He had spent the better part of the past three years looking out the small window at the world that sat just out of his reach on the other side of the coiled barbed wire that topped a massive chain-link fence that skirted the entire compound. It was the unrelenting barrier that stood between him and what they referred to as civilization. It had enough electrical currents running through it to keep him and his rebel streak on the right side of the law. He had decided early on that it wasn't built to keep him in, as much as it was to keep him out.
He watched the steady stream of cars, as they sped down the highway. It sure looked like life had gone on quite well without him. It was always busy during rush hour, packed with people driving their brand new vehicles, talking on cell phones. Didn't they know that was illegal, he thought and then chuckled to himself at the irony of it all.
He sighed. He had struggled his entire life trying to fit into that world. It hadn't worked out. Hell, he couldn't even fit into his family and they were the ones that were supposed to love him.
They sure had a funny way of showing love, he thought.
His mind began to wander. It always did tend to drift to help kill time, but this was different. It ventured to a place he usually avoided.
He was surprised how easily the night came back to him, despite the decades that had passed in between then and now. Everything in his mind's eye was vivid, not a thing was out of place.
It had been raining that night - just like it was outside that tiny window. Not the soft drizzle that quenched flowers and kept the grass green, but rather torrential downpours that offered no mercy and showed no promise of relenting.
His face was pressed against the window pane of his bedroom, his six year old mind imagining what it would feel like to be absorbed into the downpour, and float down the sidewalk and from there he hoped it would take him as far away as the rain would allow.
Try as he might, though -- the sounds behind him infiltrated that daydream - the screams, the obscenities, the craziness and over it all the unmistakable sound of his father's fists. He knew when they'd hit a wall, when they'd knocked over a piece of furniture and more than anything he hated how he instantly knew the sound they made when they were hitting his mother.
He couldn't remember what started the row that night, but it was probably something simple. An overcooked meal, a chore left undone, or one dollar too much spent on the weekly groceries. It didn't take much to set his father off, especially on Fridays.
While the rest of his classmates celebrated the final bell of the school week, he had learned to dread it. Friday was payday. Friday meant drinks at the local pub after work. Friday meant the smell of stale alcohol in the air when his father finally walked in, expecting dinner to be ready and waiting for him. It always was, his mother did her best but his father always found something to complain about.
That particular night had started just like all the others, but it sure didn't end that way. Even after all this time the memories caused a deep ache, still strong enough to cause breath to come uneven gasps, as the terror was once again unleashed in his mind.
For a reason he will never know, his Mom decided that night that she wasn't going to take it anymore.
As he pressed his nose against the window pane, he heard her raise her voice for the first time ever. He had never felt so proud, but the pride didn't last long. His father's voice got louder, angrier and he could hear the dreadful sound of him pushing her against the wall as if she were nothing more than a rag doll. All too soon the strength of her voice, turned to screams of terror, ending in one long blood curdling scream that seared a scar deep inside of him as it pierced through his heart.
The logical part of his brain told him there must have been noise after that scream, as the flashing lights of police cars and ambulances converged on his world, but he couldn't remember them. He did remember that it was the first encounter of many for him with law enforcement. They hurried him away from the scene, trying to shield him from the horror of it, but he caught glimpses that he would never be able to erase from his mind -- the sheet draped over his mother, saw his father taken away in handcuffs, saw his world crumble into a million pieces as two strangers led him to a waiting car and took him away.
He left the only home he'd ever known that night. It hadn't been anywhere close to be perfect, but it was all he knew and now it demanded that it be erased and be replaced by another. In theory that might have worked, except no one wanted a six year old boy. Everyone wanted to adopt a newborn baby so instead of the new family he was promised, he spent the rest of his childhood being shifted from foster home to foster home. The older he got, the more frequent the relocations. He learned early on to trust no one and that no matter how articulately someone expressed concern for him, it ended as quickly as the shift of a file folder. The string of pseudo-parents became a blur and he became the words that were scrawled across the yellowed slip of paper attached to his file -- hard to place. Eventually they gave up, right about the time he did. He gave up looking for someone to take care of him and turned to a life of just getting by any way he could.
That's how he ended up staring at civilization through this side of the window -- just getting by. Seems that's against the law somewhere.
He turned as he heard the door to his cell open with a clang.
"Time to go."
"Alright." He took one last look around. He was torn between the world he knew here on the inside and the one wasn't waiting with too much bated breath for him to return. Neither one had been kind to him but at least here a bed and food weren't a luxury.
They dropped him off at the bus depot with a small envelope of money and not so much as a simple 'good luck, man'. Guess they figured they'd see him back again soon enough, and there was no need for goodbyes.
The rain hadn't let up and had quickly soaked his clothes right through to his skin. He could have gotten on the bus but to where? There was no one waiting to welcome him. Not a single living soul that whether his re-entry was successful. In fact, they were betting just the opposite.
He knew it would come down to this and he was prepared.
With a quarter from the envelope, he called the number that was scrawled on a small folded piece of paper he had tucked inside of his pocket from a pay phone on the corner.
Within minutes the deal was done. With no money left to his name, he sat on the sidewalk, leaning against the brick wall of the bus depot that would take him nowhere anytime soon.
Moments later, with the needle still lodged deep in his veins, he laid down on the wet cement, and closed his eyes waiting for that final relief from a world too self absorbed to have truly cared for that six year old boy that all those years earlier, had pressed his face against the windowpane praying the rain would take him away.
Tonight he finally got his wish.