A Scene with Gavroche from The Street Kid

My new book The Street Kid is out! To tease your interest, I’ve excerpted some for my blog post today. I hope you enjoy it. If you like what you read, you can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Street-Kid-Phoenix/dp/1508524300/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447267896&sr=1-1&keywords=the+street+kid

III

(live free; you’ve only got one life) (it isn’t that easy)

Phoenix could not stop shivering. He felt as though he was in the Mountain of Pain again, except one made out of ice as well, with him only in his boxer-briefs. Actually, Phoenix may as well have been wearing that, because he didn’t have a jacket, no windbreaker to pull him away from the coldness of the surroundings, the ice rainwater pelting him like chunks of malice, like hail stuck in Dante’s Hell, and it would not go away.

(it isn’t supposed to go away you’re supposed to suffer)

Phoenix tried to ignore this thought. While there was much truth to it, he needed to keep it out of his head, because it was too negative. And yet, the more he shivered, the more this negative truth seemed to become closer to him, like trying to wrap warm wings around him, like trying to love to feed his hunger, except of course there was no truth in that at all, it may as well have been the opposite.

(everything feels so distant I need a higher ground I need)

To be honest, Phoenix was not sure where he was. He was in an abandoned part of a city, of course, the places empty, but it was more than that; the place seemed to emanate the very essence of being lost, and it refused to calm down, refused to keep Phoenix out of feeling lost himself (this abandoned part is me).

(I wish I had a jacket)

Even though Phoenix was cold, he was tempted to take off his red shirt, the gift that the man had given him, so long ago, it seemed, but had only been a year. His red shirt was tattered and dirty (rusty) from the grit of the streets, even in the rain, as were the rest of his clothes. It fit the definition of his soul so perfectly, it seemed.

And yet, the “rags” fit him comfortably, he realized, even in this cold … so comfortable, that he was tempted to take off his shoes as well as his shirt (go back to the Mountain of Pain to your primal instincts). However, that had only been a one-time thing, and there was a reason for it: Phoenix was meant to be clothed, and always clothed. He liked the gentle weight of the clothes; he liked the modesty the clothes entailed, the comfortable warmth (even though they were soaked by the rain). To Phoenix, his clothes radiated honesty, and even though he wondered about the ultimate primal life sometimes, he realized that it was not meant for him; Phoenix did not believe in the sensual, or explicit.

He did not believe in that kind of freedom. He did not believe in sexuality.

He understood that his friends generally felt the same way, and even though they were chained to some degree by their clothes, it did not chain them ultimately. They were free in rags, in quiet simplicity … even if they were millionaires, like The Muses, and specifically, the Muse himself. They shared Phoenix’s ethic, that modesty said more than anything else.

(why am I even thinking about this) Phoenix began to run through the rainwater puddled along the ground. He looked around the buildings, and saw that they were not good places to stay, as water was pouring through them, because the roofs were defective and defunct. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to look around for a building that wasn’t defective, however, and—

“Dude, you shouldn’t be out here.”

Phoenix turned his head, toward where he heard this voice. For a moment, he thought he was looking at a ghost. Instead, he was looking at a kid his age, with a subtly cocky demeanor, and a wild energy that he didn’t release unless it was the right moment.

“I’m a street kid,” Phoenix said, and realized that he wanted to snap this phrase. Not because he hated this kid (because he didn’t) but because he felt that this was a kid that Phoenix needed to push (a kid that could be your friend), and being mean tended to bring out more honesty within a person.

The kid laughed. “I thought you’d say that,” he said, his voice now glowing with (beautiful) (subtle) arrogance. “Well, you’re free to freeze out here, if you want, but you know that even street kids have to look out for their best interests. You’re about as skinny as a sheet of paper, and about as pale, which tells me you’re A, miserable from the rain, and B, very hungry. You probably don’t even remember the last time you ate.”

Phoenix tried not to grab his stomach at this. Boy, did this kid already know Phoenix. There was something comforting about this, but also … unexpected.

“You got me,” Phoenix said, and grabbed his heart, as though it had been shot there.

The kid laughed. “Come with me. I’ll show you a warm place to stay.”

