This is the last Saturday I will be working at my housemate’s gamestore. Now that my consulting job has settled into a steady four days a week, the extra income from the gamestore is superfluous. Just as when I’ve left any retail job, it’s the discount that I’ll miss.
On my otherwise deserted walk over Adam’s Point this morning on the way to open the store, I saw a strange man. This older man, stringy grey hair hung limply around his rough face made pink by exertion, carried an armload of clothing against his large fallow body. His eyes were once blue but seemed empty of expression. He walks stiffly, taking steps not much longer than the length of his foot, and not bending his knees. Water, perhaps tears, trails down his hanging cheeks and shoulders. He is bare-chested, and must be wearing shorts if he is wearing anything. It does not seem like he notices me at all. He must be walking back from a morning swim, why else would someone be soaking wet on a cold morning? We are some four blocks away from Lake Merritt, but it would take a madman to swim in that tidal basin. Perhaps he is fleeing the scene of an illicit affair, however the mere thought of that body engaged in sex is repellent. If it was some sort of sprinkler malfunction that drenched him, why would he stagger around unclothed but carrying clothes?
As I step off the street and onto the sidewalk I must share with this odd man, I feel an unexpected gloom. Although the sun is out, it remains deeply chill in the shadow of the apartment building. I have an irrational sense of foreboding over merely walking by this man; I must walk within reach of those flabby arms, that pile of clothes taken from who knows how many people he has killed. The two of us close. And I tense myself to duck and weave and perhaps strike, if need be. We pass. I notice the drips left on the sidewalk in his wake. They seem to be transparent, like water, but also seem slightly thick.
I clear the shadows, stepping around the corner of the apartment building. Despite the apprehensions I had on the sidewalk, I realize that my heart is slowed. I stop to take a few full breaths, and I glance back. I cannot see the strange old man anywhere in the shadowed sidewalk. I look down at this sidewalk, but the weak sunlight must have evaporated any drops that would evidence his passage. What he was I do not know, but the encounter haunts me.