A withering young man stumbles upon another human being on their last leg...
When I was only so old, with only so much strength that a deer could possess, I stumbled across a heap of blankets and skin hunkering in the middle of an empty depot where its building had been cleared long ago, leaving only garbage, dirt, and me. A girl kneeled in the center of it all, among the piles of soil and gravel clumped into a pyramid, lying still with them under a murky gray sky heavy with rain. I stood to watch her for a while out of fascination, but only has one would watch squirrels fight, or watch a car weave out of the road. And when I thought she was long dead, frozen in place, I wanted to move on; only to pass her body with a glance, and then put my gaze forward to the dirty path out of the empty depot. But only as I turned my head away, I felt a tug on the bottom of my long black corduroy jacket, and saw a little hand dark with grime cling to me. Under all those soiled blankets and scarves, the top one decorated in dark blue and white with Victorian flowers, was a disheveled face. I would have guessed she was an old woman at first glance, her missing teeth and eyebrows helping my case, as with her blood shot eyes. She was younger than I was. She looked upon my face, and I showed no signs of my heart cracking, but it did none the less.
Almost the minute she grabbed my coat, she bluntly said “I’m hungry”, followed with phlegm filled sobs and whimpers. I quietly gasped and almost fell on my back. But she continued to stare at me with her ugly and boney face and tired eyes, dripping with dirty tears that ran black. And she repeated she was hungry, burying that face in the cloth, and I winced. “But I have nothing to give you,” I said, “I might as well be as poor as you are.” But she wouldn’t let go of me, and the strength of her grip surprised me when I was unable to pry her hand off. But when she did, I let her look at me to prove it. I was eighteen and one could tell easily, but I had an old body as well, and relied on standing with a driftwood cane. My shoes were always glossy and brown, the way I loved them, but they didn’t match. My left shoe though had bared a block of black painted wood, several inches tall, to keep my shorter leg from disabling my walking. And with the dirt on my clothes and the washed blue in my eyes turning to grey; I let her look at me, so she would know I had nothing to give her. She had pulled away while looking at me, and I slowly did as well down the dirty path back to a sidewalk, a city, anywhere but baron emptiness. As I limped along I heard a frantic shuffling speed then stop behind me. I have nothing to give you.
Behind a phlegm filled and hopeless voice, I heard once again, “Please, I’m so hungry! I’m so hungry!” Her breath must have been retched. So I angrily spun around to see her again, and she seemed to sink back into the ground when I did so, frightened by this boy, this boy with only the coat on his back, now dirtier from her grasp. I scowled at the little rat, holding me back from going no where. What do you want? A fragment of sympathy? Not from me. Spare change from my pocket? Nonexistent. Do you want a smile? Do you want me to shake my keys before you’re desperate face if I had any of my own? Do you want a crumb from the ground, a bit of rain water to drink, a companion to die with…
I have nothing to give you.
Yet I found myself kneeling like she was, hunched over, crying from being so disturbed by my glare. My knees got dirty, and I knew I couldn’t stand back up for a while, but I longed to before the rain. Yet when it began to spit at me, and then began to pour, and I was drenched, cold, and dreamed of warm sheets fresh from my mother’s dryer as my shirt stuck to my skin. But the girl kneeled upright before me when the rain began to fall, and held up her hands towards the sky to catch every drop that she could. She greedily sucked all the water from her hands, desperately trying to catch more. I stared at the clouds too, then back at my knees trying to figure out a way for me to stand upright again, and to be on my way. And I glared at my short leg when I felt a sharp pain from it, preventing me from rising. I glared at it until a pair of dirty hands entered my vision, filled with contaminated rain water. I looked at her, then her hands for a while still disgusted. All the little things that could have grown from the dirt on her hands, now swimming in that filthy water, tainted with smoke from factories and past chemicals in the lonely depot. But I blindly formed my own hands into a cup, and she lovingly spilled the water into them. Reluctantly I threw back my head and drank. And at first, I felt refreshed and quietly sighed, feeling the slow and gentle effects of calming and life giving water. Until I looked back at my hands, it was precious. I saw dirt, I felt dirt, and suddenly the water the girl had given me tasted metallic in my throat, and the taste made so many thoughts run through me like a potion. Have you poisoned me? I suddenly hunched over and felt the water stir in my gut the more I reflected. It’ll make me nauseous and sweat, I thought, and I’ll vomit the last I had of breakfast and be hungry again.
I then unconsciously began to stroke my short leg, twisted and muddy and drenched. Another wave of nausea swept over me. I can’t get up. Dear God, I cannot get up!
I then quickly lifted my head to see the little girl, panicking more than I ever had. She was hunched too, staring back at me with her red and grubby eyes, with black trails on her cheeks from her tears and the rain. Her blankets and scarves were almost soaked to the skin, and her arms had now been tucked under her gut like mine, from the nausea and aches of her empty stomach. We could only look intently at each other, but I could read her gaze. Are you my friend now?
I slowly lifted my arm to her, bumping my cane that lay in a puddle next to me. I gingerly reached for her, but did not dare touch her grubby and frail face. “Please,” My lips trembled in fear if I would ever get up, or that I would vomit. “Please, get help, will you help me?”
Her face sunk, and her fingers shifted from under her gut, imagining herself helping me walk. She would collapse. But she did do all she could, which was only stay, unlike I tried to. She stayed, stared, and inched closer and closer to watch over me, though I wasn’t sure she was like a mother bear or a vulture. Even after the rain had stopped, and I had forced myself to lie in the mud, the ghastly water stirring inside me, I still begged now and again. But with nothing else she could do, in the middle of the lonely depot, she stayed and watched over me, sometimes giving me a small smile. And slowly letting her eyelids drop when it grew dark, long after mine had closed.
I have nothing to give you.