Yeah, that was the best: the dreams we had. Nothing mattered except for those otherworldly dreams. Every day, Louie and I would wake up, whether it be in a high school boiler room or a urine-soaked alley, and talk about what we dreamt. He used to always have dreams with that Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters in them. We talked about it for a while and came to the conclusion that Louie probably just wanted to sleep on a pillow. A long time ago I had a dream that Louie and I were rabid monsters and we beat each other into bloody pulps. We had a good laugh about that one.
That’s what kept us going day after day: dreams. Well, dreams and our “business partnership.” See, we didn’t hobble up to you like sick dogs and beg you for a nickel or a cigarette. We took whatever the hell you had on you. We were so good at it, too. It was all about picking the right people at the right time. Friday nights, we used to drink a 12-pack and approach people in a raging frenzy using a toy squirtgun as a concealed weapon. It was hilarious.
Don’t get me wrong, though: being nineteen and homeless wasn’t “fun.” Checking 45 year old women’s pockets for money was the closest I had been to getting some in three years. I looked like the garbage that I slept in. The only time I showered was when Louie and I could afford to rent a cheap hotel room for the night. But above all, Louie and I hated being cold. Those biting Detroit winters used to suck the life out of us and not give it back until April. The date and time didn’t matter in the winter; all that mattered was that you were cold. Our dreams really did keep us alive at those times. Your mind is all you’ve got when the rest of your limbs are numb with frostbite and hunger pulsates through your body. Louie was such a great guy. I just wish I could go back down there and talk to him. We could talk about nothing for hours upon hours. Louie would make me forget that I hadn’t eaten in two days. In February, we would get wasted in parking structures and take turns smacking each other across the face until the pain and laughter made the cold go away. We used to pose as parking attendants at St. Andrew’s Hall and take six bucks from sixteen-year-olds.
The “Squat House” was where we kept all of our stuff. It was basically a dirty old shack over on Cass, but we called it home most of the time. Louie dubbed it the “Squat House” in honor of the strung out prostitute we had to remove before we could claim it ours. Louie was a really good friend.
One day, my life changed. I got caught up. It was January 18, 1999, and that is one winter date that I will never forget. Louie was sleeping, I was hungry, and I was out of money. So I decided to go to “work” for a little while. I started off in the night suited up with a pipe wrench under my jacket. It was about 8:00 p.m., so the only characters left walking the streets were tired businesspeople who worked overtime. By the way, it was cold. I slipped behind an old auto mechanic shop when I saw a middle-aged man wearing a leather coat and a backpack. As soon as he passed, I surveyed the surroundings and saw nothing but the sewers exhaling steam. Adrenaline rushed through me like a shot of Jack Daniel’s and I struck the man cleanly with the pipe wrench. I snatched his backpack and wallet and slithered into an alley. His wallet contained fifteen dollars and his backpack had $60,000 and a bunch of bags of coke. Like I said, my life changed. I took the money and the narcotics and danced off like a five-year-old at his first visit to Chuck E. Cheese, and I left without Louie. Like I said, I got caught up. That night, I rented a really expensive hotel, ate a lot of really expensive room service food, and drank a lot of really expensive vodka.
The next morning I woke up with a really expensive hangover. I bought a 1995 Lincoln Continental and drove it to New York City. I didn’t think of anything but my money and myself. Even my dreams went away and the sick thing is, I didn’t notice they went away. Three weeks later, half of my money was gone so I sold that cocaine at a couple of clubs downtown and got into a mix I never would have imagined myself in.
It got to the point where I bought a new outfit daily. That’s how much money I had. Dreams were not a part of my life anymore; as far as I was concerned, doing drugs, selling drugs, and being in the “scene” were a dream come true. Louie and the life I once lived were gone, hundreds of miles away.
Two and a half months went by and I had a dream.
That morning, I drove back to Detroit and I was determined to find Louie. When I arrived, it was dark and the sky was clear and starry and the Motor City smelled like I remembered it. The plan was to hopefully find Louie at the Squat House and bring him back to New York with me. My hands were clammy with anxiousness. Would he accept my apology? Would I even be able to find him? All I could think about was our dreams.
The ignition key clicked counter-clockwise as I eased out of the car. I could feel my heart reverberating inside my ribcage as I walked towards my old home.
And there Louie was. I couldn’t make out his face, but I knew him by the way he stood from fifty yards away. Unable to speak and not knowing what to say anyway, I walked as quickly as possible. The April night was chilly, so I zipped up my leather jacket and slung the bag filled with new clothes over my shoulder. My best friend Louie faced me and extended his arm in my direction. Something in his hand reflected off the light of the moon. I couldn’t tell if it was a wristwatch ?or a coin ?or a knife ?or a gu? and my life ended.