It's a Beautiful Life

May 20, 2008
By Stephan Lee, Barrington, IL

The Man had been wandering on the slippery city sidewalks for days now. The rain still poured as relentlessly without giving the slightest hint of easing off. His half dead eyes didn’t move, yet he continued to walk wherever the wind carried him. The clothes that he had on were noticeably tattered; and he reeked of a mixture of sweat and blood—which was far more obvious until the rain had washed it off. The busy people in their fancy suits or their pretty dresses winced in disgust as they passed him without giving him a second glance, and they rushed off to their prior engagements of the night.

A group of boys bumped shoulders with the Man, making him fall in to a puddle; one of them turned back and shouted, “Watch it, jack***!” He slowly picked himself out of the puddle, with the dirty rainwater dripping off of his disgruntled face. It was oddly refreshing. His dirty face welcomed the cold water; he couldn’t ask for anything more than to feel even an inkling more cleaner than he was. He never realized that such a simple thing as rain could make him feel good. He walked off in to the night again, embracing the rain.

On the other side of the town, Oliver Lawrence was enjoying the night with his wife; turning the keys to the new Ford he had picked up two days earlier was absolutely top of the line. Even the revolutionary presence of the radio was finally able to make it in to an automobile. It never ceased to amaze him that technology was able to make it this far.

“Only in America,” he thought to himself, pleased as the radio squealed to find a signal.

Broadway was as busy as ever, despite the vicious rain. Oliver flipped on the radio and listened to the weather—he had yet to find out which stations played music. The reporter said that the rain was going to continue till the end of the week. Oliver sighed at the bad news; he hated the rain. Ever since he was a child, he would always look out of the window and be exasperated at the falling precipitation, but tonight was different. No matter how much it rained, it wouldn’t bring him down tonight. He looked over at his right; he didn’t particularly like the term ‘trophy wife’, but there was no other way to define her. Tracey Doyle Lawrence was the most beautiful woman that he had ever laid eyes on, and most of anybody else would agree with him. He grinned to think that he finally was able to marry her the week earlier. He had advice given to him by his friends, his mother, and even his accountant, of all people, telling him that she was nothing more than a gold-digger. He thought about it for a while, but he didn’t mind; he could have his fun while it lasts.

He looked around at the outside world whizzing past his window. All of it was fake; he knew this—all a gilded façade of a world where everything was masked to be perfect. In reality, he knew that the world was in the dumps to say the least. The crash had taken away everything from everybody, as if locusts had invaded the city and eaten all of it.

“Those damn homeless devils are all over the place these days,” Oliver inwardly sighed; as long as those bastards with their God-damn cardboard boxes stayed away from his house, there would be no problems. In the back of his head, there was the fear that his neighborhood would be overrun with them in a matter of time; after all, they had already infested Central park, making it look like another neighborhood altogether. Hoovervilles; that’s what those blights on human society were called, and Oliver Lawrence would be damned to the bowels of Hell before his neighborhood turned in to one as well.

He looked at the analog clock that was oddly oversized in comparison to the odometer realizing that it was about to tick past ten-thirty. He saw the sleepiness in Tracey’s eyes; he figured that he wouldn’t be getting any sex tonight—maybe tomorrow. He turned on to his street, his beautiful street, with his beautiful house, where he will probably grope his beautiful wife, and drove on to his beautiful driveway.

The beating was merciless. How were teenagers this strong? The Man was futilely shielding from the blows with his shaking arms. For what seemed like several hours, these faceless hooligans continued to kick and punch him. Once they were tired of their stress release, they walked off, laughing as one of them spat on the man’s face. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Everybody was stressed out lately. He could see it in their eyes as they solemnly stared on the ground and walked to wherever it was that they needed to get to. He wasn’t any different; the only thing that separated them and him was the fact that they had somewhere to be. He didn’t.

The Man inwardly commented that another day had gone by as he saw the barely visible light of day recede behind the phalanx of skyscrapers. He couldn’t help but feel a little afraid; nights were cold and unforgiving—the unyielding rain made that fact even more clear. Of course again, it did well to be a makeshift shower; the crimson life-water washed down his face, unfortunately making more unsightly stains on his already tattered white shirt. Half of his right sleeve was already missing, there was a hole where the breast pocket had been, and the lower hem of the shirt looked like the Andes, but up-side-down.

“Time to go home…” the Man thought with a grimace; ‘home’ was actually one of the last places on the earth that he preferred to be. ‘Home’ was the local landfill. He had dug out a tunnel from the rotting pieces of leftovers that the city had dumped there. It was a sizeable hole, enough to sit in, but that was about the only thing possible to do there; it was one small step up from nothing, but at least it got him out of the rain.

While making his way up to his hole, he spotted two rats eating a piece of bread; who knew how long it had been sitting there? In normal circumstances, the man probably wouldn’t have even thought of reaching for it, but he chased away the rats, lunging for the rotten food, and gorged in to the putrid lump of what used to be sour-dough bread.

