Sometimes you can get so depressed that you can’t sit still and you just have to go out and WALK. Tonight was one of the those nights. I started in on myself and how I’m no good and believed it more than anyone can believe anything, so my feet started off on their own in an attempt to get away from myself. I also completely believe that I’m dying and yet all the time I feel like I should be doing something. My last days on earth, and even then I can’t relax and let it go.
Out on the street there was nothing, no one. It looked alien with the creeping, swaying shadows of palm fronds bouncing underneath street lights. For some reason, it made me imagine the skeletons of children frozen in mid-motion and stuck on a blacktop made of bubbling tar like some modern day Pompei. I liked the image and the more creative space my mind was sinking into and I felt a little better. Being creative is strange. If you let yourself go it can happen so easily, but then the moment you start thinking about it and become self-conscious it’s ripped away from you and then it seems so far away.
I was walking down a side street close to my apartment and there was a pile of refuse in the middle of the sidewalk. It looked like an old dark green ratty blanket that was pulled over a pile of wet leaves. I went to step over it and it moved.
“Fuckin’ Christ!” I gasped, and hopped to the side awkwardly landing on the side of my foot and almost rolling my ankle. I fell into a crouched position and peered at the moving pile of debris, ready to run in case it proved to be a wild animal. You never knew around here- it’s not uncommon to stumble upon a coyote taking itself for a walk around the block. A face poked out; a hideous, garish face that would frighten a child and draw a look of scorn from a well-to-do hipster. The face wobbled back and forth, the eyes darting about and squinting, attempting to make out who I was.
“Who?” he coughed out, revealing a stench indescribable. It was like burning garbage laced with rotten saliva, strung through the bowels of a rodent.
I couldn’t answer, I could only study his face. The nose was huge and looked like a three-foot-wide rubber hose. It was sallow and pock-marked and looked like it had been stepped on by several steel-toed boots. There was damage around the eyes, his right eyebrow traced along by a deep and fresh-looking cut. The lips appeared to be non-existent; his mouth was just two sides of normal white skin cut in half by a thin black line. The only tooth that was visible when his mouth was open hung out crookedly and was cracked and blackened.
“Heya, Randy,” the voice warbled… at least that was what it sounded like it said.
“What? I’m not-“
“There he is! Randy? Shit, is Randy! Is Randy, everybody!”
The homeless man’s bellow was horrible and sounded like it was coming from an esophagus being boiled in slime. He lifted himself on one arm and pushed himself up into a sitting position. He then rolled around onto his stomach and started flopping up and down slowly and feebly.
“Rand, le’s do pushups. You remember how we do them?! Fifty every day and after that, a bowl of oatmeal and all the fried eggs we can eat.”
He fell back over onto his butt and shrugged, half-chuckling and sighing happily.
“Well’s worth a try. How are you been, Randy? Is been so long. Say you got money? We can go to the… corner store an get a fifth. It’s been a few hours for me, Randy, and I might start shaking soon.”
“Sir, I’m not-“ I began, but then cut it off. I stopped, had a private moment. This was interesting. In all the drudgery of a life, this was a once in a lifetime interesting moment. I could really do something here.
“Are you still in construction?” I asked randomly, suddenly feeling excited and free.
“Construction? No, Randy. Randy, NO! There’s no work for me. I haven’t worked since you were a child, Randy. Do you have any mo-“
“How is mother?”
“That bitch!” he yelled, but not as vigorously as before. “Randy, do you ‘member San Diego? Tha’s where we were free. The wind all the time and Skip. You ‘member Skip, huh? Little bastard. But I went off on the deep end, and I- I left you, Randy. I did. I left you wading in the shallow end, pushing through the waves, and for that I am so-“
He started to heave and his breathing became heavy. Then he turned his face toward the sky and an almost inaudible whistle escaped from his throat. He shuddered and huffed and tears streamed down his cheeks.
“You ever… you ever get so sad, Rand, huh? You just wanna walk into traffic. I ‘member when you were little and your mama, she… that bitch… she told you what to do and what not do all the time. And your father was never there and so I- I said, I’ll be the father. But I’m just her younger brother. That’s all she ever saw me as and she didn’t trust me with you. I’m sorry, Randy. But we had some good years, huh?”
I nodded, too afraid to argue. Too afraid whatever I said would further his misery.
“I… gotta go,” I said. “Here.” I gave him two dollars. He took them listlessly and studied them as if they were a foreign currency.
“I’ll see you around,” I said, half-asking.
The man, whose name I shall never know, but whose face I shall never forget, nodded.
I got back before my roommate had gone to bed and we cracked a few jokes and he worked on his music while I looked up useless information on my computer. I saw my reflection in the computer screen and then flashed to the image of the homeless man’s face.
“I think I need to get a job,” I said.
My roommate laughed, went to his room and went to sleep.
I didn’t like the feeling I was getting and suddenly noticed it was very hot in the room. I cracked open a beer and sat next to the AC to get cool.