Rumble-clatter, clinker-clunker – these are the sounds my cart makes as I push it. Sometimes I wonder if it annoys them, the people walking by, the people sitting on benches or talking on their phones or smoking their cigarettes – God, the smell of those cigarettes, if I could only get a drag. I bet it annoys them. Hell, it annoys me; it drives me crazy every day, but fuck them if it annoys them. What’ve they done for me? What’ve they done to keep me off the sidewalk pushing my noisy cart around?
Clinker-clatter, the wheels of my shopping cart go over the brick-cobbles. Whose stupid idea was it to make a sidewalk out of bricks, anyways? If it was made out of normal sidewalk stuff, it wouldn’t be half so noisy. It’s those goddamned brick-people. It’s their fault I’m out of my head all day with this racket.
And the cans, they’re noisy too. I don’t even know why I have them anymore. They stopped giving me money for them two months ago. But I still see others going through bins for them, so I figure someone’s gotta be taking them somewhere. I just gotta find out who.
Sometimes I think I rattle by this coffee shop every day just for the smell of it. Oh, coffee – I remember coffee. Sometimes I dream about coffee. Look at this kid here, enjoying his own while he’s click-clacking away on that little computer all important-like with his coffee and his coffee cake. I used to eat coffee cake too. I remember. Soft and sweet, like kissing a girl.
Kissing a girl, now that’s something I can’t even remember. Lupe doesn’t count, she ain’t hardly a real girl. Hell, she ain’t hardly a person, to look at her. Looks like a catfish fucked a rat, to look at her. She smells like piss, and her mouth not only smells like and tastes like a rusty, fly-buzzing dumpster full-up with beer bottles, it feels like you kissed one too. Whacked-out skunk of a woman, kissing everyone ’cause she’s too crazy not to.
Is he looking at me now? The fuck you looking at, kid? Go on back to your click-clacking, go shove your face full of coffee and coffee-cake, and I’ll go back to my click-clacking too.
Jesus Lord, I hate people, going on with themselves and whatever they do to keep themselves from pushing a cart. They should all push a cart a few days in their life, just so they’d know. Then maybe they wouldn’t stare so goddamn much. It ain’t like I’m bothering them. Ain’t anymore, anyhow.
I don’t do the beggar bullshit. I can’t do it. I know I sure tried once or twice, but I ain’t got a gimmick like a missing leg or a baby-belly or a sob story, and ‘sides, it makes me feel like an ass, and I don’t like feeling like an ass. It ain’t even hard to find bread behind a sandwich place. It ain’t even hard. I ain’t gotta beg for it, neither. I’ve got bread, and my cart, and maybe a beer every few days if I feel like begging, or a gas station hot-dog. That’s all I need, and I ain’t gotta beg, most times. I got my cart, I got my ways, and I ain’t gotta beg. I’m still a man, ain’t I?
Click-click-clickery-clack. Now what kind of ass leaves a half-drunk soda? I wish I were the kind of ass who could afford to do that. I wish I were that ass – Har! How’s that sound? Maybe I shouldn’t grumble so much, or I might be an ass for grumbling about a free half-soda. And Jesus Lord, it’s so good and sweet going down, even half-warm. But it’s just not right, that there’s people who’ll just leave a half-drunk soda when there’s people like me who’ll drink a half-drunk soda.
I’ll sure stand in front of this door while I finish it, though. People always going in and out here, in and out and letting out all that cold air for me. I ain’t had a good minute like this in a good minute, second-hand soda in second-hand air. I wonder – just wondering, that’s all, no harm in it – if I wandered in there, how long could I get outta the heat before they send someone to send me off? It ain’t worth it, of course. Never anything’s worth being treated like an animal, like a possum wandered in on the porch. I ain’t that far gone. I’m still a man. Time to keep along.
Clattery-clack, my cart makes more racket than I can stand sometimes. The people on the other side of the street from me are all smiles and jokes. Sometimes, they make me think that there’s something in this world worth smiling over, but then I see the people on my side of the street, like these folks here. They’re pretending to not be looking at me, but they are. They point their eyes all over the place, on the floor, on the windows they’re passing, on each other, everywhere but me. They look like they’ve got other things to look at but me, but they’re really trying really hard to not look at me. They look like they’re trying so hard not to look that it hurts them.
Clack-clat-ca-CRACK. That’s not the way my cart’s supposed to sound. My knee hurts. Did I just twist an ankle? Why did my cart make that sound? Why is it on the ground, and me with it? For chrissakes, what just happened? One minute I’m just… and then my cart’s cracking and crashing and sending a whallop through my body that feels an awful lot like that one time I got hit by a car. Now for chrissakes – why in the fuck did what just go knocked my cart over?
Jesus Lord, Jesus Lord, my shit’s all over the place on the ground. And all those asses are looking at me now. I gotta try and get my cans and my shoes and my magazines and that book I got yesterday and all in my cart back up straight – but it won’t get up straight. I just set you up straight, cart, why the hell won’t you stay up? Goddamn stupid cart, what’s the matter with you falling down like that, stupid piece of – what the hell – there’s a brick sticking up over here, and that looks a lot like blood from my knee on it, and there’s a – what the hell – what the hell, is this a wheel?
Is that a wheel from my cart? Is that my wheel I know that’s not my wheel is that my goddamned wheel? Goddammit it’s those goddamned bricks. Goddammit bricks goddammit brick-makers goddammit breaking my goddamn cart. I gotta stop cussing and get this cart outta here where people can’t see and stare. Goddamn them why are there so many of them? Go crash a brick yourselves.
