Mean Streets

It’s a cat-eat-cat world out there, and I can’t say that it’s always so easy to get by. Trying to establish a stable home base in such rough, turbulent waters can really take take its toll on a person, even if they appear to take it in stride. Being rather sheltered much of my life, I was lucky enough to avoid a good deal of the deadening grind that so many must experience every day, but all the same, that doesn’t make it any less real for those who are caught in the thick of it. This was made painfully clear to me when I walked down town to the library the other day and caught sight of an old friend.

Even from afar I was certain that it was him, although he had changed quite a bit since we had last met. Once an easy-going sweet talker with deep amber eyes, his gaze was now as hard and cold as ice, eyes darkened and empty, like a bottomless pit. Leaning against the fence in the shadows next to the library, I questioned whether or not I was seeing correctly, because it was difficult to connect this tough-looking man with the young boy I once knew. Still, despite his intimidating exterior I was convinced that the friend from my memory and this lad right here before me were one and the same.

Cautious but excited to see my old companion, I began walking toward him to catch up a bit, see just what he was up to these days. Even as I came closer and closer, his forbidding expression didn’t soften in the least; Not a flicker of recognition passed through those black eyes.

I can’t even imagine what sort of dreadful experiences caused him to change so drastically. Falling in with the wrong crowd, I guess it’s easy to get caught up on the darker side of society, hardened by the endless stuggle to simply stay afloat. Deep within my heart, it hurt to see someone I cared about like this, but even had I reached out he would have only recoiled in disgust, unable to admit the need for help.

Looking for a way out of this mess, I quickly bent over to pick up a coin glinting in the sun on the sidewalk nearby, pretending not to see the silent onlooker sulking by the fence. Turning away to enter the library, I wished I could look back just one more time… But really, this was no longer my old buddy standing outside. He was the same person alright, just not the one I remembered.