There are certain nights which we as human beings ,wherever we are in the world will never forget. The Nights which ,through no fault of our own, ones which garnish no lesson, through the ghost of the machine, transpire in only a synchronic melody with the aspects of chance and fate that we are harmoniously, inexorably , and gravely connected to. A juncture which a cruel and grinding system places us, with no preparation to face the harshest realities of the world ,determined to render us infantile in a situation which repeats itself in dreams henceforth. An event set off thousands of years ago by the butterfly effect which pit stop lands in an evening of a stroll of an individual, myself, and the last labored breaths of a moribund stranger met on dire straits. I suppose this confession of my most scarring nights will clarify this surreal turn of events, if for nothing but a cathartic release of the heavy burden anchored to my soul.
I had been living in St. Louis and worked day to day in a packaging plant outside of downtown, and it was during the evenings in most days I would find myself reading a book at the coffee table in the living room of my shabby Spartan apartment while seated in an uncomfortable used chair I found on the side of the road. I hadn’t made friends and going out to socialize and make new ones in this new city of mine wasn’t an option due to how little available funds I had , in fact I was just scraping by with the meager amount of income I settled for. It was my whole life there I knew I was settling for, and life in the city was a lonely one for me, but I was content in this because I lived a life of routine : wake up , work , read , sleep, repeat ad nauseam . The day would sometimes be concluded with pacing the empty midnight streets of the block I lived on in order to mollify my restlessness. This was what would occur tonight because my body was incapable of accepting the surrender of sound sleep.
I tied my shoes and threw on my coat, passed through the door and when I broke the threshold I was greeted by the sobering cool of the fall night, a welcomed contrast to the stagnant air of the apartment I was accustomed to. My feet operated the stairs and pivoted around the landing of the second flight to the first flight and out again until I reached the sidewalk and began my typical route. The trees and the foliage hung languidly in the stillness that dominated the atmosphere , a stillness that belonged to the sleeping hours, a world that was a negative photograph of the bustling of society ,the persistent and long rush hour that would last until after the sun had already set. I passed by several streets and by the time I made it to the diner where I would typically turn back I still felt too awake to do so. I decided id make my way to Stanley park before id turn around , the extra distance, not more than a couple blocks away, would be more than enough to drain whatever lingering vitality I still invested in the day.
Eventually I arrived at 24th street where my trip would make a sharp 90 to the park a few stop lights ahead. It was at that point that my trip through the 7 circles began, unaccompanied. A black Volvo , apparent and uncanny had reared around the corner of 22nd street, as ominous as a crow , or a black cat, or a shade that crosses your view. Almost imperceptibly it remained but only long enough to open up and close a car door and speed off into the night with a ghostly cloud of exhaust fumes. How I still wish that was the only thing it left behind. As the smoke cleared I saw two heaps laying on the corner several paces ahead, one that was reflective , a bin bag, and the other – shuttering replaced curiosity when I realized , only moments later scrutinizing my vision, that one of the piles was reflecting the orange glow of the street lamps off of a polished black shoe. This was not a pile of trash left behind by an errand boy at the end of their shift. This was a man.
I broke into a jog, cautious of the black car, the possibility of it returning ringing in my ear ,and apprehensive of what I might find sprawled flat on the street corner. My sense of concern, however, won the debate against my logic or better judgment as I forced myself skeptically toward what discovery I feared I might make. I reached the corner of 23rd where I could see the man who lay more clearly and began to panic as I noticed that the shirt he was wearing was glistening wet with red and that the pool he lay in made a perimeter around his body like a grim satire of a snow angel , with deep blood puddles made black by the darkness of the night.
My Jog became a sprint as I identified the severity of the situation. I ran down the final stretch of asphalt where I stood feet away from the man I had seen dumped here from the black Volvo only a moment earlier. My panic became revulsion, staring down at the man who’s details I no longer had to struggle to see. He wore the tattered remains of a business suit and appeared to be middle aged, he was dark haired and his face wore a bone white pallor due to a substantial amount of his blood being on the wrong side of his skin. I felt a wave of nausea nearly take me when I couldn’t understand where his arms had gone, when I found that they were not behind his back and were missing from his body from just above the elbow on either side, cut surgically clean. In that moment, I Automatically reached for my phone and typed the emergency number, but at the same moment I looked down at the man’s eyes. Before I hit the call button I made two observations: One in that instant being that this man would surely bleed the last of himself before the end of the phone call . What could I possibly do without any preparation for this situation? The other came much slower. His face, in his eyes, you could see, although his breathing was choppy and harsh , that the look on his face was serene, when I noticed my blood turned cold. His half opened eyes saw right through me as I knelt down by his side, I took off my coat and wrapped it tight around his torso as a desperate remedy ,to maybe insulate the last flames of his vitality. The look he gave was unmistakable, every crack and wrinkle in his face showed that he was resigned to the death that would take him soon.
As I crouched by his side holding the coat tight against his fading body, my knees wet with the now cold blood on the ground , I could see his mouth twitch. He had something to say in his final moments, which was now my duty to hear. It was my responsibility now if I had owed this stranger anything. I hovered my face over his and could smell the dried saliva and blood that had gathered in the corners of his mouth as he whispered his last.
In the end I couldn’t say what haunts me more about those last words, the implications of his final utterance or the realization that they were not meant for me.
Credit To – Matthias Bartley
Credit Link – @akindsparrow