Page 13 Cartoons

Street Flash

April 8, 2010

Does anyone in here get hit with inside fever? So bad sometimes it’s hard to move around. The couch fibers keep you inside, and you whine you shouldn’t waste your mornings. You take a walk.
Our bedroom, cluttered with our books, magazines, drafts, crumpled sketches— strewn on the floor, the night table, the dresser. Dead bugs and cords and plugs sleep by the molding. It’s all enough to keep me busy in the morning and afternoon, but the sun sets fast without telling anyone. Where do the days go? Just before, we were a couple smiling, cooking things together. Lazy dinners, and blue T.V. glow remind you of all the things you are not doing.
I slipped out from under the blankets, and used the light from my cell phone to find my clothes, so I wouldn’t wake her. All you could hear were the tires of taxicabs splashing the standing puddles. Dressed now, I touched her cheek with the backs of my fingers and tucked her hair behind her ear. I kissed her forehead and wondered if I could be happy doing that for the next 50 years. Hope I can.
I turned the doorknob as I closed the door behind me, muffling its creaking as best I could.
The pavement was grey and yellow with the glimmer of street lamps. I stuffed my hands in my pockets and turned the collar of my coat up, and started walking. I dreamed all the clocks around the city had died.
I’m taking a walk. The crosswalk signal blinks and I hurry across the intersection, my shoes splashing as I go, the toes of my socks dampening. A rabid dog, drooling madness, howls inside my head. But everywhere else is silent. No low murmurings of midnight birds, they’re sleeping. Rat families are cuddling together, done rummaging through street corner trash. No more noise. 41st, 40th, 39th … just drizzle.
It’s silent drizzle, beautiful, dark and cloudy. The droplets are cool on the hairs of your arms and neck. Everything’s coated with water, but not drowning, just rippling and vibrating. That’s odd, that street lamp is melting—and so are my hands.
I cross the street and walk inside this all-night food deli, and everything’s solid again. I walk up to the man behind the counter. His face is tanned leather, his smile gold plated. This was someone who shouldn’t be working at a Bodega. I decided he was the last alchemist, with an apartment full of gold and that he would come and leave this city on the back of a dromedary, something befitting his nobility. He asks me, “How can I help you, may I help you?” “Yeah, just a pack of cigarettes.”
But the colors of a fruit basket by the counter reach out to grab my eye out of its socket. There’s a cluster of red, and orange. And one brillant yellow, gleaming brighter than the street lamps. The yellow hurt so bad that I couldn’t look at it anymore. Okay, okay I don’t want to lose my eye. “I’ll take the lemon too.” “Yes, very good, it has good vitamins, everyone needs the vitamins,” he says. I nod my head, “Thank you, sir.”
Stepping out of the store feels like walking off the edge of a cliff, eyes closed and hoping you can fly. When your stomach flips over on itself—I love that feeling.
He caught me by the collar of my coat.
“Hey kid, watch your step there.” His clothes are tattered. He was wearing two holey sweaters, gloves with no fingers, grease garbage residue visible on the curly hair that rested on his shoulders. Military jacket. Sgt.? Or is it Lt.? I couldn’t read the small letters of his name stitched on his chest.
I looked up at him, “Thanks, I almost ate shit there.” He smiled back with black teeth. He was tall, lank and lean, meager and stiff. It looked like his bones are going to wound him from the inside out. I was scared of him, but fascinated. I wanted to hide, but only to observe him at a distance. He seemed happy with desolation, the solitude that comes with sleeping on church steps and laughing at the police officer who beats you for loitering. Until blood gushes from your nose and mouth, until your body is breaking and your mind splitting.
“That’s all right.” I saw his eyes move to the pack of still-wrapped cigarettes I held in my hand. He pointed, “Can I bum a smoke?”
“Yeah, sure.” I unwrapped the plastic, threw it on the pavement, handed him a cigarette and lit it for him. It was the least I could do.
He exhaled and gave a big sigh as he looked at the black dream sky. “Doesn’t it look like it’s falling?”
I was put off by the truth of what he said. Also by the fact that his body seemed to flicker in broken frames, like when a television has lost its signal. Then he sat down on the sidewalk bringing one leg as close as possible to his chest, pulling his pant leg to scratch an itch under his cast. It was a huge cast that ran from the top of his knee to his toes, and was covered in street-sweeper grime—save for a circle of eggy blood pus oozing and staining the top of his foot.