Last night was severely uneventful; Oliver had tried to coerce Tracey in having a ‘quickie’ but she vehemently refused, and slept in the guest room. It was already the next day, and the tension in the air was obvious. He and Tracey were having their usual afternoon cup of coffee in the den. It was usually at this time that they decided their nightly plans. Tracey had her chair looking away towards the window, to the left of him while he was looking diligently at the coffee table, with his forehead wrinkled as if he were in deep thought. In reality, he was thinking of the small hitch that took place last night. In reality, it didn’t bother him as much as he made it seem. Things like this have happened many a time before, and he knew exactly how to mend the situation: the same way to deal with insurgents of war, cut off their source of life.

“You know,” he started. “Sometimes, I wonder if you’re happy being with me. I love you, so I don’t want you to stay with me if that’ll compromise your happiness. Over all else, I want you to be the happiest woman in the world. And if that means that it’s with another man, I understand; I mean, it was nothing short of a miracle that you decided to marry me in the first place, but if you’re going to be miserable with me…” He gave the short pause to make her think that he was serious. “…we could think about a…a divorce.” He spied her hand stop as she carried the cup to her lips.
She cracked. He gave a victory smile behind his own cup to make sure that she didn’t notice it. He had said similar speeches many times in the past, making it harder and harder to come up with new and original ways to say it. He knew that she would crack—she always did. She couldn’t afford to lose her steady ‘paycheck’

She looked at him with concerned eyes, that of a mother trying to reassure her child that got called a name at school.

“Oh, Ollie.” She stood up and threw her arms around him. “You know, I’m happy with you. I love you! It’s just that sometimes you try to take things a little too far. But we all have problems” her response was a bit different than he had expected, but the result was the same. Now the only thing he would have to do is buy her something nice, take her out to a nice restaurant, and he would be in the clear again. He was thinking French; no. They had French last week. There was the new Italian restaurant that his poker buddies said was good on 31st street. It’ll take some time for him to get some again, but she needs his money, and she was definitely going to be staying with him.

Nothing. Despite the delicious smell that was coming out of the garbage cans, everything that was edible turned out to be old plates and silverware that was thrown out. Other than that, he was able to find seven peas, a steak bone, and broken pieces of a ceramic bowl with dried up tomato soup on it.

He was going to go find another place to find some food, but the merciless growling of his stomach wouldn’t allow him to. He threw in the peas in to his mouth, and chewed the cold, hard peas grimacing with each time his teeth sank in to it.

“Not enough,” of course that was the only thing on his mind. He scavenged deeper into the garbage can only to find the pieces of the bowl again. There wasn’t a choice. He took the shards and tried to lick the soup off of them, only to get dust, dirt, and more garbage on his tongue. He tasted the vague remnants of the tomato soup; on second thought, it could be the blood from the cut from the shard. His taste was becoming more and more undefined, lately; the garbage that he put in his mouth didn’t taste as repulsive. Whether that was good or bad, he would decide once he can get something in his stomach.

There was another restaurant two blocks away; maybe they would have something in their dumpster that he could scavenge. The Man started walking in to the rain, holding stomach to alleviate the hunger and slight stomach pain.

The food was exquisite. The subtle balance between the seasoning and the oils to the temperature to the preparation was all done utterly perfect. To top off the meal, he had reserved the same bottle of Chianti that they had had at their wedding—Tracey had taken her first sip of it there, and had automatically fallen in love with it. Oliver preferred the versatility of a Merlot, but he could endure this once—one point for him. He looked at his wife and she looked pleased as she slumped back in her chair and wiped the remaining alfredo sauce from her chin—another point for him. The guys weren’t kidding when they said that this place was good. It was five-thirty, and it was a about good time to go to the theater. He paid the bill and brought Tracey her coat as they both were about to exit the restaurant.

“Grazie, signore.” The man at the front podium gave a slight bow, and Oliver tipped his hat as well. He had Tracey wait in the vestibule as he went out side to hail a taxi. He would have driven himself, but figured that in this rain, his car would only become stained. The one down-side to this plan was the drivers; he only saw them as nothing more than chauffeurs with bad teeth and attitudes to match. Assuming that he can find one that would stop for him, he calculated that he should be able to get to the theater within fifteen minutes—just in time for the movie.

Luck was on his side. A fairly clean looking yellow cab pulled up in front of the restaurant. He signaled the driver to wait for wait one moment, and he ran back to the vestibule to fetch Tracey. He held her as close as possible thinking that it would somehow miraculously shield her from the beating rain; he obviously wanted more points.

“So, wayuh to guvnuh?” the driver asked. He was obviously British

“Good,” Oliver thought as he wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “At least he’ll understand me if he makes a wrong turn.”

The ride was fairly pleasant though. The driver minded his own business, and wasn’t making any mistakes. Tracey looked a little tired, and rested her head on Oliver’s right shoulder. He enjoyed the weight of her head being there. It felt nice. It was inexplicable, but for the first time in a long time, he felt at peace, safe, loved.

The second stop was a bust as well—some scraps of chicken were still latched on to a leg bone, but definitely not enough to call a meal. This was getting out of hand. The man was absolutely famished; his roaring stomach was proof of that. But even if he knew that this lack of food was going to be taking its toll on his body soon enough. He decided to just give it up and go home. Besides, the pain in his stomach had worsened; he wouldn’t have been able to eat even if he wanted to.

