I’ve taken a pause on my walk, distracted with all the things I’m carrying: my messenger bag, which keeps slipping off of my right shoulder, two bags of things from Target I didn’t really mean to buy, and a hot coffee cup, which I have to keep shifting back and forth between my hands because I thought I’d be able to handle the heat without the sleeve. Somehow, I’m able to pull my cellphone out of my jacket pocket, but not without first disentangling the headphone cord from my jacket belt strap and messenger bag, and temporarily setting my coffee cup onto the sidewalk. I’ve just remembered a phone call I need to make, and I scroll through the notifications first before remembering who I was going to call. I’m standing on the sidewalk like this, maneuvering bags and scrolling.
The traffic to my right is a wall of sound washing over the landscape, and I might feel otherwise exposed if it wasn’t for all of this maneuvering of things. I look up and see a young-ish man walking towards me. Well, he is sort of walking in my direction. He doesn’t entirely seem to know where he wants to go. He looks towards the rushing line of cars. He looks into the intersection down a quiet empty road. He looks towards the bare bushes which have been stripped until they green again. He reaches for one of the branches.
I look back into my phone, scrolling again, and the young-ish man comes towards me this time. Sometimes when someone comes towards me on the street, I tense; one never knows why someone is approaching. But this time, I inhale and look at him, and wait. I want to get back to my phone.
There is something soft about this person, and he motions towards me to say something. I take out one of my earbuds so I can hear him, waiting for something strange, trying to remember if I have change.
“Have you ever seen someone come down from a meth binge?” he asks.
I’m stalled for words. I notice the man’s lips are busted, dried and darkened, possibly scarred. So many of his pores are open, and he seems fatigued, but there is something about him that is light. He could be one of my brothers. I soften, and take out the other earbud.
“I haven’t. Why do you ask?”
“I’ve just been wandering the streets, asking people if they have seen someone come off a meth binge,” he says. “No one is able to tell me.”
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine, now. I’m just looking for someone to help me, and I can’t find anyone. I’m just wondering if anyone else has experienced this.”
“What do you mean? What are you experiencing?”
“This is the second time I’ve done it. It was a terrible mistake.”
“Well, I was seeing things. I kept seeing these evil trolls in the bushes. I saw my closet door open, and a big hand reached out, and I thought I was going to die.”
“Do you have any family? Anyone close around you?”
“Yeah. They’re at home. I am just trying to find out if anyone knows anyone else who has experienced this.”
“Do you need help? Are you still seeing these things?”
“No. I’m fine. They say all I need to do is eat and drink water, and I’ll be fine.”
“Have you eaten today?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve done that.”
We walk a little together across the intersection, and he tells me he’s sorry to have bothered me, that I can keep walking. I tell him he’s totally fine. I tell him I’m glad he is okay.
He turns down the quiet road. I continue alongside the busy wash of car sounds towards my destination. I finish my coffee and put the cup in one of the Target bags. I take out my cellphone but don’t put the earbuds back in. I know I’m going to write about this, and I begin taking pictures of disparate hints of nature on the sidewalk. I take my time going home.
Tameca L Coleman is a multi-genre writer, editor, and content creator for web and print. Coleman works from a foundation of a nonprofit and DIY mindset, and aims to amplify the work of creatives who stoke positive change. You can find out more about Tameca’s work by following @sireneatspoetry on Twitter.
Image provided by author.