The alley


It was the rain that woke him.  Splats and splutters of water rolled down his cheeks and onto his lips.  He spat the acrid taste from his mouth.  This was not the rain of rolling meadows or far-off forests.  No.  This was downtown city rain.  Maybe, thousands of feet above his head, the water was once pure but not anymore.  Just like everything else that stays too long here, it lost it’s purity and became tainted.

More rain hit his face as he sat up and pulled the collar of his overcoat over his neck.  Even the peaceful sound of rain in the city became distorted and unsettling.  Dumpsters and trashcan lids clanged and soggy plastic Chinese takeout bags squashed uncomfortably.  He grimaced at the sound and opened his eyes.  Darkness.  No one ever came down this alley.  He wasn’t sure if that was because there weren’t any lights or no one bothered to put lights in a place no one came to.  Whatever the reason, he enjoyed the dark.

It had been days since he last interacted with anyone and even then it was just a teenager skipping school to come smoke alone.  Normally he would have stayed hidden but the prospect of a cigarette was too good to pass up.  Kids are always so eager to share when they think they’ve been caught by an adult.

It was nighttime and he was getting hungry again.  He reached over to check his watch only to see that the watch and hand were missing.  He kept doing that.  Maybe one day he would get used to being without it but even several months after losing it, the habits stayed.  And though he kept telling himself to move on, he would sometimes get flashes of varying sensations in the missing hand.  Sometimes he would feel a gentle breeze, bitter cold, and sometimes the irritating pins and needles that never seem to go away fast enough.

These were the thoughts that occupied his mind as he waited.  Tingly hands and sewer rain.  He tried telling himself he didn’t mind, that it was worth it, but it was just a way to keep his mind busy and off his current situation.  Ideology never much appealed to him.  He used to have a comfortable life, and now he didn’t.  It didn’t do any good by dwelling on it.

One thing was clear.  One thing was always at the forefront of his mind and kept him in this pit night after night.  He had only overheard the story as a child from one of the nurses talking to his caseworker.  One night his mother would stumble into this alleyway in the middle of labor.  It was here, soon that he would be born.  He was here to make sure that never happened.


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