Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If You Are On Fire Running Down The Street, People Will Move Out of Your Way


The train rattles to a stop. He disembarks and stands on the platform. He feels the cool air from above. Even down here, he hears the pitter-patter of rain on the surface. He fights the urge to kiss the ground at his feet. Wrestles the urge to put his face down against the dirty floor and feel Earth against his skin once again. He walks toward the stairs and to the surface. It is sometime after midnight. The rain is falling in thick sheets. He stands at the landing and is assailed by the breeze that breathes cold. He staggers toward the rain like a dying man turning towards the light. He turns his head up toward the rain and spreads his arm to embrace the wind. He opens his mouth and the water falls down his throat, slide down the back of his neck, and soak his coat. He has his parched lips, drinking the water down. He does this in silence. His clothes are damp and they cling to him like heavy skin. He opens his eyes and breathes out vapor. He looks out into the night and begins to walk down Canel Street, towards Tribeca.

It takes him a while to find a place that is open late. He walked in and he took a seat at the counter and he ordered a glass of water from the girl there and he drank it down fast. It dribbled down his chin and down his chest and he gagged and coughs and spat it up. He spat, closed his lips around a napkin and caught his breath. Then he finished the glass of water and sat it down. He ordered another glass of water, this one with ice. He drinks it slowly now, taking small and longing sips. His holds the glass in his hand. He slides his finger down the side, feeling the condensation like driblets of sweat down body. He looks at the water like a lover and drinks with a delicate joy. He looks up and sees the girl as if for the first time. Dimly, he is aware that she had been there the whole time watching him, but now he really looks at her. She is young and her hair is the color of chestnut. She has small almond eyes and an angled face. She is very pretty and very young. He smiles at her but she does not smile back.

" Jesus Christ, what happened to you? " She asks.

He looks at her. He wonders what he must look like to her, soaked to the skin and drinking water like there was salvation at the bottom of the glass. How mad as must have seem. He grins.
" What? " He asks.
She looks at him.
" What did you say? " He asks.
She backs away.
" Look man, I don't want any trouble. "
He smiles at her as if he has won something. A great big clownish grin.
" Matter of fact, we're closing. Right now. " She says.
He grabs her arm and pulls her close and she doesn't scream.
" Say something else. " He says. His eyes fall to her.
" Please " He says.
Her face is blank. She doesn't struggle against his grasp. She nods her head.
" Okay. Okay. Easy. Easy. Just...just let me go. You're hurting me. " She breathes out slow.
" Please, you're hurting me. " She says.
He opens his hand and holds it out in front of him. He folds up like a lawn chair. He looks deflated and his eyes fall to the counter. He takes a sip of his water.
" I'm sorry. It's....it's been a long time since I heard someone's voice. "
She looks at him as if he's a wounded dog. Pity brims her eyes.
" What happened to you? " She asks.
" Hell " He says. He sips his water and it is pure and cold and good.
" Hell happened to me. " He says

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