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I lay back sometimes... Thinking, remembering, little tidbits of my youth. Obviously I was far too young to remember everything. But if it was quiet enough... vivid, iridescent images of my mother comes too view. The smoky candescent lighting illuminating her sun touched soft skin. The smile on her face when her gaze met mine. The dimples on her cheeks as she displayed her perfectly placed white teeth. It was like visions of an angel being projected onto the back of my eyelids. It was my peace... Before darkness blocked it all out.

I remember, walking through grass. Little feet wearing converse Chuck Taylors. A timeless shoe. Black with the white toe. Streaks of green on the surface from me dragging them through the freshly trimmed grass. I must've been three or four here. Old enough to play and laugh but young enough to be fearless. I remember mother frantically rushing across the yard, placing her hands under my arms and lifting me up off the ladder I was climbing. Clearly too tall for me to be on but all the kids were doing it. I was just following.

The curse of all this? I remember being strapped into my seat in the car. It was a hot day. I still don't know where we were going. I was tired, I had just woken up, dressed and probably fussy. My dad was driving. I remember the sun so bright, blinding even. It had to be early morning. I guess I couldn't take it because it was making me even more upset. Dad was complaining about me. Mom was defending me "He's just tired, in a few, he'll fall asleep. It's a car ride, they always put him to sleep". It didn't. "Pull over" my mom says. The car slows and she opens the door. The trunk opens and within seconds tires screech and our car goes flying. Tumbling to a stop on its roof. I never seen mother again. My peace... was gone.

Several years passed and my father did his best to raise me. He fed me, he sent me to school, he bought my clothes. Once I was in school he picked up a new job. Paid a little better, he was able to afford a sitter for me. More and more he worked to where some days the sun was down before I would go home. I would wake up sometimes with my cheek on his shoulder, or as he's placing me in the car, but always dark. I would make macaroni pictures at school for my dad, but never be able to present them to him. We would have to describe our parents at school and I would make up stories about how my dad was a fireman, or a cop, or a secret agent. Something. I think about that now and I know those kids knew I was full of shit... One day, my father came and picked me up from the sitter. A woman was in the car. "Johnny, I have someone I want you to meet." He places his hand between my shoulder blades as he guides me to the car. The woman, dark haired, red lipstick, dark eyes. Nothing like mom. Mom's were green, glinting, like emeralds. The woman smirks at me and turns away... "She and her little boy will be staying with us, you'll have a friend around..."

I remember first meeting Marco. Dark hair, slicked to the side. Button up shirt and shorts. About my age. His skin was darker than mine. He spoke properly, he wasn't from here. We spoke a certain way in the city. A lot of slang. This kid used none of them. "Hi, do you want to play? I have Micro Machines" I told the kid. "Sure!" he replied. We ran off, made a small track in the dirt and began to play. Time and time again we would spend all day playing until the sun went down. And when we'd come home, it was time to wash up for bed. I was always sent to bed about 15 minutes past eight. Marco however, would stay up watching a little television before heading to bed. It was how he and his mom would bond I guess. My dad? He never wanted to "bond" He would tell me, "just go to bed, it's not a big deal" 

Marco and I became great friends. I actually had a brother. We'd walk to school together, we'd ride bikes together. We were inseparable... Up until high school. At orientation day, we received our schedules. Marco and I got 2 classes together. math and P.E. I was excited. It wasn't ideal for what I would have liked but at least he was there. Marco had met some guys in school. Shay and Eric. Shay was a class clown. Always lived to make people laugh. He was well liked. Shay and Eric lived in the same apartment complex, so I could see where they knew each other but they were totally different. Eric was a fire cracker. Waiting to blow and with a short fuse at that. I remember one time while hanging out at the apartment complex. Eric snuck up behind me, and started striking my back with is balled up fists. When I turned around to see who it was, he laughs and said "I was dared too" before running off. days later, I found out it was Marco who put him up to it. The fucker...

Over the course of the year, I started seeing less and less of Marco. He Shay and Eric would hang out all the time. I would tag along but was always ignored. I was the fourth wheel, if that's even a thing. We would take the city bus to school sometimes. I would get off and school and they would stay on. Before the bell would ring I would see them get back to the school. This was weird, where would they go for half an hour. I'd ask and they wouldn't tell me. They just give me candy or school supplies and tell me to shut up. One day I wised up. When I got off the bus like normal, I waited till the bus drove away and I started walking in the direction they were going. I seen them coming out of a grocery store running. I hid behind a soda machine so they wouldn't see me. As they walked towards the school they took a bike path. Were Eric pulled out a small box and began taking the plastic off. Cigarettes, he was unwrapping the foil and tossing it to the ground. 

