Thursday, May 17, 2007

A story about shame and forgiveness

I started this draft on the date listed, but it is now June 3, and I've been removed from it for some time. Rather than keep waiting on it I've decided to just post it as is and come back to it later.

A man stands on a street corner. He is wearing what remains of a suit, leather shoes, tie--what remains after being subjected to the elements for too long. He hasn't had anything that could be considered a real meal in days. He calls out to passersby with a quiet desperation, as if he's afraid that they'll actually hear him but needs them to hear him all the same. "I have something--something I need to say," he whisper-calls to him. "Can I tell you my story? Will you listen?" He reaches out to touch a man's coat sleeve as he goes by--the man flinches away instinctively and doesn't give it a second thought as he rushes along. The city has tuned out people like him. He isn't homeless, far from it. The first week or two he was out here his wife came by every day, pleading with him to look at himself, to stop acting like a nut, and to come home. She stopped coming after awhile, having given up. He used to be in charge at a major corporation, but they wouldn't take him back, now. It starts to rain. He scrunches his face up in frustration and stamps his foot in the growing puddle. "Someone, please!" A woman walking by just then stops, thrusts her hand into her purse and brings it back up with a couple scrunched up bills. "Here," she said, shaking rain water off of her bangs, "you can have this." He shook his head at her, "But I just need to tell somebody--" "Go inside and buy some food. Someone cares about you," she said firmly and, pressing the damp dollar bills into his hand, continued on her way, leaving him with the money he didn't need and the secret that he couldn't get rid of.

Reaching her apartment building, she fumbled with her keys in the downpour but finally made it inside. Five different meows greeted her from the five stray cats she now called her family. After wringing out her wet hair she split a large can of food among them and flopped down onto her sofa and turned on the television. After flipping through the six channels she got and determining that nothing good was on TV, she turned it off. She would watch a movie but she was taping Wheel Of Fortune for her older upstairs her neighbor who couldn't figure out how to use a VCR. She went back into the kitchen but failed to find anything edible except for a couple individually wrapped slices of cheese, the heels of a loaf of Wonderbread, and a few cans of Miller. Dave would want to eat this stuff when he came over later, if he came over later, so she left everything where it was and decided to order pizza. She would order a large so that she could take it to work for lunch tomorrow, assuming Dave didn't eat all the leftovers and that she'd find time for lunch. She worked the early shift at a hospital cleaning floors. She spent her whole day, every day, serving people, helping people, sacrificing her own comfort so that other could be happy. It was a necessary sacrifice, and perhaps one day she would feel like she'd made up for what had happened. As Tiger rubbed against her calf, she picked up the phone and dialed for pizza.

"One large olive, thin crust, got it. That'll be $13.07, it'll be there in thirty minutes." Order taken, the pizza was made, baked, packed, and sent out with three others. The car he drove had a lit up sign on the stop advertising their pizza and the fact that if he's delivering these pizzas, he can deliver one to you, too. The wipers did their synchronized parallel dance, doing little to keep the torrent at bay and his vision clear. Gloomy, rainy night--perfect night for some metal on the radio. He turned up the volume and nodded his head in rhythm to the song as he drove on through the storm. A commercial came on the station and he reached down to switch to another one. His hand missed the dial, and he turned to look down and find it. Just as he brought his head back up he noticed the car directly in front of him was stopped. Though he breaked immediately, in the rain it wasn't good enough, and the delivery car plowed right into the stopped vehicle. Much to his dismay, his first thought was not to the safety of the passengers of the other vehicle but that he wasn't going be to able to make this delivery and would probably lose his job. He began to cry.