Phoenix didn’t say anything, just followed the kid. They went from a minor jog, to a heavy sprint, with Phoenix more of a long distance runner, and having to pant heavily to keep up with the fast kid.

They weaved in and out of dusty streets, until at last they arrived at a very small building, more like a shed. Phoenix likened it to a home for a moment, and then told himself that soon, he needed to beat it—wait until the rain died, and then … get the hell out of Dodge (or wherever this place was).

The kid went to the door and opened it. Instantly, the two boys went into darkness, with Phoenix struggling not to trip over anything as he went downward, as he literally couldn’t see a thing.

Suddenly, a light turned on, and Phoenix realized that he was in a basement of some sort, a light bulb hanging from a string.

Phoenix looked around the basement. He saw three beds, and a chest in the corner. When Phoenix asked what was in it, the kid explained that it was a place where they kept snacks. Phoenix asked where they got the snacks, and the kid declined to comment.

When Phoenix realized that other people (kids?) obviously came here, he decided to get a good look at the kid, to see if this kid was as trustworthy as he seemed. The kid was tanned with dirt, and yet his hair was slick and shiny, though probably only from the rain. He was an average height, with an average build, but he looked as though he could run sprints in the Olympics (and of course, he’d proven that on the way here). The kid’s facial features were calm yet mischievous, and he realized that this was exactly what he needed to see in another kid.

Phoenix didn’t feel so alone. The kid indeed looked as though he could start a revolution, a riot, a coup, just by blinking his eyes, reciting a poem. He looked perfectly dangerous and calm.

“Make yourself at home,” the kid said, when Phoenix realized that he hadn’t sat down (there were a couple of old chairs as well).

Phoenix decided to do just that; he sat down on one of the chairs, and said, “What’s your name?”

The kid laughed. “Tell me yours first, even though, I already know it.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I haven’t even told you yet, your name. How do you know I really know your name?”

“Good point.”

“But you’re obviously Phoenix,” the kid said, smiling gently.

Phoenix knew crazy things could happen, so he wasn’t taken aback by this. But, he was curious, so he said, “How did you know?”

“I knew because of your shirt.”

Phoenix looked down at his shirt: it said Phoenix, Arizona. Something his shirt hadn’t of course said before.

(it’s a miracle this kid is really on your side you need to trust him)

“I bet you’re hungry,” the kid said, and went to the chest. He pulled out a couple of candy bars, and tossed one to Phoenix.

As Phoenix took a bite from the bar, he said, “What’s your name?”

“You know my name,” the kid said, and smiled, his teeth stained with chocolate (he doesn’t care?).

“I … don’t.”

“It’s Gavroche, of course.”

(whoa what happened I’m not in Les Miserables …)

Phoenix wasn’t in Les Miserables, of course. And yet, the kid reminded Phoenix so much of who he imagined Gavroche to be (if he was real).

“How long have you been on the streets?” Phoenix asked, just to see what this kid (Gavroche?) said.

“Oh, I see,” Gavroche said, taking another bite of his candy bar. “You think all of this is in your head. You think because I’m theoretically fiction, I can’t be a real person.” Gavroche began to fake crying, sniffles and everything, and Phoenix had to fight not to choke on his candy bar. “I see … how it is.”

Phoenix pushed Gavroche gently. “You are the biggest kidder, man.”

Gavroche smiled, his teeth now excessively shiny, pearly, white. “Thanks. I think.” Gavroche took another bite of his candy bar. “I’d say I’ve been on the streets for well over five years. You’ve been on for only two to three years, I reckon, which isn’t bad. Two to three more years will give you a whole new perspective, though.”

“You like the streets?” Phoenix asked, sensing some distaste.

“I love the streets, of course. They are my only true home; I rarely come to this place, as you can imagine, just come here when I need a place to chill, like today, or want to help someone in need. I got kicked out of my house when I was way young, and I learned to adapt. The thing is, I do wish I had a home sometimes. A real place … one with friends, and such. People who loved me.”

“I’m not your friend?” Phoenix asked.

