The searing heat is burning the last bit of sense out of his mind. He is sitting on a step of a house, midtown, his clothes dirty, himself dirty. A thick grey beard is covering most of his face, his hand is holding a bottle of extra strong. It’s the third today and only just gone past noon. The heat does the rest, more than twice he is on the verge of throwing up, but burps instead, his mouth filling with the sour taste of stomach, he washes it down with another sip. The extra strong has gone warm and flat but it hides the fear better than some. His small pig like eyes follow the scurried steps of pedestrians, most of which ignore him. He doesn’t mind, it’s a mutual understanding, he doesn’t bother them and they leave him alone, or mostly they do. At times, when in groups they attack, suddenly feeling safe to let their frustrations out on an easy target like himself. They are usually drunk little shits, the smaller in size the harder they kick the little bastards. But even if it wasn’t for them he rarely felt safe, he managed to numb the fear, keep it at the back of his mind, simmering, fed by the extra strong and time itself. He knew there was a state in which you could freeze time, keep tomorrow from ever happening, stay in a cocoon.
His was a steady routine, with the same precision a bank clerk would follow his daily business. It’s the only way he could get through. He crouched by the side of the road, sipping the extra strong somehow far away and then sometimes like in a dream the clouds shift from his mind and he remembers days long gone.
Like him and the sister playing in the parents garden. Her on the swing, and the garden full of scents and flavours. There is butterflies, and the sound of birds tweeting, then there is the laughter of the sister and him. The voice of the mother, as she tells them to quiet down, as the father is taking a nap, and then calling again for them to get inside for dinner. There was never any fear inside him then. The fear, had come a lot later, after the sister had gone and the father had lost the job and they had to move and move again. The other kids he met along the endless journeys, induced some of the fear, always picking on him for being different. He got quiet in those days, and when he remembered a single tear left his eye, carving its way through his face, disappearing somewhere beneath his beard, a silent sob escapes from his lips, then drowned with another sip of the extra strong.
The friends he had known had come and gone, till he realised he was better of being left to himself, quite capable of sorting his own business.
He coughed, then spat a green sizable piece of phlegm right on the pavement in front. A lady with heels swirled and almost came down, you could see the disgust on her face as she walked on. What if, he thinks and laughs to himself, chuckles in fact so hard that he begins to cough spilling some of the extra strong on the ground, coughing up more of the phlegm, spitting and coughing more.
There is a sudden lack of air and he drops the bottle which breaks on the ground in front, the liquid running into the gutter, and him coughing hitting his chest harder, his eyes bulging, as some of the passers slow to glance at the madman they see. And he, still not getting any air stretching his hands out for help, then falling forward shaking with convulsions his face hitting the ground. The fear kicks in good this time, and there isn’t anything he can do about it and then his stomach does the rest by letting go of the extra strong, with him still gasping for air his face turning blue he takes it all back inside, down the wrong pipe, but some of it leaking from his mouth and those that still watch step further away and turn their heads disgusted by the human misery they witness, yet somehow not willing to help. Another spasm follows and his bowels give way, the stench so vile that the last onlooker leaves and those still moving along quicken their steps, or go so far as to cross the street to look on from a distance.
Then there is the distant sound of ambulance, stuck in traffic, not in a real rush, but they get there in the end, just that it is to late this time, there is nothing to do for them, but load him up and take him away. Non of them know who he was or know of the sister long gone, the mother and father and the early days of childhood, when there was no fear or worry in the young boys step. Anything was possible at that time, but the thing with time is that no one knows what it got planned and how it pans out in the end.