Late summer, a simmery afternoon. A voice juts out, screaming in unmistakable child octaves. "Hey, Geff!" This time it's through the open rear window of my car as I cruise the last block to our house in south Tacoma. Kids in their yards, on their bikes. Running off, to something, to somewhere.
By the time it had reached my ears it was already a chorus, joined with a hundred echoes of a dozen other kids, calling out my name across my lifetime, hundreds of times - across a street, across a playground, a stream, down a hallway, down an empty street, up a tree, way over there. On the beach. It's what you do when you spot an old friend. Old, friend.
From there it was a short shot to my heart, and even before I had a chance to catch it it had already ripped it, slightly. All I could do was to be left sitting there, parked at the familair curb, sobbing a bit like an eight-year old kid would, mainly because it was an eight year who was crying, and it was me.
Now that I realized, I knew it wasn't really me they called for. If they had any news, any use for me at all, it would have been "Hey, Mister!".
Back, alone again. Locked away in a grownup life, with the face of a middle-age man, dressed for the role. But then suddenly aware it was not unthinkable that no little boy or girl might ever care to call out my name as I drove up the street - my first name - again.
Not "Hey, guy!", but the automatic exclamation that bursts out when seeing a familiar, regular friend.
Far off, somewhere deep, the eight year old in me had stirred, awakened, and thought, just for an instant, that someone had called out his name. To play?
When the nameless little boy or girl who owned that voice realized that they'd been mistaken, seen another person, caught a shadow, meant another name, they fell silent. Oh. Just a moment, mistaken.
Not today. They were calling someone else. Do they even know I'm still here?
You push it away and watch it become invisible again, as if it had been your own breath fogging a tiny spot on the window, almost forgotten.
Get up, Mister. Grab your work stuff and head in.
Time for supper, you know. That's what time it is.