Gavroche laughed. “Of course. I just wish I had someone who shared my interests. Someone who was like-minded with me, liked adventures, liked making the street their home, no matter what. I have some friends, which is cool, but they aren’t like me, they hate the streets. I guess it is an acquired taste. I guess you would know, you’ve been on them a while, enough to learn how hard it really is. No one really cares about you, you’re just an enemy to privileged society, and the like. Always looking around for the basics, and such. It’s tricky, and that part scares me sometimes. I’m glad I have this temporary place … although, to tell the truth, I don’t know how long I’ll have it, before I get forced back to using my wits permanently again.”

Phoenix thought this was strange, that Gavroche didn’t feel a connection with Phoenix. To be honest, Phoenix felt a huge connection, and wished desperately that Gavroche felt the same way … whether or not he was the character from Les Miserables.

(there are an awful lot of similarities …)

Similarities or not, this kid was awesome. He looked as though he could fly, straight out of this world, even, and into space. (he can change the world) Phoenix had strong feelings about him, believed that Gavroche was a positive force in the world, and more people needed to know about him.

“So do you like the streets?” Gavroche asked.

“Yeah, they are okay,” Phoenix responded.

“Oh, don’t lie. I know you love them.”

Phoenix laughed. “Of course I love them. I love the constant realization that you’re always needing to rely on your own wits. I feel closer to myself roaming the streets. Like you, I feel it is my true home. It’s just sometimes … it’s hard. Sometimes I’m not sure I’ll make it.”

“I’ve been there many times before,” Gavroche said. “But you know you’ll make it. You have to make it, you know? No one else, except for yourself, cares if you live or die. That makes me fight for it even harder.”

Phoenix agreed with this. (he’s right about that no one cares if you live or die) It was unfortunate that on the streets, you were alone, but Phoenix could relate.

“Do you want to be friends?” Phoenix asked.

Gavroche didn’t say anything for a moment, only looked away, as though he was hiding something, whether his emotions or a truth. Then he looked at Phoenix carefully, put out his hand: “Of course I do. I need a good friend, and you seem like you could be.”

Phoenix took the hand, and they performed a street/gangsta-type handshake. “I’m glad you think so. I want you to trust me.”

“I’m more worried about you trusting me,” Gavroche said.

Phoenix wasn’t sure he believed this, but asked, “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it right now.” Gavroche went to the chest and opened it again. “Did you want anything else?”

Phoenix did, but he did not want to overstay his welcome. Gavroche had already done enough for him. “No, it’s all right.”

Gavroche grabbed two candy bars, and threw one at Phoenix. Phoenix didn’t notice this until it hit him in the face. He looked down at the candy bar and grabbed it.

“Yeah you do,” Gavroche said, and smiled, took a bite of his own candy bar.

Phoenix smiled at this. Two starving kids, living off candy, junk food. It was heaven. It was a good life.

Phoenix felt safe with Gavroche, as though the two could do anything, whether conquering the world or hanging out in the middle of a war zone.

“So why did you choose the streets as your life?” Phoenix asked Gavroche.

Gavroche didn’t say anything for a moment, just went to a corner of the basement. Phoenix saw a stack of books in the corner, which he hadn’t noticed before. Gavroche grabbed two of the books and handed them to Phoenix.

“I want to blame those guys,” Gavroche said.

One book was a copy of The Collected Works of Voltaire. The other was Selected Philosophies of Rousseau. Both were battered and bruised, in dime condition, looked as though they had been bought at a thrift store (or maybe stolen?). Still, Phoenix liked these books, so he wasn’t quite sure what Gavroche was talking about.

“What do you mean you want to blame them?”

Gavroche stood up for a moment, and turned around, put his hands on the back of his head as though he had a side stitch. He didn’t look at Phoenix as he said, “I don’t know. They have good points about things.”

“They don’t decide your life,” Phoenix said, “if that’s what it is. Their work was written three hundred years ago, it’s hardly relevant anymore.”

(unless he really is Gavroche)

Phoenix wasn’t quite sure he believed this, anyway, only because he believed the value of literature long after its time. However, the writers weren’t part of Gavroche’s life anymore. Not when he lived in the twenty-first century.

