Benjamin & Bassel: Summer River
love story. street life. mood swings. looking for home.
The music of the ringer is a never-changing pace. No burden or rush. No sleep or vacation. Same steady flow as Baz and I make our way through the shrubs to the riverbank. The path carved by the disobedient and the adventurous. We follow the unofficial and broken trail. The knee-high grass as we reach the best spot. The enchanting heart-shaped rock. But it has been years since anyone maintained it. Now it’s a leaf-and-moss-covered bump. You can still make out the heart shape but loosely so.
Baz’s thunderous laugh gets drowned by the constant of the river but at least his cough got better. The scare of the winter but that is what you get when sleeping on concrete. Two hospital visits and a set of prescriptions later, Baz is almost a healthy young man again. His humour however never dwindled and here he is pulling on my hand all chipper and energetic.
“Two weeks,” he says rejoiced.
“Yes,” my agreement somewhat a quiver charged with fear and worry. Moving from shelter to shelter has become tiresome but finally, the system worked in our favour. A step closer to a permanent subsidized residence.
No more sleeping on pavements, gutters, underpasses, and parks. All these plans but Baz likes to live in his head. A free-falling leaf swept in a gust. If I could only keep him grounded.
The visit to the park is a distraction from Baz’s latest series of bad weeks. After a month of being an Energizer Bunny, with little sleep, abnormal hyperactivity, wired, noise, racing thoughts, and talkativeness. He left me with little rest and an abundance of duties.
Then the mental crash came on suddenly and it was hard for him to leave the cot bed, covered under four layers of blankets and blinds pulled down. Leaving him in a communal room among strangers and scavengers, drug addicts and alcoholics wasn’t the safest move. But what choice did I have? Getting my feet planted in school and job had to come first.
A visit to the therapist and meds seem to finally balance him out. But, I still worry. Baz’s chipper mood can be a catalyst and a symptom. It begins here. But I must trust the process.
“Hey,” he pulls me for a squeeze. “It’s gonna be okay. I’m okay.” As he’s about to move away, I hold on to him and press my forehead to his. “I’m okay,” he assures synchronizing his breathing with my calm and steady lungs. With a moment of presence, he peels his body from my grasp and jumps with joy onto the heart-shaped rock. “I told you it was here,” and spreads his arms as if calling on the sun howling. Then breaks into a burst of laughter. I watch him with caution and a faint smile.
The canopy of tree branches protects us from a light mist as we sit on the rock and lose time. The river has taken us away with the sail. That’s the effect when you look at the stream long enough, the feeling of being carried away.
“Can we get…”
And before Baz had the chance to complete his question, I answer, “Yes.”
Can we get a pet mouse? Can we get Kraft’s mac and cheese? Can we get new shoes? Can we eat dinner at midnight?
The flood of random and childish questions seems to stir in Baz’s mind lately. And I simply oblige without letting Baz’s mind run wild. The fantasy of us, of new possibilities. The sweet comes with the sour. At times I got to spoil with reality and Baz only huffs in return but smiles, nodding, “I know. I know.”
“Can we get pancakes?” Baz asked as if forgetting that he just asked.
“Mm-hmm,” I nod.
“Can we?” Baz pauses as the rain picks up its wrath and he curls closer to me. Our hair drenched by the warm downpour but we remain drifting with the current.
© Jacob Greb — 2022
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Thank you for sharing.
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