They walked the path, each with a cigarette in their mouth, The bike lane would cross a field behind some houses. Trees lined the fence line between the houses and the bike path. At one point they come across an old couch someone had left behind. This is the area we all lived in. People were too broke to dispose of their old stuff that you would find things in remote locations. Shoes, dressers, old clothing, anything really. Marco and the guys stopped at the couch and finished their cigarettes. Eric tossed his onto the could and they all laughed. Eric then decided it would be wise to flick lit matches at it. As smoke began to rise from the tattered old couch, Shay and Eric ran off. Marco stayed behind, surprisingly getting closer to the now small flame building. As the cushion began spreading he stands back and watches it, mesmerized. It fascinated him. After a few seconds he snaps out of it, looks around and runs off. I followed behinds. By the time I passed the couch, half of it was on fire and the neighborhood was alert. I hear shouting in the distance from people peering over their fence to see what was causing the smoke.

By the time I made it to school I see the firetrucks racing to the fire. The lights flashing and sirens blaring. I get to class right as the bell rings. Winded I take my seat. It's math class. Marco was already there. He noticed my heavy breathing. He knew... About 30 minutes later, Fire men had come to the school. One of the neighbors had described a student running from the fire. "We are looking for a boy wearing a black shirt with blue jeans. Marco was wearing khakis and a button up shirt. Eric and Shay wore similar. I... I wore a black shirt and blue jeans... Why were they looking for me? I was removed from the classroom. I remember looking at Marco as I'm being walked out of class. Our eyes met. I knew he seen me, I knew his friends had done it. And what does he do... He looked away. I was charged with arson and juvenile mischief and sent to Juvenile Hall. 

I did a year in Juvenile hall. By the time I got out I was 15 years old. My father had lost his job and stayed at home most of the day. He picked up a drinking habit, probably led on by depression. He would randomly fall asleep on the couch. Beer cans on the side table next to him. Ashtray on the coffee table in front of him full of butts. He had let himself go, hadn't washed for a while, clothing was tattered and dirty. He didn't care, he didn't acknowledge me or anyone in the house. And when he would it would only lead to arguing and more drinking. Marco, would hide in his room playing video games. I of course would take care of what I could. I was always forced to do chores, Marco would get off free. He was my dad so I had to pick up after him. Empty beer cans, empty the ashtray pick up the area around him. I'd sigh, bite my tongue and do what was needed.

One night, my father did himself over. He drank himself to passing out. Worse, he fell asleep while holding his lit cigarette. We all were asleep then. Marco and my room faced the back while Marco's mom slept in the front room. My father slept where he lay. Couch, chair, floor, wherever. This day my father had fallen asleep on the couch.  He drops the cigarette onto the carpet where it began to spread. Alcohol on the floor had acted as an accelerant and the fire quickly spread throughout the living room. The smell of burning  fabrics and smoke began filling the house. I woke up coughing. The shouting from Marco's mom echoed through the house. My eyes hadn't even fully focused yet and I had to find out what was going on and how to react. I can hear my father start to scream. I dove for the door and flung it open. The smoke rolled in, completely covering the acoustic ceiling. I run down the hall to the doorway that leads to the living room. There I stand, terror on my face as my father burns alive. His screams pierce through the roar of the flames. My step mother's screams were muffled in comparison. As he started to pass, her's became much clearer. I could make out bits and pieces of what she was shouting. "Fucking pyro" what?

I lifted my gaze from where my father lay. Across the room in the adjacent doorway I could see her standing. The fierceness in her eyes as they were locked on to me. She screamed so hard that her neck would concave in on itself. "You fucking pyro! You did this!" Did she think it was my fault? Was it a mistake to see what was going on? I didn't understand why she was blaming me. I could say the same about her. I felt a tug on my arm. "Let's go Johnny, let's get out of here" Marco, was pulling me away towards his room. We raced toward the open window where the smoke was already billowing out. We leapt out the window landing on the grass behind the house. "Did you see it Marco, it was like it was alive" I remained silent. His comment haunted me. How could he say that? It's as if around fire he lost all sense of emotion. It hypnotized him. 

Once we reached the front we gathered together with his mom. Immediately she kneeled to see if he was ok. He blankly stared at the house as she rubbed her hands on his face. My vision became blurry and tears covered my vision. Just as they started streaming down my face the light and sirens arrived. Firemen started pouring out of their big red trucks. We moved out of the way, except Marco. He stood there watching in awe. As they began to douse the flames an officer began asking questions. I overheard my step mother mention me. Again, confused. What did I have to do with this? I just lost my father and people are acting as if I had something to do with it. As the officer approached me I hear "Go ahead and put your hands behind your back son, we need to go to the station for questioning". I turn to Marco, "Tell him I didn't do it, MARCO! TELL HIM!" Till this day. I don't even know if he heard me... He just stayed there. Staring. That day changed me. The only thing I had remotely close to any kind of support was gone. I took the hit for the couch, Marco looked away. Now I'm taking the hit for the house, and Marco, my brother, my best friend, stood there... That day I lost my family.

C'est ma vie
Fuck it...

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