That always gives me a laugh, especially while I'm gardening. I have green thumbs.
Green hands, too. Green everything. Except my eyes. Those are white, blank, a blind man's eyes that see perfectly. I'm tall, now, which is good, because I was always short. Big, broad shouldered, with a strong chin. I like my chin. My eyes are too big and my head's a bit of a strange shape and my ears stick out a little, but I have a fantastic chin. Batman wouldn't be ashamed of a chin like mine.
This isn't going well. I didn't start this to talk about me, but I didn't know where to start, and I was looking at my hand and my green thumbs, and anyway...
I'm a doctor now. A real, live, educated doctor. It took me a long time, longer than most, but I did it. There were times when I didn't think I'd make it, but I had this friend, you see. He always told me that I'd make it. Maybe I started out in the sewers, literally, but I could do anything I wanted to do.
I always listened to him, this friend of mine. He was older than I was, by a lot, but we were close anyway. Kind of like a big brother... no, more like a stepbrother. Someone you're not related to, but who you end up living with, and who sort of takes you under his wing. My friend did that for me. He taught me a lot of things... good things, things I needed to learn. Things like the importance of honour. Not the flashy kind that makes heroes, but the quiet kind that lets you look yourself in the eyes when you look in the mirror. He always used to say that if I didn't know if something was the right thing to do... 'Ask yourself', he said, 'when you die, and you stand before God, and he asks you why you did it, what will you say?' Not 'what you did', but 'why you did it'. He always believed that doing the wrong thing for the right reason was better than doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Because even if it went wrong, if you did something for the right reason then somehow it would eventually work out.
Something of a philosopher, my friend.
Not many people knew that.
He used to help me read, late at night. He'd tell me what all the long words meant, and make off-colour jokes about the books. Later, when I was older and studying medicine, he'd help me study. Not that he ever went to university himself... it wasn't his thing, education. But he'd sit with me, and ask me what the long words meant, and make off colour jokes about the anatomy illustrations...
My friend taught me a lot about women. He liked them. Not for any weird reason or anything, he just liked them. He thought they were... special, I guess. It might be old-fashioned to treat women like ladies, he said, but it was right. It was the way you should do it. Because they were special. And it wasn't just something he said... he believed it, and practiced it, and not just with the ones he knew. On a bus, in a bar, at the beach... he might not have been a gentleman, but he sure knew how to treat a lady.
He taught me about justice too. Mostly that there isn't any... not in life, not in fate, not in nature... only in people. People made up the idea of justice, he said. They invented fairness. It was supposed to help them make sense of the world, but in the end, all it really works for is making sense of people. There are two kinds of people... those who believe in justice, and those who don't. He believed in it, even though he knew it was rare, and getting rarer every day. I suppose it was more that he believed in the idea of it, the pure, shining ideal that we all reach for but never touch. He always said that there'd be justice in Heaven, and that he could wait for it. It was like anything else extra-special, and improved by waiting.
He believed in Heaven, and in God. Deep down in his soul, he truly believed, even though he never really agreed with all of any one church doctrine. That was how he made sense of the world - that this was all a test, some big final trial to see who makes it in. A final exam for souls. He always laughed when he said that... he always failed his exams.
I think he passed this one, though. I believe he passed. Nobody who loved so much, and so hard, and held on through so many hard times without giving up, could ever fail that test.
Not that he was a saint... he wasn't. He drank too much and he smoked too much and he swore a lot and he was sarcastic and moody and I'm pretty sure he got into a few fights his opponents never walked away from.
But we all have faults.
He was also brave, and loyal, and honest. He was a good man, a good friend, a good husband, and a good father. He loved his family without reservation, and I will never cease to be grateful that he included me in it.
When I was a kid, and he was an older kid, he used to tiptoe into my room every night to tuck me in. Nobody ever knew about it - his tough ex-gangster reputation would be ruined for good. It was our secret, him and Artie and me. He'd check the closet for monsters, under the bed for ghouls, then he'd smile, and say
Then he'd go, and we'd go to sleep.
Goodnight, Angelo. Sleep tight.