When Your Time Is Up

You know what you can’t do
Without drawing attention?
You can’t sprawl out on the sidewalk.
Head down, resting on the concrete, watching a bug.
Feet up, kicking.
I guess you can, if you’re eight or ten.
You could lie there for hours rubbing a rock back and forth
And no one would bat an eye.

No one would call the police.
Your neighbors would not be scandalized,
Insisting they knew all along that you
Were bat shit crazy.
I know I should get up.
The rock is just a tiny nub now
And the bug has long since passed.
Off to its hole or crack or burrow for dinner
Or out cruising along the twisting trail
Into the park looking for love.
That bug, it really does have it all.
Does it think so? Probably not.
Those with it all rarely do.
None of us content.
All of us scrambling.

Well, not me.

There is a small crowd gathering.
Someone’s (probably Patty … the bitch) has put a blanket over me.
As the sun sets, I can hear the sirens calling out their intent.
Coming!
Coming!
Coming!
Coming!
Everyone exhales when the lights bounce off their nosy faces.
When the authorities arrive.
When someone else will take care of this.

It’s just that I’ve had a shit day.
And really, I wanted to relax.
To do something in the now.
In the moment.
To be present.
To observe.
To not be bothered.
I wanted to think.
You cannot lie on the sidewalk and think.

It’s a disturbance.
Even if no one is using it.
It just not right for you to be lying there.
It’s a concern.
And I can tell you,
Everyone is concerned.
Even if they’re really not.
Just nosy and uncomfortable with the unnatural.
The strange.
A grown man (I like to think) lying on the sidewalk,
Rubbing a rock back and forth,
Back and forth,
Back and forth,
Talking to a tiny bug on some errand.
Kicking, ever so slightly, his feet.
Staring off after the bug, wishing it well, and happy holidays.
No, this isn’t a holiday breakdown, thank you very much.
It’s rude to assume bugs celebrate the same holidays at the same times as us.
It’s incredibly humanocentric.

Anyhow, I woke this morning with
(Don’t laugh)
A song in my heart
A smile on my lips
A full happiness in my soul.
I had so much to look forward to today.
I was swollen with prospects and promises.
They pressed out of my every pore.
It hurt to let my face go slack.
Nothing went wrong immediately.
And like I said, I didn’t expect it to.
All was going to be amazing.

I dressed.
Collected my things.
Went to my car.
My reflection showed on the window.
It being slightly tinted,
I could see the sweep of my hair,
The color of my shirt,
And the man standing behind me.
Same sweep of hair.
Different color shirt.
I turned.
We locked eyes.
I saw latent desperation peering back at me.
I saw sweaty skin,
Clenched fists,
Heavy breathing.
I saw twitching and false starts.
I saw the coming action.

Patty (the bitch) hummed just beyond the hedge,
Her footsteps approaching,
Her cockapoo whining.
My doppelganger rocking.
My eyes flashed toward the sounds, toward the walk where she walked.
She paused, smiled, and waved
(What a bitch).
I nervously laughed.
Lifted up my hand.
Turned to confer with my new friend.

But he was gone.
In a glinting of light,
In a reflection of glass,
In a rustle of leaves to my left.
Movement continued.
The bush shook violently,
Fear crept up me.
My eyes peeled back,
Mouth stretched wide,
Arm flew up for blocking the attack.
Rooster, it was, the dog from next door.
He lifted his leg, peed on my tire,
And bounded back to where he had come.
Exhaling, I tittered.
Got into my car.
I drove downtown to the shop.

It was burning when I got there.
Great clouds of smoke plumed up and could be spotted miles before I arrived.
The flames required you to be closer.
They licked the walls,
They cracked the windows,
They ate up my one and only shop.
I parked my car.
Straightened my shirt.
Walked up the door of my shop.

Kitten mewling;
I reached for my keys,
Wrenched open the door with a pop.
Heat poured out,
Drenched me completely,
Peeled back my skin,
Pried at my eyes.
Kitten coughed.
Then leapt to my arms, whom I caught.
Grateful he clawed at me,
Right up my neck, get me out of here he cried.

Now sooty, Kitten and I, we retreated back to the street.
Quickly around the bend.
We couldn’t be seen leaving this scene.
Now that my shop’s at its end.
Steps fell faster, heels clacked, hurried to my nearest friend.
The building was tall, gray slate, and iron wall.
Kitten in my shirt as we ascend.
Elevator dinging, hall lights gleaming.
I scurried to the end.

Knocked then banged.
Silence still hanged.
Hushed voices come up from behind.
The woman, from across the hall,
She didn’t recognize me at all.
I asked after my friend.
“That apartment’s been empty since December twenty, I don’t know about any friend.”
Then Kitten she spotted
Cooed love to the top of my shirt
Where her little head bent.

She cradled Kitten,
Removed the burnt ribbon
And stepped back with no hint of pride.
“Thank you,” she said and ruffed Kitten’s head.
Walked backward to her door.
Closing it as I blinked my eyes.
Again, I raised my hand to say goodbye.
Then returned to the street sans friend.

The day was spent walking,
The feel of someone stalking,
A stranger with my eyes and my old friends.
No wallet in my pocket,
No cash on hand.
I sat in a park to think.
With mysteries growing and, of course, me not knowing,
I couldn’t guess where I could be.
Where he could be, I mean.
Something had happened. Something called out.
Something brought about this strange circumstance.
Glanced up to the side. He stood feet away.
I didn’t know what I should do or say.

“Your time is up. You’ve been called back home.”
What did he mean?
With all thought my mind still screamed,
“This has happened before my friend.”
The shop has burned a thousand times.
Kitten has been saved even more.
Friend in the high castle, erased without hassle.

This copy of me
Shocks my memory,
Why did it take until now.
I’m tired of running,
Tired of climbing,
Tired of the Patty … the bitch.
I’m not starting over.
I will not forget.
You can tell who ever sent you.
I’m spent.

I stumbled.
I run.
Straight into the sun.
Desperate to get back to my brick.

And. This is where you found me.
Lying on the ground.
Rubbing a rock on the ground.
A group has huddled.
Shaming me for all the trouble
I’ve caused on this small strip.
A paramedic, he bends, shines a bright lens, taps me on the face.
Just over his shoulder, I see my twin
Arms crossed ,
Head shaking,
A thin smile snaking
Across his lips
Here at the end.

Oh. Light is receding.
The others are leaving.
Patty … the bitch,
Says I’m dead.

Thoughts?

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