by Luis Rivas
I see them walking by but they don’t see me.
In the alley where I sleep, the tall overgrown bamboo stretches out over the walls and cascades down to the ground. I sit completely still behind the thick branches and trash and watch all of them walk by me in the dimly-lit alley. It’s like I’m invisible. No, more like a ghost.
During the day it’s a problem. I’m usually pretending to be asleep when my wife wakes up to go to work at 7 a.m. I’d lie in bed asleep, my eyes closed, sometimes pretending to snore. As soon as I hear the front door slam shut, I open my eyes. I stay in bed for an hour or two, rolling around the sheets, enjoying the grandeur of an empty bed. The sun cuts through the bedroom window, casted blue and soft on the bed sheets. Eventually, I get up and get dressed. Usually by picking up whatever clothes I can find. I look at myself in the mirror: my hair, my small dull brown eyes, a face, the hairs on my chest, my missing teeth. A monster. I forgive myself and walk out into the brightness of the morning.
I take the 2 Bus downtown and begin begging for change, making sure to go after the people in suits. After I collect a minimum of $10, I head over to the liquor store, buy a pint of low-shelf Vodka and begin the walk home. I take my time. The tall downtown buildings make me feel small, insignificant. I enjoy the feeling and only regret that I am unable to feel this way throughout the rest of my day.
At night is when I feel my best.
My wife thinks I work at night. I tell her I work at a 99 Cents Only Store warehouse in Glendale. This provides me with a good excuse for going into the alleys at night.
I lay behind the trash and trees. Sometimes there’s an abandoned coach, cabinets, tires. I wait, patiently, for the first person to walk by. It’s usually at around 10 p.m. for some reason and they are almost always alone. They don’t see me but I see them. After they get close enough and pass me, I jump out and cover their mouth with my right hand while my left wraps around their chest, pinning their arm by their side. In one or two quick motions, I snap their neck and it’s over just like that. I take them back to the spot behind the trees with the trash and eat their faces as quickly as possible before the next one arrives. Faces are the most intimate part of the human body: Lips are reserved for intimacy; eyes reflect the inner workings of the mind; the ears are dedicated for cherished listening; the nose, for smelling the change of seasons.
Like a trapdoor desert spider, I take them back to my bamboo-and-trash nest, subduing my victim in the comfort of the alley’s abyss.
Usually after 2 a.m. I get a couple of stragglers walking by. If they’re together, I have to let them go. If they’re alone, I pick the weakest or drunkest looking one – usually it’s a young 20-something-year-old skinny boy, slipping and falling with his dance shoes.
I drop the body into one of the nearby trash dumpsters. I don’t have a car otherwise I would drive them to a lake or another more secluded area to dispose of the body. I know my methods aren’t the best, but the truth is I don’t care; my main concern is getting the next one. And getting their warm, salty meat stuck in between my teeth.
When I’m done I go home to an already drunk and passed out wife. It’s usually about 3 a.m. I first go into the bathroom to wash my face. I stealthily climb into bed and begin the quick process of falling into a deep, sensual and rejuvenating sleep.
We don’t talk anymore. When we are home together, I am usually asleep or pretending to be. She watches TV. I can’t stand TV. There’s something disingenuous about watching two-dimensional pixilated representations of human beings and animated creatures move inside a three dimensional box. It bothers me. I receive my Social Security checks for being mentally unfit to work according to the state and she works fulltime at some office downtown. I sometimes catch her crying by herself alone on the toilet, fully clothed, with her face buried in her hands, usually after two bottles of wine. I pretend not to notice and walk away slowly.
I lie and tell her I also sometimes have to work weekends. Obviously I can’t work or lie about working seven days a week. So, I sometimes have to stay home at night. Usually we watch TV together. Cartoons mostly. It’s my favorite. She prefers it, too.
One day I was behind the branches in the alley for about two hours before I saw the first person walking by. She had a hooded sweatshirt on, smoking a cigarette and held a petite black purse. I saw her at the top of the hill. She walked toward me and after a few steps past me I lunged out from behind the bamboo branches. I placed my hand over her opening mouth, interrupting a scream, pinned her to me, felt her warmth and twisted her neck in a quick, fast swoop. I took her over behind the trees and as I went in to eat her face I saw that her face was that of my wife.
Fitting it ends this way, I said to myself and continued with the process. I mean, what else could I have done? It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.