Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Odd Homeless Man

"He was sitting across from me on the 7:50 bus to midtown. I'd never seen him before, but I usually had my iPod with me, for the express purpose of not having to look at people. He was wearing the generic uniform of the homeless person, coats atop coats, nothing fitting exactly. His eyes fixed on the middle distance as he mumbled something to himself.

He seemed not to acknowledge the fact that I was staring at him, or that no one else on the bus noticed him at all. His mouth worked ceaselessly, words falling out, unheard and unheeded.

Just as I moved to pull the stop line, he jerked upright and looked directly at me.

I was pinned. His eyes were bloodshot and dry. He seemed to be drawing closer, though I was sure neither of us moved. His rapid mouth-breathing poured into my ears like saltwater. As his eyes came ever closer to my face, I saw that they were not real eyes, they were wooden. Painted pupils and irises from a carnival catalog. His lips were impossibly dry, cracked and peeling. Inside his mouth there was no tongue. A knot of cobweb and dust, strung through his teeth yet still elastic. An oddly pleasant smell. Darkness.
He was still mumbling as I left the bus. I never saw him again."

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