Tom O’Leery is a man who sits in front of the ruins of his home. He has been sitting there for 3 years. He sat down the morning after the storm and to my knowledge he has not gotten up since. The whole city used to look like his plot of land. No one escaped unscathed. We all lost something that night; homes, businesses, family, friends. If a stranger drove through our main street today though, they would never know that deep in the hearts of the people who lived here was a common hole that could never be filled. Like a painting you hang to cover a hole in the wall…everyone smiles and waves and gets on with life. Everyone rebuilt what they could and tried to make the best of a future that was headed somewhere different than where they’d originally planned.
Except for Tom O’ Leery, he didn’t lose as much as some did, although he didn’t have much to lose in the first place, just a dog and Joe. Tom had moved in with his best friend Joe after Joe’s divorce. The economy 30 years ago wasn’t what it is today. People had to bind together and help one another out. They farmed the land together and split the profits. It was only supposed to be temporary until Tom could get back on his feet, but I supposed they just preferred the company to being alone.
After the storm, Mr. O’Leery, as he was to me, just didn’t see the point. Didn’t see the point in climbing a mountain over and over again just to be pushed down each time you summit. He figured he only had a few months left in life, and if he lived any longer than that our country was waiting for the bombs to start falling like rain any day. Tom saw it on the news. The war was raging and no one knew how much longer we had.
I guess that’s why Tom didn’t start rebuilding with the rest of us. People were funny about him; and not all funny in the same way. Some felt so bad for him they just broke down into tears at the sight of him sitting on a pile of debris. Others were angry. I overheard a conversation once where a man asked his friends, “Who the hell does he think he is? He’s no better than the rest of us! He isn’t the only one who is hurting! Damn that selfish son of …” I suppose to some he was forcing us to think about what we were trying not to think about. Not altogether forget, just take a break from.
He just scared me. The way he just sat there starin’ at something only he could see. Lookin’ right through you; dead, but not all. I grew up just thinking about that man and learning what it means to have a spirit and have it be dead inside of you but your heart is still beating.