I think I thought that, but I mighta said it. Alright, we gotta push her without a wheel and get gone. These fuckers here looking and talking. These fuckers here and goddamn I can’t bear the sound of that piece of cart scraping along the bricks. These fuckers here and of course my cart falls again why wouldn’t it with my bullshit all over the sidewalk BRICKS FUCKING BRICKS BRICKS BRICKS GODDAMMIT YOU FUCKERS GO CRASH A BRICK.
My throat’s sore, so I know I’ve been screaming for sure. I know too that it hurt my foot when I kicked the shit outta that dead cart. I don’t feel it, but I know it. I gotta – I gotta get out of here, out of these bricks. More and more are looking now and bricks, oh Jesus Lord, I can feel them and their eyes all over me, touching me like a hundred bricks. Goddamn these brick-makers, what’re they doing with nothing better to do than gawk at me and my cart and they ignore me just fine unless it’s me and my cart all over the bricks? Stupid, stupid, stupid people bricks, they’re making me so angry and I can feel my cheeks hottening up and my eyes stinging but I can’t stay bricks here. This bricks is when they call in the cops and bricks they take me somewhere I know I don’t want to go bricks. I gotta go, I’m telling myself. Bricks. And I don’t know how with all them bricks there, but I go.
I was gone, and I musta gone off pretty fast. For a while there, while I was going, at least while I musta been going, I musta had another fit because I can’t even begin to recall where I thought I was going, cursing all those bricks and running. I know where I am now. Where I am now is not a good place. Where I am now is where a lot of others sit here under this overpass, others like me but not like me. A disgusting bunch, sitting around in their filth, and now I’m smack dab in the middle of them. They aren’t like me because they keep all their shit, if it even is their shit, scattered around them or heaped in piles, not in a cart like I do. Animals, all of them, without carts like I have – like I had.
Look at ‘em looking at me. They’ve got angry eyes, hungry eyes, or empty eyes. They all deserve to be here, half of ‘em because they’re completely gone and the other half because they deserve it, and neither half like me much telling by the way they’re looking. I don’t deserve to be here, I gotta get out – I gotta get another cart quick before I turn into them. But Jesus, I’d have to go miles to the closest shit-hole mart where pricks leave their carts in the grass and all over the place, and there’s others there too, others who look at me with the same stupid eyes as them that are glued to my back right now. But Jesus, why is this happening to me? Why does anything happen to me, why’s it I have to go hump my ass all that way under the sodomizing heat to get me a cart? Why’s there gotta be so many goddamned bricks?
I just want to fall on my ass and do nothing, and it’s easy enough. It don’t even hurt much. I just want to close my eyes and not have to open them again, Jesus please just make it that easy. I’m tired, I’m just so sick and tired of trying so hard, and I mean it this time. Every time I end up telling myself it’ll get better because it can’t get any worse. Years, I’ve been telling myself that, but it always gets worse. Somehow they find things to keep taking from me, most times things I didn’t even know I had. I don’t deserve to be here. I tried so goddamned hard living right and being right, and it kept never being right enough.
I don’t want to be here, I just want to be back when things were good, is that so much? Just to open my eyes and have it be like they never started taking it all when things got bad and when I tried to get better I couldn’t because they already took so much and it just got worse and so they kept taking more? If they’d just have left me be, left me alone, I wouldn’t be where I am. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault there’s so many bricks and people making them, always tripping me up. It’s not my fault if I can’t help but try to hide a little every time someone comes after me, is it? Even if it is my fault a little, it wouldn’t be any of my fault if there weren’t so many bricks to trip over to begin with. Jesus Lord, there’s just so many of them. I don’t want to turn into one of those others, I don’t want to turn into an animal. Please Lord God Almighty, I’m ready for it to be over, I’m done this time, just take me.
Funny how I’ve always been afraid of dying. I remember I used to lie in bed as a kid, wide eyed and pissing myself just thinking about being dead. The darkness, the nothing, no more seeing and no more thinking, and no more remembering – but I’m ready for you to do it, just please do it. I’m sure I’m too much of a coward, Lord, or I woulda done it myself a long time ago. Funny – funny how a man can be so afraid of a thing and still want it so bad at the same time. Daddy wasn’t afraid, he went right on ahead. Please Lord God, if you could just make it easy so I could see my Daddy –
Daddy. If he could see me, oh God, he would be ashamed of me. My Daddy would hate me. He’d cuss and call me no good and worthless and too lazy to straighten myself up. But Daddy, I tried. I tried so hard to be like you. Like all them. I tried to do everything like everyone does but I couldn’t figure out how. Daddy, please don’t hate me. Dear God, please don’t ever let my Daddy see me.
It’s dark now. I musta had my eyes closed for hours. Goddamn, I hope no one was watching, this is no way to see a man with tears and snot all over his face. I’m still a man, ain’t I? Thinking and thinking, so much thinking takes a lot out of you and I’m pretty damned all wore out. I just… I just need a good sleep now. I can just lie down here in the grass and no one will even care.
Tomorrow will be different. I’ll find a new cart. There’s plenty of carts in this town. Tomorrow I’ll go find a cart, and then I can start trying to make things better again. I feel a little better already, and it won’t be half so bad once I get me a new cart. I’ll forget my Daddy and how it’s my fault and everything. I just gotta wait it out. I’ll go back and get my stuff that fell out. It probably ain’t even gone. I’ll be back rolling across those bricks again in no time.