A short piece of fiction.
Steven never had a chance. He didn’t have a father and he lost his mother when he was six. His life was a grey event that only played out in episodes of hurt or not hurt.
He moved about his one room apartment with the detached efficiency that came from a lifetime of swimming through temporary rooms. Just things in places. He grabbed those few items he thought he’d need now, tossing shaving cream on top of a few issues of Maxim alongside dirty socks in his threadbare bag.
It was all he could do to tamp down the butterflies. Here he was, a 6’4”, 240-pound veteran of Hell and he had butterflies. It was a new sensation and for that he welcomed it. It must be the feeling that comes with getting your life back, he reasoned.
After his mother died, he was a reverse Pinocchio: a real little boy turned wooden. With no one to help him navigate the hell that waited for him. When he was small, it was the worst. Then he grew and most of the hurt stopped. But even then, there were those families like the one that kept him in a locked bedroom at night. They had daughters and he was already a very big boy.
Steven pushed that aside. He could only think of one thing at a time. And right now he had to think about how he was going to greet his mom. You couldn’t just walk up to a total stranger and say “Hi, Mom.”
So there was the obvious hurdle. Convincing her that she was his mom in her past life. She would think he was crazy. He thought the idea of past lives was crazy too, at first, when one of his foster brothers suggested it.
It was after a rough day and they were up late. His foster brother, Jason, was 14 and bloody. His nose had been smashed in, hours before, by Pops. Jason was lying in his bed in the room they shared, looking up at the ceiling.
“What will you be in your next life?” It was a question, but Steven wasn’t sure it was directed at him.
“Me?” Steven asked back.
“Well, I’m not sure I’ll get another one.”
“Tch, that’s just what the priests want you to believe.” Jason faced Steven, “but everything goes in cycles.” Jason paused. “Everything in nature. It’s all birth and death and rebirth.” Another pause. He always did that, where he let the wisdom sink in. It seemed to work on Steven for some reason. “Your soul is just energy. I think it comes back.” A serious look. “Think about it.”
That little seed took root in Steven’s brain. It was a thought that he couldn’t quite shake. It was a cruel gift. He had mourned his mother. He knew he’d never see her again. There was a brutal comfort in that. But as time went by, he kept his eye out for the possibility.
He always dreamed, but he never quite dared to hope.
Then a month ago, he found her. The same expression, the same eyes, the same smile. It was her. Without a doubt. And seeing her, the possibility to live again, to be loved again, to be whole and real and connected to just one person, it ached until he couldn’t bear it. It was validation of shouldering the pain he had carried for so long.
He went to the TV stand and picked up an Incredible Hulk figure. It was the one thing he carried with him from place to place. A Christmas gift from his mom. Before she would die in a car accident on the way to get him some cough syrup. Before that long night waiting alone in the motel room wondering. Before the policeman came knocking.
The one thing he had to convince her that he was her son.
He slipped it into his left pocket. He tucked the gun into his waistband and grabbed his bag from the bed. He didn’t even bother to shut the light off and look around the room on his way out. He checked his watch, she should be getting out for recess any minute. He got in his car—a very used car that might only have a few miles left—that makes two of us, he thought as he headed to Oak Brook Elementary.