Excerpt from a short I’m working on.
I sat on the bench overlooking Loring Park. The orange glow of sodium-vapor reflected off the snow. The Minneapolis skyline twinkled against the dusk. I knew people were passing on the walk. The busses screeched to a stop on Lyndale avenue, unloading, loading, and then roared away heading downtown. But it was all so distant. Reality swirled around me like the snow and a dream. Only my nightmare, my horror was real.
I looked up. A blond kid in a hoodie under a denim jacket looked at me hopefully. He had on dirty jeans and sneakers. “What?” I asked.
“Anyone sitting with you?”
“Not anymore,” I said.
“Can I have a smoke?” He pointed at my cigarette. I’d forgotten I’d even lit it.
I pulled a pack out of my coat and tapped one out for him. He slid it out and placed it between his lips waiting for me to light it. His hands cupped mine to block the wind as I held the tip of my cigarette against his. He sucked.
He sat back and exhaled smoke into the night. “So you live around here?”
He grinned at me and nodded at the graying twilight. “Well it’s cold. I thought we could go and do something to warm up.” His grin widened. “Let me stay the night and I’ll give you a discount.”
I unbuttoned my overcoat and pulled it open a bit. He looked at my chest and froze.
“Oh hell man. Going to bust me? Just trying to find a warm place to sleep tonight and get a little scratch. You’re hot, I’d done you for free.”
I took out my wallet and handed him two twenties and my pack of smokes. “Go away.”
“For real? This isn’t some kind of entrapment?”
“Now,” I said.
He turned and jogged away into swirling snow.
I wrapped the old coat around me and covered the badge. I closed my eyes and it was June. It was hot and humid and the park was filled with Gay Pride festivities. I turned to say something to Lance and his head exploded. Wet spongy matter and fragments of bone covered my face. A bit of my lover’s brain was in my mouth. Nineteen. The number of bodies that fell to the ground in those moments. Nineteen. Men, women, children. They were gay and not. Young and not. They were just people that some nut with a gun thought his god hated. They got the guy. It didn’t matter. The nineteen were still dead. The Day Pride Died the papers said. The day I died.
My phone rang.
I opened my eyes. It was winter again and I was alone on the bench.
It was Julie. She’d been calling all day and I had ignored her.
“About damn time. Simon, how are you?” She was angry. I couldn’t care about other people’s anger anymore. I had too much of my own.
“Cold,” I said.
“It’s winter in Minneapolis, it’s night, it’s snowing. What do you want?”
“Are you on that bench again?”
I’m always on this bench. How could I ever be anywhere else?
I said, “What do you want?”
She sighed, “For you to get better. I want my old Simon back. Lance is dead. You need to move on. You need to get out and be around people. You’re a psychologist for god’s sake, you know that!”
“You don’t think I know he is dead? Why does everyone think they need to remind me of that fact? My soul was ripped out. You think keeping busy, taking some pills or talking it out is going to fix that? I’ll let you in on a little trade secret, you really can’t fix broken people.”
Neither of us said any thing for a while. I knew I should apologize. I wasn’t angry at Julie. But I just didn’t care. I’d been faking giving a shit about anything for too long. I was getting tired of trying to hold it together. Why should I?
She asked, “Can I talk now without getting yelled at?”
“Look you need to be around people…socially. You know that. Some of us from my office are going out to see a movie Friday night and then going for barbeque in Uptown. There is this guy, Rob, I want you to meet him. He’s cute. Unfortunately he plays for your team.”
I said, “I’ll think about it.”
“No. You will do it.”
“I’ll think about it.”
She hung up. I slipped my phone back into my over coat and pulled it tighter around me. It was old, beat up and too big for me, but it had been his. I got up and walked toward the bus stop. Snow swirling around like the fog in my mind. Nothing seemed real anymore. Riding the bus home. Riding the bus to work, back and forth. Always stopping here in the park, at the bench. The bench. He wasn’t there and I couldn’t get away. The bus pulled up. I got out my pass and stood in line.
It was full with the evening commute. I pushed my way to the back and found an empty seat. The windows mirrored by the night reflected back the jumble of humanity traveling through the cold. People read, listened to their iPods, chatted or dozed. And that was when I became aware. It was his reflection that first caught my eye. The red hair. But it was more than the wild curly hair, the goatee with the tip died blue, the leather biker jacket, tattoos, piercing, fatigue pants and old army boots. It was an attitude he had. He just sat there next to a window looking out into the night watching the city go by. And I saw Him. I felt Him. I was present. He’d pulled me back. He saved me.
I pulled my phone out and stole a shot. He reached up and pulled the yellow cord for a stop request. He got up and made his way to the back door. The bus stopped and he made his way into the night. That was the first time I saw Him. It was before I knew he had to die.