Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Short Story: 85 Dreams

85 Dreams
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
When this year began, I had no expectations.  Last year was atrocious, and I was lucky to have survived.  But so many people didn’t, and a lot of bad things happened.  We hoped for a better year.  I hoped for a better year, but February turned into a cruel hand that led me here.  And all I can do is sit on this cold, stone bench and watch the line of poor souls in front of me be swallowed whole by an ugly, yellow bus.
The bathroom on the bus was not working.  Neither was the bus station’s.  There was only a bowling alley across the street, and despite the bitter chill in the air, people were standing outside, watching us, knowing where we were being sent.  It would be a short ride to the airport, but it would be a very long ride after that.  Well, maybe not for me, and the guard followed me into the bowling alley.  Luckily, he gave me my privacy in the stall, and he was a nice man.  He was allowing me to sit here as the bus filled up minus one seat, but he wasn’t letting me go.  Like me, he was just another prisoner.
I noticed a young woman standing on the line with a newborn in her arms.  She was silently crying.  I bet she wasn’t here long, just long enough to believe that she would find a new beginning, a new life for her child.   There was once that dream.  Now, it was gone, and she disappeared along with it.
I pulled out my last cigarette.  I wanted to enjoy it.  Where I was going, I would be lucky, if I found one, or at least one as good as this.  I noticed the guard looked at me as I lit it, but then he turned his back on me.  He wasn’t worried about an old man.  He was more focused on the pack of young men with hardened faces and tattooed skin.  They were the ones that should be going.  They were the carriers of chaos and death, and their rap sheets said as much.  And they looked at me.  I refused to blink, blowing smoke toward them.
A commotion broke out nearby.  Children were screaming, being pulled from their parents’ arms.  They were soft brown compared to their parents’ pale white.  They must have been adopted, but they too were being sent back.  Their mother buckled to her knees, crying that it was not fair.  The father looked like he lost the war.  We lost the war, and the kids were led onto the bus.
My father came into this country, hoping to escape his past and embrace his future.  He met my mother at a diner in town shortly afterward.  She too had escaped from where she came from, taking her newborn with her.  My father took us in, and we were one happy family.  We never complained.  We never stole.  We worked.  My parents worked hard to give me everything, and I had a pretty good life.  I just never married.  I never had kids.  Maybe, I should have.  Maybe, if I did, they would not have taken me, and now they are sending me to some place that my mother had nightmares from.  And that’s where the others were going.  We were being sent to the war zones and the war-torned, and some of us won’t survive.  The ones that do will be broken, hateful.  All because we had dreams, hopes and promise, but he didn’t care.  To him, we didn’t belong here.
The guard snapped his fingers at me.  Hurry up read across his face.  It was getting late, and we had to go.  I finished my cigarette, and as I did, I looked at the growing crowd across the street.  They marched.  They protested.  They screamed.  He still didn’t care, and I was pulled from my home.  Who would take care of my dog now?  He was probably in a shelter somewhere, caged, and if not rescued, he would be euthanized.  So many casualties.  So much hate and confusion, and I watched the ash from my cigarette fall.  We burned so brightly once.  I snuffed the cigarette out on the bottom of my shoe.
My knees felt weak.  My feet didn’t want to move, but I forced myself up from the bench.  If I didn’t, then the guard would’ve, and I didn’t need anyone to see me as a weak, old man.  I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never seen this or a little boy, who is sitting beside his mother on the bus, staring out at the world with such empty eyes.  His hopes and dreams were gone, ripped from his heart, and he didn’t see me.  He saw a ghost, and I knew that death was close.  Maybe, they should just blow up the damn bus.  Why make us suffer?  Why tease us with a chance of hope?  Maybe, the bus will turn around, and we can go home.  Maybe, this was just some kind of cruel practical joke, but this was the joke.  And I’m not laughing.  Neither was the guard walking beside me.
When this year began, I had no expectations.  I just had hope, hope that things would get better, but we seem to be caught on a downward spiral.  It’s not letting go.  It’s a losing battle, and there’s no hope.   There’s no hope for me or that little boy or young mother or those other children that thought life would save them.  We were just fooling ourselves, and I pulled myself up onto those sharp steps.  And an ugly, ripped brown seat met my gaze.
So long, tomorrow.  At least, we had yesterday, and if only we could forget today.  But today will now haunt us.  Today will carry us from where we once called home, and of all days, it had to be today.  Eight-five years that I took for granted.  Eighty-five moments that fade to black.  Eighty-five dreams that could have taken flight but now ride lonely on a desolate bus, and the future is not bright.  It’s broken.

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