Right?

“They wanted to change things,” Gavroche said at last. “Things that couldn’t be changed.”

“The Revolution of France? As far as I know, it ultimately worked. They write about important things, like equality, and such. What’s so wrong with that?”

“Because those things don’t exist,” Gavroche said.

“What are you talking about?” Phoenix asked, confused. “I consider you my equal?”

“It’s the life we have to live.”

“We chose this life.”

“Of course we chose this life.” Gavroche turned around, looked at Phoenix carefully. “But don’t you get it? Ironically, with them causing the upheaval they did, they forever upset a balance in the universe. Old ways might be corrupted, but they stand strong because they have been around for a while.”

Phoenix tried to understand where Gavroche was coming from: “You’re saying some things we can’t fight for?”

“I’m saying the more we fight, the more we destroy. I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight, by any means … I’m just saying that sometimes they have negative consequences.”

“But you like the streets,” Phoenix said.

“Of course I do. I don’t question this life at all. The only thing is that I still dream about a better life, and wonder if all of the fights of the past have led us to where we are today.”

Phoenix had trouble following all of this logic; it was certainly something else, what with the “balance of the universe” and “making things worse through fighting.” However, some of it made sense, and Phoenix could see where Gavroche was coming from.

“You favor quiet revolutions,” Phoenix said.

Gavroche nodded. “The only problem is those don’t get anything done.”

(I don’t know I still think you could change the world through your poetry)

“Living on the streets … as quiet as it is,” Phoenix said, “as unknown and anonymous, it still gets stuff done. It shows people the simplicity of what we have, and the joys of it. What’s so wrong with that?”

“Ah, you misunderstand me. I’m in no way trying to criticize it, I’m just trying to point out the issues. I’ve been repressed because of circumstances beyond my control, because of my forefathers.”

(I swear he is the Gavroche)

“Gavroche, where do you come from?”

“The truth is, I don’t know where I come from. I just have memories in my head. Whether they are real or not is beside the point … they are real to me.”

“You said your family kicked you out?”

“Yes, except that … I don’t know when they did, whether it was over a century ago or just five years ago. I’m confused about who I am. I’m confused about whether or not I once resided in a fictional tale, or am a real person.”

(a kid who thinks he’s Gavroche …)

(a kid who could really be Gavroche)

“Anyway, none of this matters,” Gavroche said. “The only thing I can care about is the present and future. The past, whatever that may be, I try not to let it have any bearing on my life. It is what it is. As far as what that is, well … I may never know. Maybe I’m not supposed to know.”

Maybe Phoenix wasn’t supposed to know, either. Maybe Phoenix was just supposed to take this friend at face value.

Phoenix noticed that Gavroche’s eyes were shiny, as though he was holding back tears. Phoenix said, putting out his hand, “I’m here for you man.”

Gavroche took the hand, and smiled some. And Phoenix understood: it was probably very miserable not to know who you truly were, with fiction and reality blending together like a flawless mirage or illusion. Phoenix often felt the same way, felt as though he was only part of a book (a novel called The Street Kid?), but often told himself that it was only in his head, that things were real enough for him to continue through life, that it wasn’t all illusory, and that was usually enough.

Phoenix realized that he was getting sleepy, his eyelids starting to droop, but he realized that he also wanted to stay with Gavroche for a while. Phoenix also felt that Gavroche felt the same way, whether or not he admitted it.

So Phoenix said, “Can I stay with you for a while?”

“Ah, you want to oppress me with your presence?” Gavroche laughed.

Phoenix laughed as well. “No. I only want to …” (hang out?) “talk to you for a little while. I’m in no hurry. That’s the luxury about the streets. There’s desperation, but you can go wherever you want, whenever you want.”

Gavroche gestured toward one of the beds, and said, “I’m not expecting anyone for a while, so yeah, go ahead. Make yourself comfortable.”

Phoenix did as he was told, going to the bed and lying down.

“I’m going to go get some more snacks,” Gavroche said. “I’ll let you sleep, get some rest.”

“Thanks,” Phoenix said.

Gavroche left the basement, and Phoenix closed his eyes, falling asleep.

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