He wears no shirt, tight jean cut-offs, Teva sandals with the straps frayed. His hair is a mop of dreads. I see him balanced on a one of the thick lower branches of the oak trees when I walk through the park, crouched on his haunches.
He shouts, but the people going past don’t look. Sure, you can tell they’re dying to let their eyes bulge out of their sockets at him, but only if they can do it secretly, without him seeing. Because they’re scared of him, just like I’m scared of him. I bet they have that tingle of apprehension, just like I have, that he’ll spring at them suddenly from his perch, because he’s an agile, drug-induced monkey man with dirty nails and fangs for teeth.
I walk past the oak. Now he can dig his gaze into me, but I try not to think about that. I look up at the clouds in the sky: white puffs. I know that’s what clouds mostly look like, but not always. Yesterday they were wispy threads drawn out like furrows in a field.
“And there she goes, that long-haired girl with the blue heels. She prances by. She makes no sound. Just the click of her shoes lets you know she’s a whore. Looking all nice and pretty on the outside – she might! – But underneath she weaves deception. She brings men in. One date and they’re hooked. She doesn’t care anymore who they are or where they’re from. She’ll take anyone. They come willingly enough—”
“Creepy guy, huh?” Jesalyn, my cube mate at work, jogs up next to me, ponytail swinging. Her ballet flats on the concrete path don’t make a sound.
“Yeah, no kidding,” I say. “Nice to have someone to walk with. Thanks for catching up.”
“I wish they’d put people like that away,” she whispers. “They’re so….”
His voice never stops. It’s a sacred voice, the kind you hear in church, deeper than you’d expect from anyone so skinny. “Men, you look the other way. Don’t let her taunt you with her eyes, lure you with her soft olive skin, weave a web of desire around you. Ignore the pounding in your chest, because it’ll lead you to hell, my friends. Lead you to hell…!”
I brush off the sleeves of my velvet jacket. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m afraid some of his words are stuck to me, hanging off like trails of toilet paper when you come out of a bathroom. Dead giveaways of where you’ve been and what you’ve done.
I glance at Jesalyn, but she’s talking about Friday’s office party. Could I bring a six-pack of beer, maybe a package of cookies?
“Sure,” I say. “No problem.”
My powder blue heels with the peek-a-boo toes click on the cement. Soon, I can’t hear his voice at all anymore, just the roar of the public buses on the street ahead. Our office building looms directly across the road, sunshine glancing off glass windows.
But in my chest, a dark hand burrows, clawing through the muck that used to be my conscience. And a voice rings repeatedly in my head like a broken doorbell: How did he know?
Thanks to Jesalyn for her three inspirational words: agile, deceptive and sacred. And for the record, if I counted correctly (no guarantee), this is my 29th Story-A-Week story. Only twenty-three more to go to reach my goal. Since I'm playing catch-up, I'll post another one tomorrow, so please come back to read story number thirty!