Should I Live?-short piece

April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

People are walking down on the street, behind my back, below my window. There are girls laughing and boys echoing them. I can’t see them but I know, know that the girl is tossing her head back, her hair falling on his shoulder and he’s moving in closer. Colleagues are drinking away the 9-5, 9-6, 9-7, 9-forever work day down at the bar at the corner. I can’t see them, but I know the women are wearing blazers and the men are wearing suits. The women are ordering the house Pinot and the men are motioning casually at the hard liquor gleaming in the hazy light while the bartender crunches ice and wipes his forehead. A boy smokes a cigarette on a lonely bench and stares at the dirty asphalt and wonders if he should live. Club-goers are sauntering past, the girls clutching at the boys with stupefied expressions, pulling at their too short dresses. The boys are winking at each other.

The boy wonders if he should live.

A homeless man on the corner asks for spare change but what he wants is a look, recognition of shared humanity. The call for change is less an earnest request now. It’s become a mode of living, the language of his life, as normal as breathing. Spare change. Spare change. Spare change for the homeless.

A girl playfully screams as a boy grabs at her ass.

The people at the bar cheer for the special boy on the special TV whose scored a special goal. Cheers. Another round. I’ve got this one. I should be getting home.

Where am I? asks a girl to herself. How did she get here? Where did Ben go? What happened to my phone? Where’s Ben?

Should I live?

A woman is hurrying down the street, eyes locked on her destination, taking no notice of the people. Got to get home. Got to get home. Want to be home.

A car screeches down the street and for a moment everyone turns. It’s broken the sound barrier, any distance between them shattered. All look at each other.

The car is gone.

Goal!

Where am I?

Home.

Live.

Johnny, don’t.

Where you guys headed?

See you later.

Spare change.

A little girl, out far too late, grabbing at her mother’s hand. Her stuffed monkey drags on the pavement and her mother scolds her. No. No. That’s not what you’re supposed to do. Be good. Don’t be bad.

Crying.

Slap.

Spare change?

The boy lights another cigarette and his face is momentarily aglow. Look, look now, you’ll see him. Right now. But nobody is looking and the girl and boy are kissing across from him on the bench. He has amber eyes.

Should I live?

The boy stands. The couple kiss. The girl in the too-short dress stumbles to the ground. Another pinot, another whiskey. Mommy. Slap.

He walks to the corner and sees none of the people. They are doing things and he does not see. He sees the corner. Got to get home. Want to be home.

The traffic screeches.

Corner.

Run and don’t think, don’t see and it will end, and the light at the end of the tunnel will be the flash of headlights.

Spare change? Spare change? Spare change for the homeless?

And I don’t see him but I know, know the boy turns, turns and sees. And he is seen.

Quarters.

Thanks.

Thanks.

And the cars move past, going, going, going. Somewhere.

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