chuck – after the subway

I stepped off the subway, ripped the headphones from my ears, and started my way up the steps. I stopped at the next platform when I came across a street musician playing the violin. Now, I had a soft spot for string instruments. I swear they were way more emotional than any other instrument, so I stopped to listen. I was reminded of the story I read about a professional violinist playing in a crowded subway, and how everyone largely ignored him. This was a man who people paid to see yet, because of the context, people assumed he was of no interest. Not wanting to make their mistake, I paused to listen to this street performer.

Several missed notes, a broken string, and a harrowing string of profanity later, I was convinced that the two violinists were not the same person, and kept moving.

I stepped out onto the street, pulling my jacket tight. The chilled wind pelted my face, and I instantly regretted leaving my beanie at home. I started the familiar walk back to my place. Have you ever made the same walk, time and time again, and noticed something for the first time? I couldn’t help but think this when I came across the alley that I could have sworn had not been there the day before. It was narrow and dark, sandwiched between my favorite corner convenience store (they had the friendliest brown people at Tuck’s, I didn’t know what they said, but they had such a pleasant tone while saying it), and the laundromat that constantly smelled of pee. In fact, glancing over in that direction, I saw a bum adding his own personal touch to the cacophony of offensive odors, right near the entrance. I both admired him for his “fuck it” attitude, and loathed him for the tears that were now welling up in my eyes, the smell was so strong.

I had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to gawk at this newfangled alley, which the people around me obviously didn’t appreciate as they jostled by. “MOVE, ya jackass!” I gave a sheepish smile and wave in response, and stepped out of the center of the sidewalk, towards the alley. I stood at the entrance of the alley and took in the sight before me. The thing that bothered me about this alley was that it was so… so not interesting. I stared into the nothingness and began to resent this alley for even making me notice it. Had it always been here and I’ve just known to ignore it? Or did it just pop up out of nowhere? Who knew. As I was deciding how much of my Netflix time I was going to waste on this stupid alley, I heard the sizzle of what could only be bacon. Instantly, my curiosity piqued. I slid up to the entrance and peered in. Dark as shit. I could barely make out ten feet in front of me. I started into the darkness a few steps, without realizing it. I had to figure out what that sound was. The darkness had just about wrapped me up at this point, the sidewalk a mere memory.

The sizzle was sounding less sizzle like as I crept closer, more of a splash. Not able to see anything, I shut my eyes and hoped they’d adjust. Inching forward, I was able to focus solely on the sound of…a drink being poured out? I slowly opened my eyes, before crying “Oh god dammit!”

“Rasphenrowrch.” The bum, not two feet in front of me, pants fully around his ankles and hands free pissing (look ma! no hands!) lustily called out at me. Well, if I ever had doubts about why the laundromat spelled like piss…

I slammed the door behind me, threw my jacket and shoes at the wall, and collapsed onto the couch. I flicked on some baseball game for a distraction and rolled to stare at the ceiling. Today was fucking weird. A lot of my days had been weird lately. Everything is fucking weird lately. And all these random people, who were weird, coming up and telling me all this weird shit, which isn’t too far from normal in this town, actually. Lotta characters. But then this shit had started coming to, like, fruition, and you know that’s weird. I needed to get my mind off everything.

I rifled through my pocket to retrieve my phone. A couple of taps later, and I had Jordan on the other line. “Look, buddy, I need drinks. I got some stories for you.” It only took ten minutes to convince him to pick me up and take me out, so I figured Jordan must have actually been intrigued. I lifted myself from the couch, slid along the narrow hallway to the bathroom, and began to run the sink. Splashing cold water into my face, I gave a heavy sigh. Feeling a little better from the face refresher, I wandered to the refrigerator and grabbed myself a drink. Leaning against the counter, I took in my shitty one room apartment that I paid too much for. Three rooms (kitchen/living room, bathroom, bedroom) was costing me over 1200 dollars. Such is city life, I suppose. At least the walls are thin enough to where I could “enjoy” my neighbors’ antics.

As I sat listening to the tenants above me perform what I could only assume was a sophisticated tap dance routine, there was a loud knock on my door. Less of a knock, more like someone just kicked my door. The hell? Jordan never knocks. I emptied the last of the beer into myself, flipped it around to wield the bottle as a weapon (can’t be too cautious, especially lately), and crept over to the door.

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