He only lost his voice in the most damning circumstances, the most unfortunate. When it was most needed it was lost to him, coming out as hissing sounds, a slew of flying saliva, of quivering lips and idiotic gesticulations. He stared at her and wondered if it would let now. She threw a handful of popcorn in her mouth and turned to him; her eyes asking what the bulge in her cheeks prevented her from. He smiled back nervously and turned back to the theater screen, cursing silently at himself. The rest of the evening went off in exhaustive fashion.
The film ended. It had concluded like most white dramas did lately, neither happy nor sad. Just, done. At the entrance, he waited for her, hands in pocket while she used the washroom. His eyes veered from the soles of his chucks to the chain of closed stores across the street. He concentrated his eyes on the shop windows, trying to figure out what businesses occurred in each without having to look up at their signs. His eyes moved from one to the other, left to right until he finished an entire chain. Shifting his gaze to the next block he noticed a silhouette in the alley between. It looked to be a man, tall, leaning against a wall. In the darkness he had no means of seeing the strange mans face but the sensation he felt at the back of his neck told him he was being watched; had possibly been the entire time he had been waiting.
He moved a few steps forward, straining his neck to see better and immediately felt his hand get yanked out his pocket. He pulled back violently, slapping his dates chin with the back of his hands.
“What’s your problem!?”
He felt the explanation in his throat, and knew immediately what was coming. Instinctively he grinned his teeth shut.
“You are so weird!”
She stormed away from him, hugging her cardigan to her sides. He turned and the man in the alleyway was gone.
In the taxi home his mind run wild with imaginings on who the strange man was and why he had taken an interest in him. He saw himself crossing the street, the man coming out of the shadows in a brown waistcoat, complete with a French cap and a walking stick. He probably had a moustache, a German….no, British accent. He imagined the man pulling him into the shadows, whispering strange secrets about soviet spies and mad scientists. It did not matter that the year was 2017, that the only war he was likely to be in in his lifetime would be a twitter spar between Trump and whichever president thought it worth their while to engage him. He dreamed.
In the alley, Nicholi wheeled his trolley to his favorite spot, some distance off the trash-bins and other homeless people; almost directly infront of the cinema, where on weekdays, if it was quiet enough, he could close his eyes and hear suspenseful sounds of explosions and dramatic sequences coming from. He rummaged through the black trash bag inside his wheels, emerging a few seconds later with a cardboard spread in one hand and a poorly paper-bagged bottle of scotch in the other.
Tentatively he placed both at his feet, looking around to make sure no one could see him, and wheeled the trolley all the way back to where the garbage cans were. In front of a particularly large bin he lifted the trolley over his head and dumped it, running immediately back to his spread. It would be safe there for the night while he slept.
Before sleep came, his alcohol lying empty next to him and his back adjusted properly to the cold hardness of the ground, he looked up at the stars and pondered on the strange boy he had seen earlier that evening. The one who had been scouting the shops. A criminal, looking for a place to break into, no doubt. He rolled to his side and closed his eyes, making a mental note to talk to Mr. Pritour the next morning.
Where would he get his factory-expired beans and tuna from if something were to happen to Pritour’s shop. Too many bad men nowadays. Nobody decent.
Art Credit: Erika Schaaf – Homeless in D.C.