‘So many stars tonight and each one a dream. Mike, which one do you think is right for me?’ That was Julia’s eternal question to me. I never had an answer and she’d never listen if I did.
‘Julia, how many times have you asked me? It’s the same question since third grade and I still have no idea.’ Still, I looked up at the sky hoping I might see a shooting star. Graduation was a few days away and I could sense the end coming.
‘Mike, what’s your dream? Really, I mean, you must have one.’
‘I want to be a fireman.’ I half giggled the answer like I was an eight year old child.
‘Mike! You said that when the house down the street caught fire. Be serious for once, okay?
‘You saw my draft board letter, I’ll be inducted in less that two weeks. I don’t have any dreams, maybe staying alive for the next two years.’
‘Sorry, Mike, I forgot.’
‘Forget it. What’s your dream tonight?’ I knew Julia had another new dream in mind. A distant dream. I really didn’t want to hear it. This new dream would put distance between us, perhaps more than Uncle Sam would. I don’t know. Her dreams had that bad habit of never turning out the way Julia thought they should.
‘Oh Mike, I dream of studying art and literature at college. To be able to create something of beauty. How exciting that would be, don’t you think, Mike? Do you think I would be good?’
‘Of course, Julia. You have four years to find out. Hey, maybe you’ll be famous by then. You know, forget all your old friends and live in Greenwich Village and hang out with the other literati.’ She hit me in that arm with her fist.
‘Stop teasing! You know I won’t do that.’ Julia turned away for a moment then looked to the dark sky once more. ‘I’ve got o do this, Mike. I’ve got to try this time, make my dream come true. Don’t you believe me?’
‘Sorry Julia, I didn’t mean to tease. Yes, I want you to succeed, I want your dreams to come true.’ Actually I did hope she would find that dream, make it come true. I mean, she was good in school and all. Her English teacher said Julia’s poetry was good and her art work looked really good. It’s not like I know anything about these things, but people said she was good.
At the bus station we talked a little before my trip to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. We had lived next door to each other and were a part of each others life, and yet I could see the distance growing rapidly.
‘Hey, don’t be such a stranger. I’ll write to you like a war correspondent, tell you all the gory details.’ Julia gave me a kiss on my cheek.
‘Just don’t come back married to some foreign woman like your brother did.’ Julia’s eyes started to blink as the moisture was welling up. I was doing my best Gary Cooper imitation, not very well though.
‘It’s okay, I’ll be alright. Besides, my brother married a German girl. Mom likes her, Dad’s not too sure. Besides, I’m too young for marriage. Really. I’ve got to go now.’ The sudden gust of wind chilled my skin, I felt the hair on my arms stiffen. Her last words died in the diesel exhaust as I boarded the bus. Our hands weakly waves as the distance from the station increased. I settled back in my seat listening to the hum of the highway and the chatter of new recruits, some excited, some not. I listened to a few of their dreams and thought of Julia.