“Sucks,” he grunted. “It’s the only way I can reach. Hurts like a bitch you know.” He sighed with pleasure when he finally got the itch. “But you get by.”
“Hey man, can I get you a cab to a hospital or something.” I pointed to his stained foot, “That doesn’t look so good.” Just then a camel carrying a large figure in tan robes on its back, galloped out of the Bodega, hooves clacking and muzzle slavering, as the rider and beast disappeared around the street corner. Sergeant didn’t seem to make anything of it, and said nothing—so I said nothing.
I grabbed his hand and helped him get to his feet. He limped towards the store and took the cane that was leaning against the store window. I hadn’t seen it.
“No way I’m gonna be caught dead in a hospital,” he murmured to himself. He started to walk away. “Not gonna be a pig in a cage on antibiotics. Nope. No I’m not, nope.” He was shaking his head stiffly, so that his greasy hair seesawed back and forth.
“Listen; that’s all right, I’ll take you back to my place,” I blurted out without thinking.
“You, all you ridiculous people, you think you can help, don’t you?” He limped as fast as he could towards me. His face was close enough that I could see black capillaries filling the whites of his eyes. I was frozen to the spot, but then unfrozen by his hot breath yelling, “Do you!?”
I smiled fire right back at him, “Hey, I’m just offering you a bed for the night, I don’t want anything from you. Just trying to help.” I kept smiling and staring at him until I saw the muscles in his face begin to relax.
“You know,” he said, “You’re full of shit,” putting his arm around me as we started walking back to my apartment. I took a couple deep breaths.
He seemed more relaxed now, and I thought he might like talking. I asked him who he was, where he came from, and what his service was like. At this, his smile faded and now vacant eyes stared straight ahead. It was as if memories were flooding the half-alive brain of a reanimated corpse. I was stupid to have asked.
We walked six blocks without saying a word before he turned to me.
“Listen up, kid. There are barn doors and there are revolving doors, doors on rudders of big ships, we are revolving doors. There are doors that open by themselves, there are sliding doors that are secret doors. There are doors that lock and doors that don’t. There are doors that let in and out, but never open—they are trapdoors—doors you don’t come back from.
“Careful that you don’t fall in. Good thing I grabbed ya, right?”
I said nothing and he said nothing, as I opened the door to the apartment building. I pressed 8 on the elevator, and the door slid open. I walked in, he limped in, we both turned to face the closing door. I felt like the silence was going to eat me. There wasn’t even elevator music playing.
The doors slid open again and I walked out and he limped out, thudding his cane on the wood floor with each step.
“The couch is too small, it’ll be bad for your leg. You can sleep in my bed,” I muttered, fumbling my keys trying to find the right one.
Before I could find it, he came up from behind me, pushed the door open with his cane, and walked in. I stood in the doorway wondering why it was unlocked. I never leave it unlocked. Eventually, I went in.
I locked the door and turned around. We met eyes and neither of us moved. My skin prickled. Finally, I broke from his gaze and I started down the hallway to the bedroom, not looking back to see if he was following.
She was still sleeping. “Hey, Anna,” I whispered gently shaking her shoulder. “Hey, Anna wake up.”
“What, what is it?” she was still in that half-state between waking and sleeping.
“An old friend of mine is here, and he needs a place to stay. But I don’t want to make him sleep on the couch because his leg is hurt. And I’ll just make do— ”
She just got up grabbed her pillow and her blanket without saying a word. I couldn’t believe it took that little convincing.
He appeared at my left.
“Here you go, there’s plenty of pillows to prop up your leg. If you want water or food you can help yourself, don’t worry about waking Anna or me.
“Who’s Anna?” he asked.
“My girlfriend, she was just in here, you didn’t see her?”
He sat on the bed, grabbed his casted leg, and swung it on top of the comforter.
“Anyway, yeah, she’s my girlfriend. I’m gonna ask her to marry me.” I had finally said it out loud.
But he was ready to drift off, so I stopped talking. I covered him with an extra blanket, and turned the knob so the door wouldn’t make any noise closing.


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Brilliant, dude. Nice Radiohead grab. And that clocks line is still the shit. I feel Marquez all over this thing, mixed with some shrooms and some New York City.