He stood against the sink, blood running down his chin. His eyes were bloodshot. His hands were shaking. How am I going to make it? I can’t go on much longer. Who will help me?
Asleep or awake it followed him every minute. He tried to run away but it chased him down, choking him, and as he gasped for air, he could hear the echos of laughter beyond the room.
Ever since that night, ever since he stood in the dark hallway, he had been a changed man. Always poor, barely able to feed himself, living paycheck week to week, he was never able to move forward from this thing he was forced to call home.
Bad things happened here more often than not. Screams from women being forced to do things they didn’t want to. Gun shots going off when people didn’t get their way. Dirty syringes could be found in the dark hallway.
He grew up with dreams. He never could taste them. Greedy hands reaching out to grab him, leaving him naked for the world to see nothing but the worn clothes he owned. He tried going to church but it never worked. The promises that he heard always seemed empty. His lap felt light, he couldn’t believe.
Sometimes just for the hell of it he would walk the few blocks to the homeless shelter. There he would wear his most ragged and beg for a cot only for the voices he would hear while pretending to go to sleep.
He shared coffee and some cold toast in the mornings and then he would walk the few blocks back to his home. He would then get out his pad and pencils and he would sketch his memories of who he had met on paper.
He would walk over to his closet and opening the door, there he would see the many boxes; neatly lined up one on top of the other. He would pull them out one at a time and open them; reliving the chapters of his life.
One box sat alone. On the top shelf, dust starting to cover, fading out the words on the label. All to clear in his mind he pulled that box down and opened it up. There was only one paper in there.
Proving that his life had stopped before it began. Turning the overhead light over his bed on he sat down and stared at it. The key to his life, the plug that was pulled, stared back at him as his body began to slump.
Staring at a face with no motion. A beautiful formed body with a tight-fitting dress on. Dark stains covered her breasts. Signs of struggle on the purple marks on her wrists and a worn and threaded mark making its way from side to side of her neck.
That terrible night, the night he wasn’t supposed to be there. He was so restless. He couldn’t take the silence anymore. He hadn’t spoken to anyone all weekend. He sometimes wished he worked seven days a week. At least there were faces to paint, and memories to make. He could fill his boxes.
He was going to visit the homeless shelter. Maybe he would make a friend. Perhaps someone would speak first, maybe want to grab a cup of coffee. He got dressed in the routine shelter clothes. He turned his two lights out and quietly opened the front door.
He stepped out into the dark hall. Starting to walk towards the stairs the door next to his room flew open. Gun shots went off. He disappeared into the shadows and waited for silence.
Hearing scurrying footsteps and then the reward of quiet, he stepped near the open door. He mentally photographed all that he saw and then the quick steps he heard forced him to step back and run.
He was seen. Not his face but the back of his head. The length of his legs, the color of his coat. Yelling coming towards him. A gun shot goes off but misses him. He disappears into the stairs and scrambled out of the building.
He stares at the painting. His body begins to shiver. He puts the paper back in the box. He places it back on the top shelf and walks to the tiny bathroom. He vomits, remembering the dark hall.