He rolled into town on his rusted bike, pedaling alongside the passing cars that honked for him to get out of the way. Everyone knew to stay away from him, not because he’d ever done us wrong, but he was just unpredictable. His mind had been warped by something that none of us could understand. It made him particularly erratic and none of us wanted to deal with it.
He pulls up to the side of the store, setting his bike against the wall and rummaging through a coffee tin full of cigarette butts. He smokes them. Not cigarettes. He opts for the moldy remnants that someone else has enjoyed. A stranger had their disgusting lips on these wasted sticks of nicotine and poison and he rummages through the tin, which is half full of rancid rain water and picks out one that’s dry enough for him to enjoy. It’s relatively dry. He puts it in his out and acts as if he’s smoking, like a little kid would do with his crayons. He pulls a white Bic lighter out of his coat pocket. His coat is ratty, disgusting; I feel like if I touched him my fingers would never be clean. Unclean. Vile. Filthy, rancid death of the world. He lights up the gnarled cigarette remains. He takes little puffs, staring down the long straight-away that leads out of the plaza. I try to look in the same fashion, but I see nothing. He seems to stare with such a long, empty gaze. I can’t imagine what he sees, but for some morbid fascination in my mind I feel the need to understand. All I see is a long road, pavement, with grass lining its sides and trees that are parallel to each other on both sides.
He’s around six feet tall thin, although you can’t tell from his buttoned-up shirt and denim jacket with the cuffs folded. He does the same to his jean pants, folding them slightly above his ankles so you can see his white socks stained to a pale grey. He wears a brown winter cap. His cheeks are sunken and hollow, with freckles dotting erratically on his face. We nicknamed him ‘Black Jesus’, because he’s black and because whenever the automatic doors opened as he walked in he would raise his hands, as if saying ‘Hallelujah!’. He never spoke, except for the one time he said “Why would anyone wanna shit on angels?” in reference to a toilet seat with angels on the cover. He smelled terrible. Nobody wanted to get too close.
He’d come in every so often and for that time everyone braced themselves for anything. He never did much, except for talk. We couldn’t understand him. He formed sentences that didn’t fit and we would nod along. We did anything to get him out. Now, I wonder where he went. He’s gone forever and I couldn’t even find him to get a picture for this story. It’s as if the world swallowed him. He disappeared without a trace.I could never imagine the trouble he’d be getting himself into, riding his bike through an eternal nightmare without a mind that wants to help. All the fighting and struggle to end up sleeping behind a dumpster. Cold, alone, finding comfort in burned-out cigarette butts. For what does a man like that hope for? Something none of us could ever imagine. We speculate, but that’s nothing. I’m left with absolutely nothing. I have no idea who he really is. In the end, no matter how long I think about this, about seeing him and not, about where he’s gone. In the end, I have nothing.
Question of the Day: What is this country doing to care for the doomed?