he thought I was selfish, and I was. My dad’s image of me is probably ten times more meaningful to me than what my mom thinks of me, only because Dad is gone and Mom is still here with time ticking on the clock of second chances.
My hope is weighing down day by day. I sit and wonder if mom is missing me, and if I still have a chance to be remembered.
What if I knock at the door and just hug them? Or is that too forward? What if I call them on a payphone and help them remember by repeating all the memories that have played in my head over and over? But what if they don’t believe it’s me?
Tears roll down my face like a tire rolling down the road. I patiently sit on a bench in the park, by our old house. I try to figure out how I will face my past and make it my present once again.
Mom and my little sister never drove anymore after dad passed. He said driving was “overrated.” He always made us walk, and said, ” Our days can be as bright as the sun if we take a step a day to realize the paradise we live in.” Paradise? I thought to myself. Yeah, right! Those were his “magical” words to get us to walk to the store and basically everywhere else we went.
I begin to fear that if I wait too long my chance of earning my family back will be lost. I walk towards a little stream where my little sis used to go to catch mini fish. Who knows if she still comes here though?
As I breathe calmly, I sense a shadow behind me. A child figure just standing, waiting, breathing heavily. There’s a small sound of weeping coming from this figure, the kind of weeping when it sounds like the eyes are about to become a waterfall, and the sadness becomes a part of your voice even though you aren’t so lonely anymore.
The shadow is light and grey. The trees are beginning to sway back and forth with the wind’s movement. I can feel the pressure behind me like back when I was in Iraq’s homeland. The pressure reminds me of someone pushing me into a ditch to suffocate me, or it could be someone pushing me into a ditch to save my life from a grenade. Back then, getting hurt didn’t matter because I could pass out and see my father once again. See him in my visions with a blank, black background, like a movie that never made use of a green screen to show a fake image. I would see the man that meant the word home to me. That’s the word that stuck with me all these years: home.
The shadow steps a bit closer, and I hear the old, green grass crunch like a bag of chips. It gets closer and closer. I will either be saved or suffocated. At this point, I have no idea which will occur.
I slowly turn my head and my eyes wander over this figure. Innocent, blonde hair swept to the side of this young girl’s face. She has soft, peach colored lips and bright blue eyes. The beauty of her eyes are over-shadowed by the emotion they hold. Her expression appears as if she’s seen a ghost or seen a pig fly in the middle of December. She’s pale and astonished.
“Brother is that you?”
A grin begins to form on my face, and my eyes grow a bit bigger than normal, because I knew exactly who this was. Everything I’ve ever dreamt of wanting. She runs up and hugs me as tight as she can, and we both shed a tear.
“Me and mom need you back! We’ve been wondering for so long, brother. Come back home. Please?”
I’ve been waiting to hear that for so many years, I am speechless. “Of course I’ll come back sweetie.”
My little sister, my mom, my dad in my memories, and I. This was family. This was home. This was me.