I knew a guy named Sleeve, once. For a short while. Not long enough to say we were ever friends. There are times when companionship is close enough to settle on. When the journey has your the soles worn thin.
We met while taking brief respite from our respective paths down the road. It was the early fall, the forest somewhere in southern Illinois. A time and place where no one used their real name. Usually they called themselves things like Blue Tick, and Wildfire. There was a half Chinese man that insisted on being called Chink Bob Lee. About a dozen or so scrawny tattooed rednecks all going by Ace. They all wanted to sell you a zippo lighter, or throw in on a keg.
I was Saint at the time. Still am, sometimes, I’d guess. Depends on who you ask. I was running away from my life to figure it all out. This wasn’t the first time. I wasn’t the only one. I never asked where anyone was from. It was just something you didn’t do. So I never knew what happened in Sleeve’s past to drive him out. I did know he missed home. I heard him say, more than once, he could never go back.
We both settled into a temporary routine. Working makeshift kitchens in a transient town. Full of temporary people. I guess that’s everywhere, when it’s all said and done.We wound up talking a lot. Scrubbing pots after servings. Smoking pot before. Long conversations on short subjects.
His high pitch gravelly voice stood every nerve on end. Especially when he laughed.Truth is, I found most things about him annoying. His twitchy mannerisms. A second hand, jam band sense of style. Patchwork corduroy jeans, an old Jesus jumper, and a beard trimmed into a neat, thin ring around his face starting and ending in a grown out bowl cut. The whole package put me in mind of a Henson creation on a meth binge at a Phish concert.
We really didn’t have all that much in common.
Not much but tired feet, a few months of bad nutrition. Awkward conversations over near tasteless boiled coffee. A few hours wasted on micro dots, chasing nothing through quiet nature in the middle of the night. A few more with a loud handle of whiskey.
The rest of the time spent gathering firewood. Cooking meals for layabouts and bliss cases. The time came to move on. I headed south east. He headed, somewhere else. Never asked where he was headed. Never really cared. We weren’t really friends after all.
It was nice to have the companionship for a while though.