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I Am What I Am

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Michael had been so wound up his body actually ached.  He’d been walking around, angry at the world, and inconveniently sober, for more than 3 weeks now and literally everything was pissing him off.  

The final straw had been working in the bunker with Valenti and Alex.  The close quarters had forced Michael to see just how close the other two men had gotten while he was in his self-induced haze for the past few months.  Alex visibly struggled to relax around him, rarely smiling and never laughing.  But he moved easily with Kyle, their bodies worked smoothly together in the tight space and, more than once, he’d seen a smile cross Alex’s face.

While it did something odd to Michael’s chest to see Alex smile it was simultaneously devastating to know he wasn’t able to do the same thing.  When Kyle moved around Alex, placing an innocent hand on Alex’s lower back to do it, Michael blew one of the overhead lights.  He rubbed his face, willing the discomfort he felt away, but it was no use.

“I need air.”  He grabbed his coat and his hat and headed toward the hatch, choosing to ignore Alex’s concerned eyes.  “I’ll check in tomorrow.”

He jumped into his truck and slammed his hand against the wheel.  This was all his fault.  He’d pushed and pushed until he was alone and standing at the periphery, watching everyone’s lives move forward except his own.  

He needed space.  Actual, physical space.

He turned the radio up as loud as his head could tolerate and drove.  He kept his window down, the cold air keeping his thoughts from wandering in a too dark direction.  When a song came on he knew, he’d scream the lyrics.  If a few tears leaked out when Adele came on, it was no one’s fucking business.

It was early evening by the time he pulled up to the old Project Shepherd site.  He didn’t even realize this was where he was driving but it made sense.  He felt lost and lonely and regretful.  Who else would he turn to besides his mom? 

He sat in his truck and looked at the rubble that lay before him.  Did anyone even know this place existed?  That this building had stood for decades, housing living, breathing people?  He wiped his face and got out of the truck.

He didn’t move too far, afraid somehow that the vileness of that site was contagious.  He leaned against the hood of his car and tucked his hands in his pockets.  

“Hey, mom.”  He bit his lip and shook his head.  What kind of crazy, desperate ass talked to a place.  Him, apparently.

“I, uh, I just wanted to tell you I’m thinking of you.  That I miss you and I-” he swallowed the lump in his throat and blinked, looking up at the sky.  He cleared his throat and continued.  “I miss you and I love you.”

Michael moved his boots in the dirt below his feet.  He didn’t know what he was hoping to gain by coming here but it was as close to family as he’s been able to feel lately.  

He stood straight, deciding enough was enough and moved around the side of his truck when something white caught his eye.  He walked toward it, slowly and carefully, and felt his breath catch in his throat.  It was a plank, like the board of a white picket fence.  Written in small but careful writing was an epitaph.


Loving Mother and Hero

Taken Too Soon

Michael fell to his knees and let a sob rip from his throat.  His fingers gently moved over the writing, the ground absorbing his tears.  After a few minutes, when most of his tears had dried, a smile broke through and he laughed.  

He kissed the tips of his fingers and rested them gently against the makeshift tombstone.  

“I love you, mom.  Thank you.”

He stood, taking in the site once more, and jogged back to his truck.  The drive back felt endless but he smiled and tapped the beats of the radio on the wheel.  He had a goal now, a renewed purpose.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel.  He supposed it had always been there but it was so clear now, there could be no denying.  Everything led back to only one thing and the realization brought him peace.