Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Danger of Knowing Your Name

Standing under the streetlight, the boy smiled at me.  I could feel his eyes on me, hoping I would speak first.  I would wait.  It is always better to wait.

            “Hello,” he said. 

            I nodded.  The longer I held off talking to him the better. 

            “Having a good time tonight?”  He asked, trying to pull words out of me.  His eyes looked at me with longing.  It was obvious he was out searching for a girl. 

            I glanced at the ground.  Kicking at a rock with my shiny black boot, I shrugged my shoulders.  “I guess it is ok.  I’m not really into these kinda scenes.” 

            He nodded vigorously.  “Yeah, me either.  I just needed to get out tonight.  You know, chase the bad vibes away.  Forget your troubles!  It was a rough week for me.”

            The boy was good looking.  He had dark hair, strewn around his head.  His clothes were fashionable and new.  I guessed his age at about nineteen or twenty.  I really couldn’t judge anything by his looks.  And for the purpose I wanted him, I didn’t want to know anything about his character.  I stay emotionally uninvolved with these people as much as possible.  Although I was giving him cold vibes, it was obvious he wanted to get involved with me.  It amazed me the level of determination young males had.  He was willing to try anything to get me to look at him, fawn over him, and love him.

With false confidence, he lit a cigarette and looked down the road.  I know the look, I’ve seen it before.  He was trying to come up with the next clever thing to say.  Lucky for him, he wasn’t going to have to think for long.

            We stood together, shivering on a side street in the cold.  Tiny bars lined the top half of the street, but where we were it was pretty desolate.  The sounds of people partying and having a great time were mere echoes to our ears.  Surrounded by empty warehouses and boarded up storefronts, the end of the street is the place where people come to smoke, flirt, throw up, and stumble home.  During the day college kids parked their cars here in order not to pay the parking garage tolls, but at night people ruled the road.  Tonight it was quiet.  It was just us.      

            “Those things will kill you,” I stated, looking back at him.  I titled my head, just a bit. 

            He lit up like a street light.   I could almost see him congratulating himself on getting me to talk.  “I’ll be long dead before cigarettes get the chance to do me in.”  He let out a drag.  “Besides, lots of things will kill you,” he joked.

“You don’t know how true that statement is,” I replied. 

“When I came out to have a smoke I saw you were out here alone.  Are you waiting for someone?”

            “Oh, yeah.  I’m waiting for a car.”

            “It would be a shame to wait all alone.  Do you mind if I wait with you?”

            “I don’t mind being alone.  But it is always better if I have someone to wait with.”  I smiled at him.  There wasn’t much time left.  I could feel it.

            The smoke from his cigarette was curling up towards his face.  He looked so happy.  For a second, a flicker of something sparked in my mind. 

            I did something I never did before.  Abruptly I asked, “What is your name?”

            “Nathan,” he replied.  “And yours?”

            “I’ll tell you my name when we know each other better.”

Nathan threw his cigarette down on the sidewalk and ground it out.   He lit another.  Our boy Nathan was a chain smoker.  He offered me one, but I refused.  He shrugged.  “Ok, miss no-name, let’s get to know each other better.  You’re obviously not a smoker.  What do you do for a job?”

“I don’t have a job.”

“Ok, fair enough.  Blame the bad economy, like everyone else does.  Then, alright, what can I ask you?  Ah, yes.  What do you do?  Like, for fun and stuff?

“I don’t really have a life.”

“Come on!” He laughed.  “You are not making it easy for me to get to know you.  Here’s a question.  Why have I never seen you downtown before?”

            “I guess I’m not around that much, Nathan.  I only come out when I have a reason,” I replied. 

            “Really.  What was your reason tonight?”

            “I came here tonight to meet you.”

            He shifted his weight.  He was moving in to make his conquest.  “Well, I guess that makes me extremely glad I came out.”

            He moved closer to me.  I could smell the alcohol on this breath, the nervous sweat on his hands, and the excitement racing through his body.  He leaned in for a kiss.

            Nathan didn’t get to kiss me.  At that moment, a red car came swerving down the street.  It picked up speed as it passed each broken down and abandoned building.  It made a long wailing noise, like it needed to be shifted.  The awful sound bounced off the walls and pounded into my eardrums.  The car weaved on and off the road.  Squealing from the tires disrupted the silence of the night.  It missed three garbage cans near the road, a stray cat running across the street, and the streetlight.  The car did not miss Nathan.

            Nathan was tossed up in the air.  For a brief moment his body was airborne.  He reminded me of an angel about to take off into the inky darkness of the night.  Nathan was not an angel.  He landed on the dark pavement with a sickening noise.  Instead of taking flight, Nathan’s body would never move again.  The car went on to drive a few feet away until in smashed head on into a brick building.  The wheels kept spinning, going nowhere. 

            I was at Nathan’s side in a moment. 

            “Nathan,” I whispered.  “I wasn’t lying when I said I came here tonight for you.  I did lie to you about one thing.  I have a job.  I am a death watcher.” 

            Nathan tried to speak, but he couldn’t.  He looked up and me.  His eyes could focus, but I could tell they wouldn’t be for long.  The blood was flowing freely now, getting on my clothing, but that does not bother me.  He was feeling scared, but that emotion was slipping away from him.  He would be gone soon.  My cold hands brushed the dirt off his face.  Without meaning to, I smeared a tear resting on his cheek.  It left a wet track down his cheekbone to the edge of his mouth.   Then I noticed he wasn’t crying.   It wasn’t his tear.

A shock wave ran threw me.  The tear was mine.  I was the one that was crying.  I felt like throwing his body into the street.  It was my emotion I was feeling, not his. 

            I swallowed my shock and held him until I felt his soul dissolve into the night air.  When a soul goes it goes quick, like cotton candy dissolving in a mouth.  I laid the body down on the ground and got up.  Nathan was gone.  Already his blood was disappearing off my body.  Soon there would be no trace his life had ever touched me.  I glanced over at the lady in the car.  She was not dead.  Her body was draped over the steering wheel.  Her head was bent at an odd angle as it rested on the car door.  As bad as she was, she was not in need of my services.  At least not yet.  I don’t know if and when she would be, but judging by the looks of her, I’m surprised I didn’t have double the work tonight. 

            I looked down at the body that used to belong to the human named Nathan.  Whatever emotion I had felt was drying up.  There was no longer any desire to know his name.  To make sure, I stole one last long look at the body.  When I was satisfied, I walked away.  I don’t particularly like looking at dead humans, even if I am a death watcher.  Honestly, I don’t particularly enjoy looking at any kind of human.  I left the corpse on the ground for some other human to find.  They would take care of it. 

As I walked away, I noticed the curl of smoke coming from his cigarette.  He was right.  He was dead before the cigarettes got a chance to kill him.  I stubbed it out.  No need to start a fire. 

            I turned my back on the streetlight and wandered off into the darkness.  It occurred to me I never told him my name. 

1 comment: