February is unforgiving. The wind cuts like a cool slender knife and the ground turns to ice, death clings to the plants like morning dew. On the steps of the Calvary Baptist church, a february morning with clear blue skies like sapphires, a man lay on his back convulsing in a red hoodie. A red scaled fish, writhing in the hot blinding sun. Red like silver screen blood. Red like the lipstick your mother used to wear. Red like the lights of an ambulance. Red like something has gone terribly wrong. Red like death.
I watched from the window, almost hot in my jacket and the heater on the bus blowing gusts around my ankles. I imagined the biting cold, the blaring ache of his head pounding against the concrete. I wanted to scream but there were no words, to tell someone but there was no one to tell. They all saw and all looked away. It was a long light, I watched for five minutes and no one stopped. The people passing on the street stared straight ahead, hard and unflinching like they were something made of marble.
Someone had to remember, someone had to keep him alive in this moment, so I watched. Even as the light changed and we pulled away, I turned to watch until his stiff arms, his shaking legs, were gone. I don’t know what happened to him, I don’t know if he lived, if he died, and I never will.
A few days later as we were passing the church again, there was a new sign buried beside the steps, “no loitering.” I had to laugh like hell, because what else was there to do, to say. I laughed to myself the whole bus ride, praying I wouldn’t cry.