“20, 40, and 60,” The clerk behind the bulletproof glass lays out the money sequentially, then grabs them all up and puts them in the little sliding drawer, “Have a nice day Mr. Waller.” She says cheerily to Darren. Her smile immediately drops as she looks away, he notices.
He reaches down into the gold-plated drawer and grabs his three $20-dollar bills, folding them, and stuffing them into his front right pocket next to his keys. Groceries, groceries, groceries he keeps repeating to himself, hoping this time it will block out any thoughts of Jerry’s poker game. BUT, if he catches the 16 downtown, he could be there by 7, just in time for the first hand…GROCERIES GROCERIES GROCERIES he repeats louder to himself as he steps into the revolving door.
The bum outside is still shaking his cup. Gnarled hands speaking of Rheumatoid and too many harsh winter nights spent uncovered in the cold. Darren guiltily looks away, the money seemingly pulling heavier now than just a few seconds before. He hurries past the old beggar, decisively making a beeline to the 18. The stop just a few blocks east of his apartment, the one that’s right next to the Farmer’s Market. He allows himself the briefest of grins, enjoying the little triumph at someone else’s cost.
He keeps his head down, following the surging crowd of people walking the same direction as him. He doesn’t try to jostle ahead and jockey for position, content with his destination and in making a mental checklist of what he’s going to pick up and make for dinner. Potatoes, no mashed potatoes! He thinks, some asparagus and….his thoughts trail off as he looks down at a pair of brown boots in the middle of the sidewalk.
There’s a man in them, rocking slowly back and forth, seemingly in pain. His mouth is moving as if to speak, his eyes darting continuously at everything and everyone simultaneously. The man grasps his right shoulder with his left hand, pushing the fabric out from between his fingers. A puffy orange vest over a faded blue denim work shirt, stone washed blue jeans and of course, the brown boots are his ensemble.
Darren quickly looks up and around at everyone. No one notices them. He kneels down closer to the man, visually trying to inspect him to see if there’s any obvious injuries. He begins looking around at all the people walking by them, giving them birth and paying no mind; it’s as if they didn’t exist. “Help! Anyone! Call 911, this man needs help!”
The man in the orange vest shakily reaches out his right hand, weakly taking hold of Darren’s leg. His eyes still darting continuously, he begins looking at Darren as he speaks, seemingly towards him. The man lightly pulls on Darren, pulling him slowly closer, bringing Darren’s ear to his mouth.
The man speaks for, seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days? Darren’s eyes go blank, that long off sight indicating he’s looking at nothing and everything all together, all at once. He’s lying on the ground next to the man in the orange vest. Darren is clutching his right shoulder with his left hand, seemingly in pain. Both of them are writhing on the floor, seemingly in pain. They go on that way for, seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days?
Erin, coffee in hand, looks up from her phone to see them both on the ground, just as Javier goes to throw away the empty plastic bottle he’d been carrying around for 2 blocks. They both look at each other, Erin and Javier, shocked looks on their faces, wondering why no one else sees the two men writhing on the ground seemingly in pain. Everyone has given them a wide berth yet everyone seems to either not care or not notice them.
“I’ll take the orange vest, you take the afro,” Erin says to Javier. He doesn’t respond, he just kneels down next to Darren, “Are you hurt? Can you speak?” He can hear Erin echoing basically the same thing to the other man in the orange vest at basically the same time.
Darren reaches his right hand up, weakly grabbing Javier’s right wrist, pulling his mouth closer to his ear. Javier looks over at Erin, her ear already to the man in the orange vest’s mouth, his jaw moving, seemingly whispering something to her. He reaches the side of his head down to Darren, his eyes going blank, seemingly looking at everything and nothing all together, all at once.
The two men lying on the ground next to each other go on like that for seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days? All four of them are lying together on the ground, all abreast of each other. They’re all clutching their right shoulder with their left hand, writhing on the ground, seemingly in pain. They go on like that for seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days?
Until the whole block is full of them. People all lying down next to each other, all whispering to themselves, all writhing around on the ground, even the beggar that was outside of the bank. Even the clerk behind the bulletproof glass.
Until the whole city is full of them. Until the whole country is full of them. Until the whole world is full of them. All writhing, seemingly in pain, eyes darting continuously back and forth, unfocused. They go on like that for Months? Years? Millennia?