“This isn’t good.” Obviously; it was as if somebody was twisting a rail spike in his gut. He hobbled out of the alleyway on to a moderately crowded street where, again, the people avoided him with a look of disgust on their faces. Stumbling through the raining city, he looked at the bleak sky and chuckled to himself at the irony: water, the one thing necessary for him to stay alive, was probably going to be the one thing that will kill him.

Only a couple of more blocks to go. The amount of people on the streets had subsided and there were only the other homeless and he that were visible. From the stagger, the Man had decelerated to barely dragging his feet on the pavement. He clutched his stomach as another bolt of lightning shot through his body.

The pain was almost unbearable now. The Man collapsed on to the nearest wall and slid his back down it; he couldn’t move another step. Each breath was like steak knives cleaving down his sides. He crumpled to the ground trying to hold back his cries of pain—it wasn’t working.

He raised his gaze once again to the crying sky.

The movie was decent so far. The theater was completely deserted, so the two of them virtually had it all for themselves. The film was titled Sand Pirates of the Sahara; pretty straightforward. It was the story of an explorer that is hired by a university professor and his lovely daughter to find a precious treasure, and ruthless treasure hunter was on their tail.

The movie was one of the last things on his mind though. From the taxi ride over, he started looking back at his life. He was rich, always had been, from when he was a kid. Grew up well, got along well, and inherited well. Everything he wanted, he got without a second question asked. He was supposed to be happy wasn’t he? Since when had he become so untrusting? Everybody was an enemy; that was his world, but since when? When he realized, he became doubtful of everybody, the people on the streets, his friends, even his wife, who he had always fantasized standing next to him.

It was then in the movie, that he heard a quote, “Everybody’s a friend until you think otherwise.” Maybe this was the case. Everything seemed to be a threat only because he thought he was threatened; a gratuitous paranoia.

He looked over at his Tracey, who apparently noticed him looking at her, and smiled at him. It was deep, sincere, and full of love.

“How could I have doubted her?”

The sky was crying. Yes. That was how it seemed, crying to see another life fade away. The Man was sitting there looking up at the masked heavens.

“They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you die right?” It was the one thing that the Man had looked forward to, but as he sat there motionless, nothing appeared; nothing was shown. Tears streamed down his face camouflaged with the rain

“Of course, you need memories for them to play back. Oh God, I don’t want to die like this. I don’t want to die empty. Please, God, please.” Anything; a name, a face, a word, anything would have been satisfactory for him; as long as it would tell him who he was. The tears didn’t stop rolling down his cheeks. Empty, void, blank, hollow, dry, vacant, nothing. That was what he was, nothing. No life, no power, no name, not even a memory. That was what he was in the world, always was and always will be.

The nameless man gave his last breath as one final tear splashed on the ground.

It was odd. Oliver came out of the movie completely rejuvenated. He literally felt like a completely new man; not one thing in the world bothered him, the rain, the dirty homeless in the city, none of it. They walked out of the theater both smiling, holding each other’s hand and talking about which part of the movie they liked best. Oliver was about to call a cab home, but Tracey had suggested they have a cup of tea at a diner near-by. He had no reason to object. They walked happily getting soaked in the rain, but they didn’t care.

A big hand took a firm hold of Oliver’s shoulder and pulled him in to an alley way that they were about to pass, taking Tracey with him.

“Well well well, fellas, look what we got here.” A gruff voice came out of the shadows.

‘Damnit, thugs.’ It was rather obvious. “Look, we don’t want any trouble. I’ll give you my wallet, so just don’t hurt us.” Oliver said it as calmly as possible, with Tracey shivering behind his left shoulder. He took out his wallet and threw it on the ground. “Now please, let us go.”

“I like your style, buddy. Alright, you can…” He was interrupted, “Hey, James, look at da ring on da broad!” A scrawny rat-faced man emerged, and was pointing at the 24 karat gold ring that Oliver had given to Tracey for their engagement.

“No!” Tracey used her right hand to cover the ring, as if it would protect it.

“Jes hand it ovuh lady, and we ain’t gonna do nuttin to ye.” Rat-face grabbed Tracey’s wrists, trying to wrestle the ring off of her hands. That was the last straw.

“Get your filthy hands off of my wife, you God-damn bastard!” Oliver lunged himself at Rat-face trying to free his grip off of Tracey. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice the one called James come up from behind him with some sort of club. Needless to say, Oliver was bludgeoned in the back of the head. Blood trickled down his face, and in his crimson-blurred vision, he saw his assailants gang up on Tracey, his beloved Tracey.

By the time he came to, it was already morning, and there were people on the streets again. He stood up and looked around.

“Where am I? What am I doing here? I have to go home.” He started walking out of the street, gathering attention of the people when he walked out of the alley.

“Wait. Where is home?”

The Man had been wandering on the slippery city sidewalks for days now. The rain still poured as relentlessly without giving the slightest hint of easing off. His half dead eyes didn’t move, yet he continued to walk wherever the wind carried him.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

Parkland Book