Dawn’s Early Light
When he boarded the bus, the cabin was dimly lit and I was half asleep, so I didn’t notice him at first. But once I looked up from my window seat and saw him staring down at me, even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to Jamie in over a decade I immediately recognized him.
Jamie and I weren’t close friends in high school, but we got along pretty well back in those days. In fact, junior and senior year we ate lunch together in the cafeteria, at the same table with the same bunch of guys just about every day. So aside from looking a bit older, his face hadn’t changed enough for me to forget it. But after we graduated, Jamie went his way and I went mine, so seeing him again after many years apart seemed like a pleasant surprise.
“Hey, Jamie. What’s going on?” I said. “You gonna sit down or what?”
“Wow, Chazz, it is you, I can’t believe it,” he said, and he sat down beside me and slapped me hard on my left leg. “Man, I haven’t seen you since Tommy B’s graduation party. How you been?”
“I’m good, you know. I got a job and I’m making decent money, so I can’t complain,” I said. “How ’bout you? How’s things?”
“Tired brother, this early morning commute crap is for the birds,” he said. “But I’ve been slackin’ at the gym, so I decided to head in early to catch up a bit before work. You take this bus at the same time every day?”
“Yeah, unfortunately I do,” I said. “I have to be in by six.”
“Wow, that’s horrible. I think I’d off myself if I had be in by six every day,” he said, and he let out a light yawn. “But hey man, just in case we don’t run into each other again, let’s trade numbers before we get off, so we can meet up for a drink and catch up for real. Alright?”
“Yeah sure, alright, that sounds good,” I said. “Hey, you still keep in touch with Tommy B? Maybe we can get him and a few other guys together and do a bar crawl or something. What do you think?”
“What are you talking about, Chazz?” he said. “Tommy died like five years ago man. He had some weird blood disease that killed him cold in like six months.”
“What? No way. Seriously? Tommy was as strong as an ox,” I said, and I looked at Jamie and he closed his eyes and nodded a few times.
“Yeah man, I know,” he said. “When I heard about it I couldn’t believe it either, but it’s the truth.”
“What a shame,” I said. “I mean, Tommy was a bit rough around the edges, but he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”
“Yeah, Tommy was good people,” Jamie said, and I looked out the window of our bus, and as we sped due east along a dim boulevard toward Manhattan, the streetlights were quickly fading behind us while dawn’s early light graced the road ahead. And as I sat there watching time blur into itself I didn’t only think of Tommy, I wondered if Jamie had more news to share about any of our other friends from high school. But as curious as I was, I was afraid to ask. So I didn’t ask, and luckily, Jamie didn’t have anything else to add, because he fell asleep, and he didn’t wake up until the bus driver announced that our coincidental commute into Manhattan was nearing its end.
A few minutes later, Jamie and I stepped off the bus and we exchanged phone numbers in front of the black iron gates guarding the tombstones beside Trinity Church. Then we shook hands and said goodbye. But even though we promised each other we would call each other, I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me. I guess he must have misplaced my number just like I misplaced his.
Charles Joseph lives and writes deep in the heart of New Jersey. Peppered by a battery of life experiences—good, great, bad, and worse—Charles is the author of NO OUTLET (a novel), five poetry chapbooks, and Chameleon (Omnibus Unum 2012-2016) a collection of poems and short stories that will be released in the spring of 2017. Visit him at www.charlesjosephlit.com