He stared at his hands.
He stared at his hands and he concentrated.
He stared, and he concentrated, and yet they still trembled.
They didn’t tremble a huge amount, mind you. But, he could feel it. And he thought that everyone else could see it.
He hated that.
He liked to think of himself as “cool under pressure.” As many people do… until they are put under pressure.
Flight, at least temporarily, had won out over fight and he started walking. West. He thought.
He looked at his shoes. They had seen better days. The sound of his footfalls in the leaves on the sidewalk sounded to him like muffled screams.
The colours of the leaves were merely hinting at what they had so recently been. Aren’t we all? Now they were the discarded leftovers of a party that had ended much too soon.
He got to the end of the block and turned around. No. THIS was west.
The walking continued. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly. All very much dependent on the thoughts that were running through his mind at any given moment.
Twenty eight is too young for this shit.
It’s too fucking young.
Nobody had warned him that someday the Kevlarian coating of youth would begin to rub off.
The streets were nearly deserted. For this he was thankful. He could only imagine the expression on his face. He couldn’t control it.
He hated that too.
He looked up at the sky. He silently cursed the persistent clouds that just wouldn’t give the sun a chance.
He stepped in a puddle. He cursed again. Not so silently.
He kept walking. He caught himself almost laugh at the realization that he was so close to completely losing it over one wet sock.
He reminded himself that he was on that suburban street for a reason.
A good reason.
Still, keeping focus was nearly impossible. He looked at people in windows and passing cars and online dating ads on bus stops. He would have switched places with any one of them.
He understood the whole “the devil you know…” business. He got that. But, sometimes, he thought, the devil that you know is just so insidious and unrelenting that the alternatives couldn’t possibly be any worse.
He didn’t want to die.
This realization — which wasn’t really much of a realization at all — somehow steeled his resolve. He got his focus back. And he started walking faster.
With a destination.
As he got closer, he felt momentum building. He imagined himself as the hero is some overdirected, underwritten movie. He had been down, but he battled back. The odds looked bad. A happy ending was in doubt. Yet he soldiered on.
Delusions of grandeur clearly being the perfect (and undoubtedly frustratingly temporary) analgesic for his tortured mind.
He turned the last corner and stopped in his tracks.
He lost the feeling in his legs.
No way. Not today.
He picked up his pace. His vision was locked on the two of them.
He unbuttoned the top two buttons of his coat.
He walked even faster.
When he was about thirty feet from them, she glanced over and caught sight of him.
He reached inside of his coat.