Clumpy-Haired Black Guy With Cloudy Eyes and Flies was weaving and bobbing through the alley, moving as if he was surrounded by some invisible beach ball that sent him careening away from the ground or the wall at the last second, when it seemed certain that his drunken, delirious momentum would overtake his feet. He kept his hands in front, flailing more than balancing– Raptor Hands. Maybe that’d be his new name.
I watched and took another drag, watched but quickly glanced aside whenever there was the risk of eye contact. I learned that lesson years ago, with Clint.
Clint. That’s what I called him. A poncho. He was the only guy I ever saw in Toronto wearing a poncho. When he looked at you, you thought that you were the crazy one. Somewhere behind the squinting yellow leather of his eye cracks, bright glass beads gazed at you, slowly. Who knew if it was crazy slowness or just contemplation. You couldn’t tell with Clint.
First time I saw Clint, it was just like this. Me on the ledge, half sitting, half leaning, not thinking about anything in particular, just not wanting to be back at the office. And then I looked up, and there was Clint, three feet from me, six feet tall, gazing at me. I looked up and met his eyes.
“Fisting,” he said.
“Fisting.” He gazed at me for a minute, then broke his gaze, looked the other way, and then walked off. That was the last time I made eye contact with Clint, and it was the last time he said anything to me.
I guess it was a year or so after that when I last saw Clint. The scene was the same. It’s been the same this whole time, really. Me smoking, Clint just being there. I saw him walk up to a woman and gaze at her, in true Clint fashion. She was probably fifty, dressed in a smart suit, gabbing on a cell phone. She met his gaze.
“Fisting,” he said.
It got ugly.
“What? What did you say?” She started off loud, and it got worse. “How dare you? Do you even have a job? Do you?” She was working herself up.
Clint was unperturbed.
“Fisting,” he said again, as permanent and as menacing as a mountain.
“How dare you? You’re just some dirty, homeless scum! Why don’t you just fucking die! What, you want my money? You want to go buy some meth or vodka or who the fuck knows what? You’re fucking scum! How dare you!”
She stormed off, her hips moving ridiculously as she moved at a jogging pace, but with a walking gait. Clint didn’t move.
Then, the brakes. When you read the phrase, “the brakes squealed”, you have to understand that we’re not talking a squeal of delight, we’re talking the squeal of an animal being slaughtered in a halal abattoir. The brakes squealed. I started. I got up, walked around the corner, and looked.
There she was. All of her. Hairdo, BlackBerry, suit, attitude, brains. I heard myself make some sound like “eee”, but it seemed to come from outside of me.
Clint looked over at me. I met his gaze. He looked at me for a minute, then looked away.
Now, Raptor Hands was getting closer. I ground out what I had left and took off.
He slowly looked around the bar, remembering why he hated this town.
All the usual players were here: Creepy Tits, The Whale, Raptor Hands.. Stupid drunks. He wasn’t sure who he hated more.
Here they all sat. Every night. Nothing ever seemed to change and he hated every fucking second.
But still, he came.
Every night. The same faces. The same drunken murmurs. The same shitty ass cocktails. The same alcohol-bloated faces.
The same. The same. The same.
Some nights he thought he’d go crazy. Other nights he realized he was probably already there.
“Clint” said the bartender as he slithered up to Clint’s stool at the bar, “Your glass is getting empty. You know you have to pay for the privilege to sit in this shithole”.
Clint squinted angrily at the bartender and grumbled for him to pour him another. He watched him fill his order through the narrowed slits of his eyelids and took a long pull off his drink when it arrived in front of him.
He watched as the condensation dripped down the side of his glass and thought about how much his like sucked. It was quiet and he was sure at least half the people in the bar were using the ambiance for the same purpose.
The door suddenly slammed open, causing half the patrons to jump in surprise and turn toward the sound.
In the doorway was something that did not belong in this bar.
And not just any woman –
This woman did not even attempt to hide the fact that she had no fucking place in this bar, neighbourhood, this side of town. She was dressed in an expensive suit. Clint could almost smell the quality of the fabric, her cologne, the endangered plants that had been killed and crushed for her shampoo…
He hated her. But not for the reason you might expect. He didn’t hate her for the things she had that he could never afford. He didn’t hate her because she was “better” than him in every way that you could evaluate a person at a glance. He hated her because it was obvious that she hated him instantly for a similar list of superficial reasons.
Her cruel and almost birdlike features turned up in disgust as she surveyed the bar. They scrunched even further when she strode over to take a seat at the bar. And they got impossibly tighter as she barked at the bartender to get her a drink.
Clint studied her as she moved. He watched her take out her cellphone and make an “important business call”. Everything about her reflected the fact that she seemed to want nothing more than for everyone to know how important she thought she was.
He hated her alright.
He couldn’t wait for her to be gone so he could just go back to hating the usual crowd. The people who, like him chose this awful place because it reflected how they knew themselves to be – awful. And perhaps, he realized, he hated her for that too. He resented that prior to her entrance in the bar, a few minutes ago, everyone in the bar knew they were terrible and realized that deserved a place and people like this… He hated her fucking ignorance.
And then here SHE was. She thought that she was better than them, despite her judging and peacocking! She thought she was entitled to be awful and still deserve better than this shithole.
Just then she looked over and saw Clint for the first time.
“Oh my God. You’re homeless!” she shrieked, “What the hell are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be trying to get a job, you lazy fucker.” The last part of her monologue was more of a lecture than a question. It implied that she’d figured him all out in a matter of seconds and a single glance.
Clint’s mouth was agape for a second with the sheer shock at the venom in her words. She didn’t know a fucking thing about him and yet she was judging him, shrieking at him..
Quickly the shock wore off and Clint stood up. He walked slowly over to her stool, never once allowing his eyes to leave her scrunched features.
Her eyes started to tear up as she reacted to his proximity; he assumed the smells of the street which clung to his clothing.
She recoiled, all the power and venom from a moment ago evaporated at being directly confronted.
“Get out of here, Lady… You’re scaring the fucking rats.”
By the time Clint was back in his seat, she was gone.
The ambiance had returned after her five-minute interruption.
The same rotten people. The same rotten drinks. The same rude bartender. The horrible fucking smell.
Everything was back to the way it should be and, for the first time, Clint did not hate it.
At least not immediately.