Numbed Nerves

Linus had always enjoyed the sunset. Or at least, that’s what his wife would tell everyone. Every day for the past thirty years he would take his leave from whatever he was doing, promptly at 4:30 P.M, and take a stroll with his dear wife down the streets of Manhattan. The soft orange glow of the sun would gently warm his skin, like it always had this time of year. Nothing like how the harsh light of the morning would lash out against him when the weather was humid. Just a gentle wave of incandescence, like the mist of the ocean against the stone face of the coast.

As his walk would go on, his wife would constantly pester him about how he should enjoy more in life and not be so critical about everything. He would give a smart remark, she would get angry, and he would make a joke to fix everything. The two would share a laugh and continue in their walk as peacefully as they were. It was times like this where Linus savored, craved every millisecond. Because these experiences were what he loved the most in life.

And it had been ten years since he had experienced such a time.

Against better judgement, and the stewards down at the nursing home where the old man had been placed, Linus decided to take another stroll down the all too familiar street. He didn’t care what would happen to the nurse in charge of him, much less her say on his decision thereof. He had been cooped up like a canary in that blasted building, and he needed to get out. Even if he was bound to this accursed chair.

The accident fifteen years ago had ruined everything. His mobility, his love life, his family relations and the simple things that he used to love so much had all but faded to nothing. All dashed away like dust with a broom by the cold sting of tragedy. Faced with unemployment, bills to pay and no family members that would (or could) take him in, Linus let his bitter pride go and wound up in a nursing home. And for the next ten years, his life became that much more unbearable.

Linus was a working man. He didn’t need anyone’s help. He didn’t want anyone’s help. Relying on ten different scullery maids to assist in every aspect of your life, while a luxury for some, was an overbearing burden for the old man. Every time he would go somewhere, a nurse would be pushing him along the way. The idiot cooks would always tell the stewards to feed the food to the old man when they were oblivious to the fact that he simply didn’t like their cooking. He couldn’t do anything by himself anymore.

And eventually, it was simply too much. Being cooped up in a walled cage without a single breath of the fresh, outside air was unbearable. And so the old man wheeled out of the building without a second thought, losing the maids that had began chasing after him somewhere around 98th Street. For once, he could finally have a walk to himself. Like the years before the accident.

Sunset had come once again to New York. The flickering candle melted the glass off the towering skyscrapers like the hot wax that held it, letting the life shine off the smooth surface of the gargantuan towers. By this time, Linus had made it to Jamison Circle, just outside his and his wife’s “special place”. As he wheeled himself along the rode, he once again felt the sunlight against his leathered, wrinkled skin. The burning sensation of the heat from the dynamo in the sky was branded to his skin. The fury of the light was present, but its benevolent warmth was absent.

The sun refused to caress his skin like it had done years before. It only scorched the crevices between his wrinkles and dried his skin like clay.

Linus let out a sigh of disappointment. So the doctors were right. As the light continued to wash over his skin, he searched his mind, desperately trying to recall how the sweet feeling of warmth felt against his skin. Warm. Loving. Like a mother with her child. The old man repeated again and again. But the feeling remained absent. Only the empty words of the warmth filled his mind now.

Linus sighed again. He had never believed doctors and their fancy-schmacy medical vernacular. Nothing more than mumbo-jumbo taught by over-paid smarty pants to scare the, what they called, “uneducated public”. Nothing that aspirin couldn’t cure. But still.

The old man ran his hand over the rubber surface of his wheelchair tires. He could feel the splits and cuts of the grooves within the wheel, but the nature of the material was lost to him. He could not grasp the buoyancy of the air that filled the tires, and the rubber did rub smoothly against the palm of his wrinkled hand. Again he couldn’t help but search his mind for a remnant of how the touch felt against his skin, but alas. Nothing.

The wheelchair slowed to a disheartening stop in the center of the city sidewalk. The old man’s head hung in shame and sorrow. What had caused him to make such a foolish decision? To think so rashly and to act without hesitation in his present state? He loved her! He would die for her! But now all he did for her was weep. Weep into slumber like he had done every night as the tears from his eyes stung his face with their pin-like chill. Not even the water would caress his cheeks as it rolled down his sullen gaze and onto the floor of his room.

Tears began to roll from the old man’s eyes like blood from a wound. Transparent; lacking in color. Devoid of vibrancy and care. The drops of water from the eyes of Linus fell to the concrete, staining it black with the moist feeling of the tears. Air leaked from the tires of the wheelchair as Linus’ fingers tightened around the rubber ring.

Slowly, the wheels began to move again. Linus’ arms thrust themselves forward to propel his transportation down the street, closer to his destination. Linus was always too hard on himself. His mistakes were like iron knives in his heart, sinking deeper into his soul with every resurgence of their memories. But the old man was bitter. He wouldn’t let a few past demons keep him away from his objective. He’d worked too hard to be stopped by a few drops of water.

The sky above Linus was painted with the beautiful shade of violet twilight. Silhouettes moved down the streets of New York, most heading back to their complexes after a long day of work. The night-cats had already emerged from their alleys, tangled arm in arm with the toms who planned to give everything to their precious, precious tabbies.

A low grunt bounded from throat of Linus. His eyes rolled at the sight of the city heartthrobs that plagued the streets at this hour. Ruffians like this would always start up some kind of ruckus. Linus and his wife would often come across some poor sap unconscious in an alleyway with his clothes drenched in the scent of alcohol from hours before, begging them for a dollar so he could buy another beer. His wife would look down on the man with pity, while Linus held no such cares for the cockroaches that crawled along the streets.

The streetlights at the edge of the curb slowly flickered to life, casting their shadows along the black plane of asphalt beneath the sidewalk. Neon signs within self-propagated business glowed with a new light, bringing vibrancy to what would’ve been a very dead late-night experience. A humble grin began to creep across Linus’ face. He had never forgotten how much the city contrasted after the glass buildings of sunset became obscured by the darkness of twilight.

Still wheeling down the street, Linus’ nose began to twitch in an odd pattern. It crinkled and snapped like an out of order metronome while the old man pondered what on earth could be making his nostrils misbehave in such a manner! Turning his head to the right, Linus found the source of his nose’s sudden spasms.

Clothed in the low light of the indoor lamps stood a small coffee shop. A neon banner with a bright white mug of Joe shone in the window with a laminated OPEN sign hanging from the door.

Linus remembered this place. He would always complain that the coffee there was too strong; that the employees wouldn’t know a coffee bean if Montezuma himself gave it to them. The over-powering stench of ground coffee beans would always send his nose into a frenzy. The scent was coarse against his nostrils, grinding away at his senses like sandpaper.

A bounding chuckle hopped from the elder’s throat. Oh, the arguments that he and his wife would have as the passed the minuscule coffee shop. Even though he would still go to the dang place and get a tall one just the same. Both of them would. And they would love it.

Were were really that stupid? Linus thought to himself. Three-hundred dollars a year for what was quite possibly the worst cup of coffee I have ever had? A light series of guffaws sprang from Linus’ throat. Mind really is the first thing to go.

Still staring into the window of the coffee shop, Linus began to take note of the people still enjoying their drinks inside. A young woman was enjoying a laugh with what appeared to be her date, an employee in his bright green apron was scrubbing down tables and a man with skin as dark as the coffee stared with intrigue at the laptop in front of him still filled the small cafe.

The young man before the laptop in particular caught Linus’ eye. His head was capped with a loose-fitting beanie hat, while a dark navy T-shirt tucked inside coat of light grey. Linus had seen this man. No; he knew this man. He knew this man inside the coffee shop!


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