And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the on less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost
Round Two! Ding, Ding!
So, I spoke about a hero of mine. My cousin. He died but is not dead. He was but still is. The man he was is not the man he is. Time and addiction are corrosive to our very being. It is the erosion of our foundation by hit after bump after tablet after drink until we are the husk of what it was that we were. Shadows cast larger than our frame show the greatness that these small bodies once held.
I tell this tale objectively as I am able. This is but an observation. It began a few days after the incident of part one. I was looking forward to meeting with him as it had been months since I had seen him last. It was a beautiful day. The sun shone bright through the skeleton-like trees and a bit of nip in the air was present as he walked up our sidewalk with his mother. This man that is before me looks like my hero. Take a photo and compare them a few years ago and it seems like it is him but I know the truth.
They come in and sit down. He begins to talk about government conspiracies and hacking groups that are monitoring him. He discusses legal issues. You never have a discussion with him when he is like this. You sit back and hold on. You try to keep up with him as his mind unleashes these thoughts and streams of consciousness that are inconsistent. Expletives fly as there is an idealization of crime and objectification of women along with the paranoia of government involvement. Reason is not there any longer and I must admit that I do not shatter this narrative fantasy in which he lives. I listen and try to accommodate. I try to be part of the reality that mental illness and prolonged drug use has helped him construct. Why do I do this? What would happen when the reality you escape to is better than it is and what would happen if that was shattered? I would rather not know.
This time to pretend is sobering to me. How did this happen? The man I looked up to, saw as a father figure in lieu of my own is now a memory. Our lives are too similar for this disparity.
He is five years older than me and our mothers are the oldest, my mother, and the youngest girl, his mother. We were inseperable as kids. they would come over and we would play for hours. Well, he would play and I would try but I did not “play right’. So, I would watch him play with my G.I. Joes in the Ghostbuster house and watch him unfold these elaborate tales. When they left i would do the same.
Beneath his collar, I thought I saw a cape.
A tragedy happened and they came to live with us for a year or so. He taught me about everything. We talked about girls, video games, and music. He is the reason I got into music. We would lay next to one another on the floor of my small apartment and watch MTV. Hours and Hours of music television. We would sing along to it and began talking about the beauty of Nirvana. The genius of Blues Traveler. The insight of Weird Al Yankovic. The poignant nature of Garbage. These beautiful realities we discussed. He told me facts about the bands and he knew so much more than me about science and math. I would go to school and tell my teachers facts that he taught to me. They would be shocked that I knew such “advanced” things. Five years advanced, maybe?
At the tale of his shirt, I thought I saw a cape.
We got older and he began getting in trouble. So, he moved in with my grandmother and helped her. We would go out and visited them every weekend. It was the highlight of every week. He eventually got to be in high school and should have been too cool to hang out with his 13-year-old cousin, but he did not. We still were close. He began drawing these incredibly elaborate pictures. Beautifully detailed. Talent that was natural. He had the detail that artists study at specialty schools for but he never had a lesson. They were dark and comical, much like our humor. However, cracks began to show. He eventually began getting in even more trouble and decided to extract himself by going into the Navy. I cried as he left the train station. My best friend was leaving.
Beneath his white, long sleeved uniform with a flag on it, I thought I saw a cape.
Years pass and we grow apart as distance filled the gap. I talked with my aunt the whole time but I went into a phase where I started putting distance between myself and my family. I grew up. I started drawing. Music was life. I was training to go into the Navy. I made friends and we started hanging out. My cousin stayed in the Navy. He became a man. I think I began to do the same. He leaves the Navy and eventually marries. They move away and our lives begin to go different ways. I went to college where as he tried to be the family man. He tried.
I see him again, I did not see a cape.
We come back to the present. His talks about conspiracy and delusions of grandeur. I look hard for my hero. His cape fell somewhere far down the line. My hero died sometime ago. I miss him. The person who always took a step up the mountain of life just ahead of me. Now, the only steps I have are my own and it frightens me. He tells me he may go to the local community college. he tells me he wants to get his degree in information technology. I do not know if he is being truthful or if it will come to fruition but for a moment, I thought I saw a glimpse of an old, tattered cape.
When he came back, we hung out quite a bit. He would regale me with all of his life stories. Tall tales that were not tall to me. He looked at me one day as he exhaled smoke from his lungs and said, “Chris, I want to write a book one day. I’m going to tell you stuff and you write it down. Like my biography. You can be my ghostwriter.”
So, with this post, I am no ghostwriter. I have written about a ghost.