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The Sweetness of Life
by Mike Lecky

I woke up Saturday morning in a flowerbed wedged between two parking lots, a block from the restaurant I had been eating at the night before. This is not so strange an occurrence. I had been sleeping on a friend's floor and outside on rooftops and guarded suburban coves since landing on this side of the country three weeks ago. A week earlier I had camped out in the baseball diamond across the street from my flowerbed. At four AM the sprinkler system came on to water the field and stayed on at least until seven when I got up and walked downtown to a coffee shop.

This time there were no sprinklers, but when I woke up, clothes caked in sod, something small and fierce stuck in my left eye, I knew something was wrong. As I stood up, blinking at the six AM sun, I checked my wallet to make sure nothing was missing -- there was no cash in it but that was no surprise. I did however notice my new flashlight that used to hang from my belt so handsomely, all chrome and glass, was nowhere in sight. I kicked around in the dirt a moment, checked under a few of the surrounding rose bushes, but no luck. Resigned to the fact that I had lost my new toy for good, I stumbled toward downtown and a bus route that would take me back to my apartment in Fairfield, blinking and rubbing at my eye. It was only then, on this normally serene walk home, now unpleasant and seemingly longer than usual, did I realize that I had lost something else, something much more valuable, something I would find much harder to regain.

To clarify, I am speaking of The Sweetness of Life. The Sweetness of Life that I learned at such a young age, younger than most, I have been told, which does not surprise me as I have always known that I was an exceptional child and one that would go far (and fast!). The Sweetness of Life that I learned, struggled with, wrestled and loved, alone, for one cannot be taught such things. It is this, The Sweetness of Life that I knew I had lost, somehow, miraculously, overnight. I tramped into my apartment, finally getting home around ten AM, and collapsed hopelessly on the floor. Worried, my roommates rushed to my side with questions of where I was and what was wrong. "I have lost The Sweetness of Life", I mumbled, and wordlessly, solemnly, they helped me up and onto the couch.

Lying forlornly on the couch for several days, digging, always digging at my left eye, I considered my position. "The Sweetness of Life is not something one can lose. It is not something one can have in the first place, so it is not something one can lose. It is something that is learned and that learning, that knowledge is all you can lose." Getting up to shower, for my roommates (who I am certain have never truly known The Sweetness of Life) had threatened to "turn the hose on me," I realized that action must be taken. There was hope for me yet. Shaking, as if on new legs, I made for the door, grabbing my jacket and skateboard and, without a word, slipped out into the cool evening.

"It is still out there," I thought, "It has always been there, it will always be there. I knew it once, but I can learn, relearn. I can know it again." I was skating faster now, over rough pavement and manholes, faster than most would dare but managing easily because, as I have mentioned, I am an exceptional young man. "I am an exceptional young man," this now, out loud, unconcerned with what I might look or sound like skating hopelessly towards the ocean, arms flailing to keep balance, leg pumping the pavement, always faster.

A car rushed past beeping, and for a moment, I lost my balance. At this speed, I know I am done for. "I'm done for!" my eyes closed as I shouted, bracing for the impact that would end my life, my brilliant bulb burning out so tragically early. Suddenly my board regains control of itself, despite my insistence that I am to crash and die right here, right now. The pavement under my wheels became smooth, that new black cement! I opened my eyes and I had turned, I am coasting peacefully along the ocean on a slight decline, negating the need to push.

I coasted all the way down to the old Chinese Cemetery, negotiating the last bit of broken road and gravel on foot. It was dark then, and the lights across the strait look vaguely familiar, like as if I had seen a movie shot right here in this cemetery on a night just like this one. I lay down on the grass amidst the old graves, the large gray ash-burning device directly behind me, and stared across the water at the city's lights and the bright orange circle they projected on the clouds above like a halo. Almost two hours passed and eventually it began to drizzle and I started back for the apartment, slower this time, enjoying my first West Coast rain in quite some time.

A block before my apartment a giant white wolf-dog appeared on the street, all illuminated in the yellow of the streetlights. It was a sign, an omen for sure, I knew that much, but the angel-dog was paying no attention to me -- it was all caught up in the goings-on of the woman behind me who had a dog of her own (just a normal dog, from what I could gather). I skated by slowly, watching the huge beast out of the corner of my eye, but its gaze never left the woman behind me, and I shuddered, knowing exactly what it was to receive a sign, to meet an honest-to-God omen, without the messy obligations or consequences.

I opened the door to my apartment and threw my coat on a hook. "Hey," I mumbled.

"Hey. What's up? You find the sweetness of living again, or whatever that was?"

"Yeah dude, no problem," I grinned, crashing back onto the couch, the cushions feeling particularly comfortable, the CD playing on the stereo much better than I remembered.

Mike Saturday has it all up his shirt. Pants.

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