He was living in a world of his own. I could tell because every time I went into the ice-cream shop, he would be there licking the brown cream off the cone, and dozing off into his comic book. Sometimes he would be so lost in his comic all the ice-cream would melt down his fingers. He would read the same comic every day. The odd thing about him was that he would only have ice-cream once a month.
Watching him would be like watching the younger me flipping through the pages. He had dirty blond hair just like me and his shoes would always be untied. Collecting comic books was a hobby of mine. He probably also is a comic book collector. The sight of him brings a smile to my face.
I wanted to get to know this kid. One afternoon I walked up to his table and sat down. He didn’t notice for a minute or two, but he eventually did.
“Hey!” I said to him with a big smile.
“Hi.” he replied back and I could already tell he was shy, just like I used to be.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Johnny but most people call me Jo, " he says finally putting his comic book down “What's yours?”
“My names Tony!” I say and he smiles brightly at me as I say my name “Whatcha smiling about?”
“That's Iron man’s name!” he responds picking his comic back up. He flips to a page and hands it to me “That's him! He’s my favorite superhero!” I look at what he has shoved into my hands. Its iron man shooting the bad guy right in the face. I laugh at this and he smiles.
“I know! I'm also a big fan of him, but I think I like Captain America much better” I say smirking at him.
“No way!” he shouts laughing “Iron man is the best!”
“Sure, totally!” I say sarcastically “Wait, I had a question for you”
“Yeah?” he asks, ignoring my sarcasm.
“Why do you always read the same comic book every day?” I ask inspecting his face. The smile had turned into a frown.
“My family can’t afford another one.” he says breaking eye contact. His eyes zoom around all over the place trying not to meet mine.
“Oh.” I say not knowing what to say next.
We talked and talked for hours to come. Soon enough, he felt like a little brother I never had. Weeks past and I had decided to get him another comic book for his birthday. Our little meets would happen every day at 5 in the afternoon.
I learned that his favorite ice cream was chocolate just like mine. Everything that happened to him had already happened to me. Both our families had a hard time with money and we both loved superheroes. He even looked like me when I was younger.
It was a bright sunny afternoon when Jo came into the ice-cream shop with teary eyes. He had mud all over his jeans, and his comic book was ripped in half. I hurried over to him and asked what happened.
“I was walking over here,” he sniffs his nose “and these guys came up to me. They were big. They pushed me and I fell on the ground. They called me a geek and a nerd.” tears start to slide down his face.
“That's so rude! Who ripped this up?” I ask as I take the only comic he had from his hands.
“I did.” he says, wiping a tear with his sleeve.
“Why?” I was very surprised.
“Because I don’t want to be a geek or a nerd” he says with a teary voice.
I look at him for a second with amazement. “Do you think I'm a geek?” I ask him with a frown.
“No way! You're so cool” he answers like there's no question about it.
“I think you're cool too.” I say back hoping for a good reaction.
“You do?” he asks surprised. He looks at me like I'm joking.
“Yes! A thousand percent! Those big guys are the real geeks” I say to him with a smile.
Two of his teeth had come out loose so he looks like a bunny when he smiles back.
On one cloudy afternoon his mom wanted to meet me so when I drove Jo home that day I was greeted by a woman. She looked exactly like my mother. Short brown hair and a dimple on the right side of her face. She might have looked much younger, but it was the same face.
“Hey mommy” Jo says, walking into his house. I stay frozen on the gray door mat.
“Mom?” I ask her
But I get no reply.
I open my eyes and am greeted by my blue painted ceiling. I reach for my phone to shut the alarm. It was just a dream? But It seemed so real. It went by so fast, but I'm sure it was real. I get dressed and go downstairs for breakfast. I can see my mom on her laptop typing away.
“Mom?” I ask as I get a box of cereal from the top counter.
“Yes, sweetheart?” she says, her eyes still on the screen.
“Do I have a brother?” I ask her. I watch as her eyes widen up and she looks up from her laptop.
“Oh honey! Your father and I wanted to tell you when you were a little older--”
“Tell me what?”
“Yes, you did have an older brother--”
“Was his name Jo? Did he like comic books?” I ask without letting her finish her sentence.
“No?” she says, confused “Well, yes, he loved comic books, but his name was josh.”
“I had a dream!” I say “W-wait a minute. Why don’t we have any photos of him then?”
“We do, but you guys looked so alike you never looked close enough to know the difference, " she says shamefully “you have blue eyes and he had green eyes. He also had a lighter shade of hair than you.” I can see her own eyes tearing up now.
“Well, where is he now?” I ask confused. I had so many questions about him. I wanted to know if I would ever get to meet him.
“In heaven.” she answers.