Head down, I am staring at the worms winding their way across the cracked wet pavement, their mating intentions evidenced in a slow crawl to sexual pleasure. Worms are susceptible to desiccation – drying out – and they have no lungs, but rather, breathe through moist skin, a requisite environment for diffusion. This would not be important on most days, however, in my current state, one of emotional dehydration and a staggering shortness of breath, the worms provide an appropriate depiction of my flagging stability.
And so I amble, staring at my reflection in the puddles as they fragment my face with each footstep. The ripples return to rebuild my countenance, and I continue along my path, only vaguely aware of the leaves now sticking to the sides of my shoes and tugging at the fraying edges of my jeans. I hear the dull thumping of the raindrops, the gentle arrhythmic tapping of an amateur musician upon a muted xylophone. Thup thup. Wintry water wedges beneath my collar. I shiver and turn my head to witness the drainpipe vomiting a deluge upon the insect world and carrying today’s waste into tomorrow’s waves. Beneath my soles, the worms squish.
From above I imagine I resemble these worms, slithering my way across city streets, weaving dejectedly, sliding aimlessly. In puddles I see car headlights, like lighthouse beacons turning to and fro, illuminating destiny, then fading into oblivion, an appropriate metaphor for my current state. Thup th-thup. For a brief moment, I stop upon the sidewalk and stare up into the trees, watching the brightness glisten through the droplets, and then, like falling light bulbs, they descend, their inanimate silent screams of reckless abandon ending with an explosion upon the ground. The Ploipp! resounds with death.
These precise pinpricks of presence draw at life’s truth. The details provide me sanctuary, like white blood cells battling this disease called life. Minutiae is my vaccine.
Beyond the trees I see a window, the tears dripping down my glass face mirroring my own internal pain. At the top of the reflection, the horizon lurks, the wet pavement-colored sky blowing dark smoke trails through the trees, black wisps wandering across the leaves and drenching the city. Th-thup thup. Like a tympan in the recesses of my brain, I hear the raindrops bouncing off an aluminum trash can lid, their metallic ting followed by a tiny splash of purity, then corrupted, like me.
Hands pressed deeply into my pockets, I turn to walk, the shredded leaves thickening upon my shoes, the worms squishing louder, the xylophone increasing in volume and frequency. Th-th-thup-th-thup.
The sunlight struggles to break through, but fails to surface, shoved back beneath the covers of shadow, as though the sky endeavors to suffocate its own heavenly child. Darkness comes deeper now, driving my head further down into my coat in an endless search for warmth. Through my collar I smell the soaked asphalt. The aged rains bring a far away scent, an aromatic blend of tar, humidity and repugnance, and its thickness sticks to my tongue, settling in my nose like coagulated blood. The worms continue to swell.
Th-thup. Another reflection – telephone wires appear like train tracks in the shallow pool before me and I imagine riding those rails through the waters and into nothingness. Nothingness. The word resonates like the raindrops, plummeting through the wind to smack hard into the cement, then evaporating into thin air. Empathy is easy. Th-th-thup-thup.
On the darkened cracks of buildings now seeping with nature’s shower, a damp ooze crawls through the breach, preparing the terrain for an onslaught of mold, mildew, and decay. Sometimes I search myself for those cracks, wondering when the rot got inside, when death entered me.
Their lifeless bodies now floating downstream in the gutter’s current, the worms have drowned. The leaves won’t let me go. Light is fading. Thup thup. The rain continues.