Today, a deflated man lay in pieces on the sidewalk. An old flaking leather bomber with an upturned collar and the zipper on its belly pressed down against the path next him. Two neat brown shoes drooling disorderly tongues trailed close by. His forgotten soles were positioned as if the man-that-used-to-be was a ballet dancer and his last pose an extraordinary second position.
I approached the scene in quiet questioning as to where the ghost who once warmed these clothes had gone; where his stories had taken place and what type of thing it took to remove him from this shell?
It’s a disheartening thing, this flatness…I didn’t anticipate crying this morning, especially from the sight of discarded clothing. But it shook like me our West coast quakes, and tossed my heart with the bitter tang of fresh arugula. And at that moment, while I was lost in that blue despair dancing on little tiptoes through the rusted doors of my mind, a man passed me on the right. I had stopped walking and was resting in the middle of the path, not really in anyone’s way, just there. I heard him as he observed the scene, directing his words to the skeleton below us:
“So, this is where you’re going be sleeping tonight, eh? On the ground? In the wet? Yeah, well you would. You know, you’re the kind who would because you don’t really give a shit about nobody and you got a dog.”
The ghost didn’t look up, just steady in front where his two glossy eyes met their own gaze at the tip of his ruddy nose. I was embarrassed to be of the same breed as that man walking by, that man who belonged to the mobile class, like me. But even more so, I was terrified to be related to one the owning the lower quadrant of the sidewalk. No, no…it was impossible for me to be like him. I was different. I was wearing shoes, and they cost a hundred dollars.
Yet, all I could think of was “Really, that is exactly the kind of shit people like me fumble out with; we make distinctions between ourselves and this guy evaporating on the ground. People like me; people who have hundred dollar shoes on say this type of crap: “I’m different”.
Yeah, right. Us hundred dollar shoe-wearers say it to ease the guilt about going home to a bed. “This is the kind of shit we think ‘cause really we don’t give a shit”, I heard myself say out loud. This time the ghost looked up, but only at my shins. I got the sense that looking any farther up would have required him removing the layers of crusted insults that sealed his soul off from people like me.
“We’d rather it be some anonymous dude with a dog and a shopping cart then our own cold backs and slippery feet”, I heard myself mumble again. This brought the ghost’s eyes down to the ground, where they rested for the remainder of our shared moments, because that’s all they were – moments, fragments, pitiful little shreds of an hour that I would ordinarily use on deciding between raw California honey or sustainably farmed, organic honey shipped from Oregon. I had to walk because I could no longer glower at my own reflection in the coffee shop window and frighten the ironic blonde-bobbed Goth girl mistaking my painful mental unwrapping for something more personal about her sarcastic style.
I turned around, almost completely, in a ridiculous 360 before I could feel my legs enough to actually do that whole thing of walking. Pulsing through me was only color. Emotion had little to do with language in that moment, but a full spectrum of Valentine’s Day pervaded my field. I was irritated by this irritation, and annoyed that I had somehow ended up on this terrible street with these obstinate reflections. Before I left though, I looked down again at the man-in-pieces. With equal amounts of surprise and curiosity at my previously narrowed concentration on only the man before and below me, I saw a young woman on his right. She had the harrowing look of being broken by something powerful. Hazel eyes against the palest, most translucent skin, I could almost see the blood of her heart pounding through those young, untapped veins. I didn’t see blood that day, but I did she her struggle.
She appeared as if she had been left many times. As if she’d just been fighting for something…tightrope walking while balancing the world of her lover’s on the right shoulder and her own universe on the left. She appeared to fighting for someone to fill an enduringly dark cave in between her ribs and even deeper between her thighs.
She had been left on the corner at night when there were only clouds in the sky to sponge up her heart’s drippings -scooped up and rung out over the Pacific Ocean the next day when it was sunny and she couldn’t make sense of the whole ordeal.
Oh, she’d been left a thousand times. That girl, so young.
She’d been left on a carousel ride that promised glitter bombs at the end but never delivered and ditched on a plane that never took off. Her friend said he’d be right back; he just had to go get the guts he forgot at home in the nightstand drawer. He left her in the center of a volcano that has just shot it’s last explosion, only mirages of heat lingering in the long distance, promising to come closer and touch her and feel her and let her know she was warm too.
Dumped on the top of a rollercoaster, her friend parachuted down with her seatbelt in hand. Before he bailed, he snatched away all her gold fillings and pawned them to a pirate.
I wondered, “How much compensation did he get for those? Was it grander than the knowledge he had probably forever jeopardized her integrity and promoted her mouth to ruins?”
And walked. But, I couldn’t shake the idea that the last time she’d been left it was probably in a pit of jungle snakes with no anti-venom. Not only did he abandon her there, he first bound her hands with rope and pulled out her vocal chords. Just incase she tried to scream.