Timothy Morrison is standing in a room on a chair with a light bulb in his hand. It’s just past ten o’clock at night, and the light bulb is still warm through the faded yellow bandana. A bandana with nostalgic bloodstains on it from the time he was ten and stole it from the top drawer of his mother’s dresser.
The blood is from a time he was on the river bank; a river bank his mother told him to stay away from countless times.
Find me a ten-year-old that listens and I’ll find you the next Dalai Lama.
He was standing there watching for the fish just beneath the surface. Watching for fish without a fishing pole. He watched and waited, watched and waited until that joyous moment a shadow slid through the water. A life on the side of the water that he’ll never know. He crept down a little lower, holding on to the trunk of a small sprouting tree that bent as he scooted down, down to the edge of the river bank.
Down until his foot slipped a little faster than the trunk could hold him and he fell flat on his back down the muddy slope. It was a green bottle without a label, that’s what did it. It sliced his forearm. Didn’t slice it open, but enough to terrify any ten-year-old that didn’t want to tell his mother where he was.
Find me an honest ten-year-old and I’ll find you a kid that gets picked on too much in school.
Timothy, he ran across the field, blood flying from his arm, and his little heart knew he was going to die there in that field. If not there, then it would be his house that it would happen. Through the field he ran, leaping and jumping just in case there was a snake or a few ticks in the tall grass. It was as if the water was rising behind him, threatening to drown him right there in the field. He was running that fast.
When he crashed into the front door with a calm panic, he could hear her just down in the other room. He could possibly make it to the bathroom, but he could tell from the front door that his dad was in there. It was the fan that he could hear. He heard her, she was in the kitchen, and he walk-ran into her bedroom and his eyes dashed around the room until he could find anything to press against his arm. There was laundry on the floor, some on the bed, but Timothy, he knew they’d notice. His eyes dashed back and forth, and he could hear the toilet flush, and he threw the top drawer open and rummaged through it.
There, he found the small, yellow bandana with white designs on it. He pressed it tight against his arm, though the blood was nearly dry by this point. He pressed and pressed until he felt calm.
He told them he thought he left a shirt in there. That’s what he told them about why he was standing in the room with the drawer open.
The light bulb, it rested in Timothy’s palm. Still warm to the touch, still wrapped in the faded, nearly-transparent yellow bandana. Those dull red spots still visible even through the age. He stepped down from the chair, the filament shaking in the light bulb as he tossed it in the trash can.
It was a few years after he nearly drowned in a field, but still a few too early. It was foggy from a heavy rain the night before. Timothy, he still remembers this. It was a morning that he only pretended to brush his teeth before school. He just turned the water on and sat on the toilet, the sun barely breaking above the hills. He turned the water off and walked into the living room, where his dad sat.
His dad took him to school that day. And the next day, and the next day. Timothy never pretended to brush his teeth again after that.
Timothy, his mother was always here and there. Used to, she was joyous one day, Timothy the light of her entire life. Other days, she couldn’t be found for weeks at a time. If she were around, she wanted to sleep a lot. Yelling and smoke-filled living rooms, those are what kept Timothy up at night. Monsters didn’t matter to Timothy.
Used to, Timothy’s mom would call him Timmy, or Tim-Tim. Years before Timothy stole the bandana, his mom, she would carry a sterling smile held up by her ears. It used to be that she would tickle his belly until he would laugh that gapped-tooth smile that only kids can wear.
That was back when monsters still existed under his bed and in the dark.
We wear emotions like stickers. We peel them on and off so many times, until eventually they wear themselves out.
Timothy, he learned to crave the smell of cigarette smoke and neighborhood arguments, just to hear the sound of normalcy.
Even sitting with the aged, yellow bandana, part of him wants to hear it. He wants to hear that knock on his front door, and there she would be with that Marlboro perfume and ears still holding up that sterling smile like stone statues.
Or at least a call that she had been found so that he would have something to visit.
Timothy, he knew his mom’s sticker wore off a little quicker than his. Now all he’s left with is a sticker that was ripped off so fast it pulled the hairs off with it. A sticker that’s been taped to his chest with the word love carved in it like when kids used to carve their names in those old wooden school desks, as if he were named Love.
He sits on his couch, a cigarette burning in the crowded ashtray. That dingy bandana with the blood of better times, nearly transparent as he holds it up to the light. His window is open and the sounds of the city play like a radio with the antenna not placed quite right.
There’s a knock at the door.
Find me a ten-year-old with hope gripped so tightly in their fragile little hands, and I’ll find you the future.