The night of my dreams is dark and empty of stars, as it tries in vain to hide the grayish fog holding my memories.
Ahead, the old neighborhood appears, familiar houses with dimly lit windows that peer outward, like eyes seeking a meaning.
On the right, Gayla’s house; two story with a recessed porch beneath the upper floor. It’s fronted by two tiers of flowers, their bright colors strangely out of place amidst the dark shadows.
I look, but she’s not there.
Instead, I see two men, their identities indistinguishable; one is holding a cup or perhaps a glass, one or the other has to be my father.
The house appears to be yellow, and with my memory I cannot argue. A two rail wood fence bordering the sidewalk, offers but feeble protection; the rails, slender and crooked.
A lone figure walks slowly on the sidewalk ahead; man or woman, does it matter?
The sidewalk, cracked and dirty, is slick from a recent rain, as is the road. A Dalmatian dog in the front yard, stares expectantly as I brush away the thought of Croatia in my distant mind.
Instead, I remember that once I was a strong man, young and viral. A pleasant dream for sure, but as to where or even when I existed - nothing - just that once I did.
A man wearing a hat with an open umbrella over his head, casually walks a dog on a leash, trying to look inconspicuous. I know the dog from somewhere, but it’s a place I cannot go, a place of terror from a distant past.
But my thoughts are not all irrational; I know the name of the street I’m on, and the town I’m in. “Apple Avenue,” in the little town of Elmwood Ohio; the place of my birth.
So I go downtown in search of that thing that will lift me free of my old home town.
Just past the library, Andrew’s gift, I come to the Army Enlistment office. Sergeant Lewis Sanders is leaning from the door, arm out, beckoning me inside.
I walk past him, determined to not make the same mistake twice.
With each step I know I’ve escaped; I’m free.