Slipping Into The Shadows
by Denis Doran
He stumbles into the shelter, collapses onto the bench. Tries to stand, staggers, crumples. Chuckles, coughs. Attempts to rise, thinks better of it.
I say, ‘Bit rat-arsed today.’
‘Not to worry. It’s ok. Careful there. Better sit down before you fall down, you might do yourself some damage.’
‘Shit. Am I pissed or what?’
‘The drink’s not dulled your senses.’
He coughs, spits, wretches. Slumps forward, leering at two young women passing. They stare at each other. ‘What a dick head.’
His head lolls forward, and I think he might vomit, but he jerks backward as though yanked violently, his head colliding with the partition. Screams, curses, and clutching his head, attempts to stand. Staggers, collapses, cracking his skull on the pavement. Twitches, then lies still, blood trickling from his nose. At first people avoid the prone body, but then as the blood becomes more noticeable they stop, stare, and soon a small crowd gathers.
I watch, wait for that slight disturbance in the air, the thickening of form that will signal his arrival. Wait until he’s beside me in the shelter. Watch him stare intently at his body on the pavement, at the small crowd gathered. Know how he’ll look at me. How no one will enter this shelter; nothing will disturb this solitude gathered round us.
We have some time together, sitting quietly, and then I stand, beckon. He follows. Around us the light falters, fades. Time slips away, but that’s ok. For him the length of a day no longer matters.
Standing on the pier deck we see traces of the day to come, a glimmer just visible on the horizon. I tell him this is as far as I go, at least this time, that from this point on he must make his own way. He hesitates, hovers. I’m used to this uncertainty; but to those that want to cling, that I find a problem. ‘Go’ I say. Hopefully with some kindness, allowing him some dignity, at this point it’s necessary. His has not been much of a life when all things are considered. I watch him drift towards the pier head, towards two prominent attractions, the Ghost Train, and the Booster Rockets. In the cold grey light I see other figures gravitating, some according to their inclination, while others loiter, in evident distress. They’ll take one of two paths, each already marked: towards the deep warm dark of the Ghost Train, or the aerial majesty of the Booster rockets, a sign by the entrance advertising the ride as THE CLOSEST THING TO HEAVEN THIS SIDE OF HELL. Outside the Ghost Train a sign reads YOU GET WHAT YOU EXPECT HERE-NOTHING MORE NOTHING LESS-THIS IS THE TRUTH.
I wait until he is mid point between the rides, stand a moment longer until he knows the direction to take, turn and walk away from the pier, along the promenade into the first rays of a struggling sun.