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One Shade of Red

He walked with an unnatural quickness, dodging anyone threatening to block his path to places unknown. I have oft compared him to a timid rabbit, sprinting away as soon as you had laid eyes on him, always fearful that he might be cornered by those walking near him; breaking his trance and forcing him to look you in the eye: A dash of silver against the dim light of dusk.

Although I had nearly collided with this man thousands of times, I knew nothing of him. Not his name, his occupation, or even why he was in such a rush, but that last question often halted even the idea of sleep most nights as I mulled the concept over. And yet, one night I found myself with a question that nudged itself so firmly in my craw I set out to find the man.

I did not retire to my bed that night, nor did I feel the urge to sleep. Instead I donned my coat and waited for the exact moment I normally began my routine, making sure our paths coincided once more. I brushed my teeth, combed my hair, ignored the grotesque wrinkles under my eyes, and set out on foot to find that young man.

I walked along Main Street, as I normally did, though today I did not bother to bring my briefcase. After all, I had no time for work nor play until I located this man and conversed with him. Though today, I found no rabbit darting through the wolves of this City. Yes, occasionally a rat, there a vulture, and there an unfortunate pigeon, but no Rabbit graced my path.
Disheartened by my failure, I sat down on a bench painted Cherry Red, something you would almost expect to see applied to a woman’s lips, but certainly not a splintery, cracked, frail bench perched beneath an awning who’s paint had long since faded away. However, the advertisement attached to the back of the bench amused me. It was one of those ads whose message was so serious; they found themselves in the unfortunate situation of becoming the laugh of the town. The add read simply, “ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God.”
This town sank down into the pits of He** long before I arrived. Now nestled quite comfortably in the 7th Circle, it refuses to change. And any attempt of reform that can’t be handed by politics is just as quickly silenced by a bullet.
I slowly shifted my weight from my feet to the splintery bench, and then shifted again and again, attempting to find a spot where the splinters would not be so bothersome. No spot was ever found, nor do I believe one existed. But, there I sat for the duration of the day, never once moving from my uncomfortable perch in fear I would miss him.
And eventually, my patience was rewarded. At precisely ten seconds till Eight Thirty-Seven, I spotted him sauntering south towards me, the opposite direction he always traveled. At first, I thought it was the light, as he neared closer I thought it was his clothing, but as he neared close enough to expose the whites of his eyes, I realized that he was soaked with blood, the rubies dripping off of him like jewels, tracing the path from whence he came and forming a necklace of rare gems for all to admire.
He looked blankly at the curb in front of him, his thousand yard stare corrupting his deceptive innocence. This man was not a rabbit, but a shell of the timid creature I had once adorned with fascination. This creature before me filled me with awe and pity. This creature before me had just seen a man die.
Whether it was by his hand or by another, I to this day do not know.
Without looking, he landed on the old bench with a thud and a crack reminiscent of the popping of burning desert wood. As he unknowingly applied a new coat of paint to the worn-out bench, and sat unbothered by the inevitable pain of the splintery wood, I held out my hand to him.
It was a full five minutes before he could recognize my hand was there, another ten before he realized why it was there, and three more before he shook it. It was a weak shake, with the only vigor going into it being supplied by yours truly, with the recipient expending no energy more than what he absolutely needed.
I looked at him squarely for the first time. His face was a deep scarlet color, with worry lines already perpetuating themselves across his forehead. His hands were clutching something shiny, though I made no motion towards the object in fear for him more than fear for my own safety. His cheeks held a bit more meat than would be expected, though the rest of his face was bony and pale, excluding the light coating of rose red liquid now dried onto his features.
I looked him into his eyes, a calm blue surrounded by bloodshot whites and whites discolored by pink, and asked him simply, “Who are you?”
He starred back and slowly answered, as if pained by each syllable, “ L…L….Lew…Lewis Descartes. Who are you?”
This last question caught me off guard, and so I opened my mouth as if to answer, only to find my larynx paralyzed by the scene in front of me. Lewis had etched his name into his arm, and was checking it for reference. The wounds long healed, the pain and the scars remained as a permanent reminder to who he was.
After a sigh, he stepped off the curb as the bus cleared the intersection. I only had enough time to lunge out in front of the bus, not to push him out of the way. And so our Crimson memories faded together. Two stories, one shade of red.





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