I hit the corner and looked down at the homeless man staring up at me. One leg in bandages, a stained pair of ripped jeans, amplified tracks on his right arm, and a bandana that still had Da Nang in capital letters pasted across its front ridge. He held out his Styrofoam cup, the deep yellow of his eyes begging me for a nickel, or something more. I stood there, disgusted. Three weeks post-Tibet, I’m staring at an American who has given up. My mother is dead, I’m still half drunk, and this patriot is sucking the life out of me, begging me to subsidize his habit. I stare down at him, my upper lip curling into a sneer as I debate whether to kick his teeth in.
To my left, I hear a rustling, another man, rolling out from under his newspaper-blanket, stands up to leak in the gutter. I look to the skies, wondering if Dante is snickering at me as I pass through his circles of Hell. In the distance, police sirens move towards the darker parts of the city, on their way to recover the body of a hooker who turned a bad trick, and ended up hanging from a shower rack.
My tooth is hurting again, as I move down the street, tasting the decay of humanity. I need to make plans for her funeral. The rain begins, softly at first, then a cold driving force that penetrates the layers of my clothing. They say rain is purifying, cleansing, a means to rid oneself of the bad memories. I beg to differ. Rain leaves me uncomfortable, drenched in despair, seeking a hot fire of hope to warm my frigid soul.
I make my way back to the Jeep. There is a tire missing, and a note that says “Sucker” on the windshield. They left a note – how kind. I spend the next twenty minutes cursing as my bleeding fingers remove the lug nuts and strap on the spare. I can’t wait to get home, to my sanctuary, where I can sit alone, with my bottle, my stack of bills, my unfinished novel, and a pillow. I need sleep.