Life Sentence

I’m halfway down the block going towards Canal Street when the my sandals begin to sog from the rain.

“Fuck it.”

I stand under an oak with very little rain debris around the roots but still feel the sheets pummel my thin top and the cardigan I threw over my head to keep my hair partly dry. I round the corner back to my usual post-up on a day that isn’t rainy–a cafe with a miscellaneous metal chair that I drag to the curb to read a book and watch passerby on the boulevard.

However, the rain deters me from my chair and instead I perch on a bench below an overhang to a barbershop. I’m only sitting for a few moments, water droplets from the overhang staining my knees, when a black man crosses the street. In the rain he makes eye contact and yells, “Hi!”

“Hello.”

He sounds odd. Not drunk, but likely not all there. He sits on the other end of the bench I’m on beneath the overhang. After a few moments of watching the rain together in silence, he turns my way.

“Hey, I have a question.”

“Sure.”

“If I fake my own death, will they make me still serve a life sentence?”

The moment stretches and I feel each fleshy bit of my face twitch. What?

“Uh… I.. don’t… know…”

He asks what brand of water is in my reusable water bottle. I say water from a fountain. I know this will keep going and get up and trudge through puddles back to my job. I tell a coworker the story and he says that if the guy had “followed me back to my job and wanted to chop me up into little pieces” that there are plenty of tools in the warehouse to injure him. When I tell my boyfriend later in the day, he says the guy basically threatened to kill me–if someone was set to serve an existing life sentence, they wouldn’t be walking around in the world free and that I should probably stop walking around the neighborhood surrounding my job if I don’t want something bad to happen to me.

I don’t know what I need anymore, but hope is not going to be found here.

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