Vin tried to lift his head but it fell back again and he closed his eyes once more. He was so very tired, so very confused, immune to his surroundings, voices and lights echoing all around inside him and he lapsed into his own dream world. It was there that he heard her voice, that sweet, musical long-ago voice he hardly remembered, calling him... "Vin...Vin...time to come in darlin'," she yelled from the far corners of his mind, and with those words and that voice came the pain of remembering the deep, troubling, pain of now and long ago.
"Ain't no piece of shit," he remembered shouting as one of his "uncles" cracked him in the head, with what he never knew. But he woke up that time with a bad gash over one eyebrow and his one good shirt covered in blood. He never told his Ma how it happened. Said he got hit by a swing over at the playground.
Oh, Ma, why'd you have to die like that? he thought, closing his eyes to the memories and other voices in his head. Why'd ya have to let one of them creeps do that to you. Why, Ma?
And then came the tears.
Vin never let them see him cry, not the people from the agencies or the cops or the big guys on the corner. Not even the people he was sent to live with, always different people because he'd run away, yet always the same people in the end.
He'd run away from the beatings and the names they'd call him with hateful tones in their voices and the threats of being sent someplace worse. He'd run and he'd run but he could never run from the way it made him feel deep down inside himself, the empty, sad, confused wanderer. Maybe I am what they call me. Maybe I am a worthless piece of shit.
And then Vin's thoughts drifted again to thoughts of his mother. He remembered being lifted and putting his arms around her neck. He remembered her kisses that smothered his face and made him laugh because it tickled and made him feel good and so special. He remembered kissing her in the eye on the purple-green bruise to make it better, to make it go away.
She smiled through the tears then, called him her little man. "Things will be good one day, my little Vin," she'd said. "One day soon, we'll be happy, you and me, my little man."
You ain't never got there, Ma, he thought as he tried to reach up to wipe the moisture from his face. I wished it every day, Ma. You and me all happy and we had stuff to eat and it weren't so cold and these men didn't have to stay. I wished it every day.
And one of those men hurt me down there Ma, one mornin' when you were out. I ain't sayin' it was your fault but he hurt me and then put it in me, Ma, and I ain't never forgot that. Ain't never forgot. So I see him one day--four or five years ago--in our old neighborhood, Ma, and I go after him and I'm happy to say I bust him up real good. Left him there in the alley behind the old bookstore we usta go to, remember the smell of that place? He was in the hospital a long time, so's I hear.
Yeah, Ma, ya hardly wouldn't recoginize me now. Just like they said about you when they found you in the house that day.
It's been lonely without ya, Ma, after all these years. I really miss ya. I'm still waiting for the real good times, still hangin' on and hopin' but things, they're okay. I got friends now. Real good men. They look out for me. One guy in particular. You'd like him, Ma. He's decent and fair and he's keeping me together. Ma, remember when we'd sit together on the couch, me on you lap with your head restin' on mine and we'd look at the old National Geographics and you'd laugh and say we'd visit all the faraway lands one day. My favorite pictures were the ones of the Caribbean. Only I said "Carbean." I remember the color of the sea in those pictures, Ma, and his eyes are that color. So green, with flecks of deep blue and gray and you look real close you get lost in them the way I got lost in them Caribbean ocean pictures. His name is Chris, Ma.
I think he's here now, Ma, I can feel him. If I could open my eyes I betcha I'd see his green eyes smilin' down at me.
I'm tellin' ya, ya wouldn't hardly know me now. I'm all grown up. My hair is still long the way you liked it, wavy and curly at the ends. You usta run your long fingers through it, Ma, I loved that, did I ever tell ya'? I think I keep it long for you, Ma. Chris likes it, too. I feel his fingers brushing it off my forehead. And I think I feel him holdin' my hand real tight. I bet his knuckles are white with holdin' my hand so tight. He's tryin' to keep me here but I'm so tired, Ma. It'd be so nice to see you again. I can't hardly remember your face, Ma, but I can still hear your voice.
Someone's callin' my name. The voice is scared and far away and I hear my name over and over . My face is wet. I don't think it's just me who's cryin'.
And Chris is here. I can see him now. My eyes are open and there's those green eyes starin' into me. Ma, there's love in those eyes. For me. He's not lettin' me go to you, Ma. He's keepin' me here for a while, with him. Safe. It'll be okay. I'll be okay.
Just, oh, Ma, please help me get off the ground. It's cold. Please help me. I'll be good...I promise, Ma...I'll be good....just help me get up. For Chris.
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