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Two Blocks A Mile
The sun’s unrelenting beam attacked Manny’s eyes as he left the darkness of his house. He momentarily cowered blindly before recovering enough to see. He reopened his door to grab the sunglasses which had been inadvertently forgotten on the shelf that greeted him upon entering or leaving the house. This hadn’t been the first time they’d been left behind, but Manny hadn’t used these glasses in over two months, having just returned to his Dad’s house from a long vacation the day before.
He had begun a familiar journey as he started walking towards his friend’s house. He hopped the brick wall which was the boundary line of his neighborhood- meant to be seen as a sense of security, but if people could hop it anytime of the day as they pleased, it was less than protection. It could give someone a false sense of security, but it was almost there for decoration.
Before he had even gotten to the sidewalk (a vacant parking lot laid directly behind the hopped wall) Manny had looked up to see yet another two broken down businesses drawn back into the country’s recession along with the hundreds before them. The country had hope, though. There was a shining knight elected into the White House. There was change promised to his country, and like turkeys looking to the rain, his country was waiting.
Manny checked his phone, hoping to see the time, but instead was notified that his friend Paul had texted him. Manny briefly scanned the message, not taking a word of it in before he closed it to look at the clock. It was just after four. Through the process of pressing a few quick buttons, Manny had found the message that he had received moments before and actually read it.
“hey dude r u coming soon”
Manny tapped his key pad, and several seconds later, his friend would receive the reply “yeah I just left the house. 20 mins tops”
As he felt his phone slide from his fingers into his pocket, Manny had looked back over his vacation with his mom; it was an amazing summer for the most part. He had seen his friends which he hadn’t seen since the year before; had seen his family (on his mother’s side) that he hadn’t seen since the summer before, either.
For Manny, there was a feeling of ending, and it seemed that only he could sense it. The summers proceeding this one had all been pleasantly similar. “Hey, I’ll see you when I come back, and then we’ll really tear this town up!” Manny had joked in the past visits. But this summer had been different. Many of his friends would be leaving for college while he was away at his Dad’s for his final year of high school; friends that Manny had loved and shared with almost all his life, having left his mom but four three and a half years ago.
This had been the topic on his mind over the past few days. Manny had been thinking about how yet again, his friends were leaving him. He first experienced the feeling in the eighth grade, when most of his friends had become Freshmen, and they went off to a different school. He had been left with two or three guys he knew pretty well, but most of his real friends went off to high school. Then, when Manny thought he’d be reunited with his chums again, he was shipped off to live with his Dad on the other side of the country; far from his family, far from his friends, far from the life he had built.
Manny felt his pocket vibrate. He reached down, closed his fingers around his phone, and saw another message alert. He flipped open his phone to see another text from Paul.
“moms takin us 2 the t bird lounge 2nite”
Manny tapped his number pad again and replied with Cool tools; a phrase which his best friend Mike in the Motherland had coined during Manny’s brief return.
Until then, Manny had been using the term “Cool tools” only out of habit, having said it so much that it had become part of his everyday speech. Using it this time however had brought back memories which he wouldn’t be able to retrieve. Like an unwanted pop-up ad on his computer, Manny remembered the last time seeing Mike. They had shared laughs in Mike’s kitchen and after searching his garage the whole day, Mike had found a pipe, which was held between his teeth. Before leaving, Manny and Mike shook hands in the special way that only they did which was a term Mike coined as “Sawing wood”. Manny had been trying his hardest to control himself, but he eventually said, “Mike, I’ll see you later. I’m going to go cry now.” Of course Manny acted like he was joking, but the moment he heard the door shut behind him, Manny couldn’t hold it in. As quietly as he could he sat on Mike’s front stoop letting himself empty his eyes.
Manny knew that next summer, Mike wouldn’t be there anymore; he was one of his friends that would again leave Manny behind.
For a third time, Manny reached into his pocket feeling a small disturbance and, for the third time, saw text message from Paul.
“where r u”
Manny looked around. He was standing on a street corner. To his left was the gas station which he and Paul had dubbed “Geves”. He saw that the gas prices had risen 25 cents in the past two months and shook his head. He gave his attention back to his phone and typed “im at geves. almost there. 5 mins”
Manny waited to cross the street, thinking back over the summer he had with his friends. He remembered all the good times, but couldn’t help feeling like an eighth grader again, despite being 4 grades older.
A block away from Paul’s house he saw a little child riding a bike with his friend riding a scooter next to him. Manny smiled as the kids rode by, but on the inside he didn’t know what he felt. He was happy for the children being so young and being able to enjoy their fun without worrying if they were going to see their friend the next day. Or Manny could’ve been upset
Manny pulled out his phone a moment later and texted Paul “im outside” when a raindrop fell onto the screen. He looked up into the sky, but couldn’t look for more than a couple seconds because the sun had not given up the fight, despite Manny’s sunglasses.