Nervous wreck trying to be Zen with the help of video games, eastern philosophy and hummus.
Dingo cocked his cowboy hat to the side and picked up his suitcase, still staring at the spot the bus had occupied minutes before. The air was humid and hot, and a bead of sweat trickled down his neck. His hat was doing a lousy job of protecting him from sunlight. He hated the sun.
He lit a cigarette and looked around. The bus stop was deserted, save for a stray dog sniffing around a trash can. Alone. That’s how he liked it, anyway. The bus stop was on the edge of town, and he could see no one around. Was everyone avoiding him? Did they know?
Dingo shook his head, attempting to clear his thoughts. Squinting at the sun, he turned and began walking towards his childhood home. He hadn’t seen it in nine years. He’d had so many plans back then. He’d wanted to see the world. Now he was back, and he was old, and everything was strange.
36. He was thirty-six years old. Nine years, a quarter of his life, spent in prison. What went on while he was gone? He’d been so young. Had his whole life ahead of him. Stupid.
His parents weren’t expecting him. Did they even know he was out? He remembered their faces in the courtroom, so long ago. His father had looked like a statue, cold and unmoving. He hated Dingo, though not more than Dingo hated himself. His mother had cried, and cried, and cried. When he last saw her face, it was red and puffy and she was screaming for him. She didn’t hate him, but maybe she should have.
They had never visited him. His sister came to see him once, four years ago. She spent ten minutes with him, told him she’d only come to see if he was still alive. She had gotten married and was pregnant. 27.
Would he see his sister again? She’d be thirty-two now. 32. Was it a son or a daughter? Has she had more kids?
He shook his head again. Maybe his parents would still want to see him, even though he was a disgrace.
His straw blonde hair clung to his forehead, drenched in sweat. He took off his hat and fanned his face.
The town was no different than he remembered. There was Bob’s Ice Cream Parlor, where he used to go with friends after school. The post office still needed a new coat of paint. Mike’s bar had closed down years before he left, but the building still stood tall.
His suitcase wasn’t too heavy, but he hated having to drag it along. It was filled mostly with clothes. All he’d ever wanted was to see the world.
Dingo entered his parents’ street. It hasn’t changed at all. The same dusty brown road, the same dull row of houses with gardenias planted outside. Old and boring. His old friend’s house stood at the beginning of the street, and Dingo wondered if Jimmy was home. Did he know? Everyone probably knows.
As he approached the porch to Jimmy’s house, he saw that someone was sitting outside. Before he had the chance to walk away, the man stood up. Startled, Dingo realized it was Jimmy, though he looked much older. 35.
“Dingo?” Jimmy said, throwing a cigarette on the ground and stomping on it. “Is that you?”
Jimmy had grown a beard, just like Dingo, only his was dark brown. There was a bald spot on the top of his head.
“Yeah,” Dingo said, before clearing his throat. He hadn’t spoken much over the past few years.