Sometimes I see him at night, in dreams, standing in the yellow light of his bedroom window.
In these dreams, he's not dead. He's not a cadaver hanging from the rafters of a garage in Springfield, Illinois.
In these dreams he's his favorite football player, Tony Dorsett of the Dallas Cowboys, my adversary in backyard games of football.
He's my fellow junior arsonist, building small fires to deform plastic cowboys and infantry men.
He's the bastard son of a Vietnamese woman and American G.I. Born 1969, brought to the states by an Army priest. Adopted by a Catholic family and placed in the custody of wrist-whacking nuns.
He is not the ultimate misfit who was kicked out of his home at eighteen. Not the depressive twenty-year-old alcoholic father of a child he will never know.
This is before all that. In my dreams, he is my best friend from ages 6 to 12 who lived kitty corner from me.
He is Professor Plum to my Colonel Mustard.
The Monopoly Top Hat to my Shoe.
He is not yet a drop out kicking about town with denim-wearing kids much younger than him, a case of arrested development.
He is not yet the displaced young man my horrified mother saw begging change in front of our local Ace Hardware.
He is instead the child who used to come to our house for dinner, eagerly eating up plates of my mom's mostaccioli.
Right now, as I look up at that window, he is the kid who had to take piano lessons against his will. The one who forgot his workbook at school a lot. The one who shared the discovery of women between the pages of a rain-soaked Playboy.
He is the Imperial Tie Fighter to my Rebel X-Wing.
Conan to my Wolverine.
He is a haunted house designer, hedge jumper and dirt bike explorer.
Ponch to my John.
Rocky to my Mickey.
Han to my Luke.
I am not reading about his death in the local paper we once delivered. Instead, we are fishing in his father's rowboat in Michigan, our feet covered in perch.
He is not a wasted body swinging from a beam.
He is also definitely not a corpse laid out in the basement of the same funeral home we used to race by as kids on our way to the candy store, prepared to exchange returnable Pepsi bottles for Snickers, Twizzlers and Volcano Rocks.
He cannot be the focal point of a funeral service I am too chicken-shit to attend.
No, right now he is secretly alive, hidden away from the world in a locked room of his parent's house with a Mickey Mouse poster on the wall.
He is the friend who swore we'd be together forever, eventually living side by side with our wives in log cabins in Alaska.
Living off the land.
Ourselves, all we'd ever need.
About the author:
John H. Matthews has had stories published in several literary magazines and a few anthologies. He lives and works in Chicago.