I'd been hanging out with this guy who lived in an alley behind a carwash.
Tonight when I went to go see him, he wasn't there.
Instead there were two teenaged kids—a girl sitting on a parking block and an overweight guy sitting on my homeless friend's bed, drawing on post office mailing stickers.
I'd met him before.
He was a runaway who stayed in the alley sometimes.
"Hey man," I said, waving to him, and then introduced myself to the girl.
"Hey I'm Samantha," she said. "Here du'."
She reached into her backpack and gave me a tallboy of Steel Reserve.
She laughed like 'Ti-ha.'
I sat down on an overturned bucket and opened the tallboy.
We sat there drinking, not really talking.
It was quiet and cold.
Rats running all over—out from dumpsters, under cars, anywhere—converging and scattering as they fought for scraps.
There was this one much smaller rat, who kept going in and out of the crowd, moving in small hops.
Samantha laughed too.
"That small one, man," I said.
"Yeah du'," she said. "Ti-ha."
She took a pull off her tallboy.
The guy in bed said something to himself.
He'd been talking to himself at random.
He had a speech impediment like someone was pinching his cheeks in a little.
"But yeah," Samantha said. "I stomped a rat before. It was easy, du'. Like, I stomped him and shit, and he went, 'Eeeh-ya, Eeeeeh-ya' and then that was it du'. When I checked a few days later or whatever, he was still there just like, laying there dead. Er, yeah. Then this one guy I know, I showed him the dead rat and he showed me a video of a rat getting lit on fire. And like, it was screaming for a few minutes and shit before it died. I was like, 'That's not cool man.' I like animals and shit. It was lame, you know?"
I was about to take a pull off my tallboy but I stopped the can by my mouth and said, "I don't know."
Still watching the small rat.
He kept hopping.
No one would let him in.
He couldn't get any anything.
Come on, let me in, let me at that sweet garbage.
The guy in Spiderman's bed said, "Geez, that one little guy keeps jumping around and stuff. Be sweet to see him jump into a, um, the back pipe on a car, the tailpipe thing, naha."
I laughed, imagining a small rat jumping into a tailpipe, with a slide-whistle sound for some reason.
Samantha was looking at me.
She smiled, lips closed.
I smiled, took a pull off my tallboy.
Pretty much just wanted to fall to the ground and go to sleep face-down in a cold puddle.
Pretty much wanted anything like that.
Then, from the other end of the alley, this guy walked up.
He was wearing tight neon-green pants and a tight tshirt tied into a ball around the belly, his hair in a small ponytail.
He held out a phone in one hand, gesturing to it with his other hand. "Please pardon me, but, any y'all need a internet phone? It's a [brand name and model of phone]."
We all said no.
He breathed out loudly and said, "Oh well, thanks, have a pleasant evening" then walked away.
Samantha laughed and lowered her head, shaking her long hair a little.
I smelled fruit shampoo.
She unzipped her backpack and took out what was left of a six-pack of Steel Reserve tallboys, broke me off one.
She took the last one for herself and drank it with the plastic rings still attached.
She laughed like, 'Ti-ha' then took a big pull and burped 'Yop.'
The guy drawing in bed said, "Geez."
Samantha kicked an old empty King Cobra 40oz. bottle in front of her.
It clinked off a dumpster and rolled back.
She picked it up.
"Man du'," she said. "I've probably drank like, fucking—er maybe, probably a thousand of these. No, like, really du'. Like, three a day everyday for the last, what, I've been drinking since I's 12, and I'm 18 now, so like, ti-ha, yeah."
"Fuck yeah," I said. "You're the best."
She leaned forward, laughing.
"Du' I'll fucking slap the shit out of you," she said.
The guy in bed laughed.
"Geez, man," he said, drawing.
Then he said something quietly to himself.
Samantha hit the heel of one of her shoes against the ground a few times.
"You want to hear something?" she said. "This is insane, er like, I'on't know why I'm going to say this. But like, when I was younger—like 15, or no, 14, or no, yeah, 15, ti-ha—me and my boyfriend—he was like 22 or 23—we found some baby birds in a nest on the sidewalk. And like, man, this is bad, but we ripped their heads off. Or like no, we cut them off with our skateboards. Because like—I know it's bad, or like, no it's almost good—because once they smell like a human they'll be fucked anyway, so I was just doing it quick for them. Make it painless so they don't have to starve, you know?"
The guy in bed said, "You could've just not touched them. Geez."
Samantha leaned forward and laughed.
"I'm a fucking psycho," she said. She took a pull off her tallboy, hitting the heel of her foot against the ground. "But nah, I was doing them a favor. And plus like, I was really mad at my mom. My mom likes birds. A lot. So, this is fucked up, but, first I sent a picture of the birds happy and chirping in the nest and shit. Then I sent another picture of them all dead on the sidewalk. Du' it made my mom cry. Her and my uncle thought I's a fucking psycho. My uncle, he like, got so pissed. He made me eat bird meat n'shit."
"Bird meat?" I said.
"Yeah, geez, like, a parrot?" said the guy in bed.
"No du', he stuffed my face full of turkey and grabbed me, threw me down n'shit. Sucked du'. But, whatever. I AM a fuckin' psycho. Ti-ha."
Nobody said anything.
I turned and spit, both hands still in my hoody pocket.
Samantha tried to spit further.
I tried again but all I had was spray and it went back into both of our faces a little.
"Oh shit du'," she said, wiping her face.
She took a huge pull off her tallboy then burped like, "Yop Yop Yop."
She unzipped a smaller pocket on her backpack and got out a length of rolled-up toilet paper then went behind a dumpster to piss.
I sat on the overturned five gallon bucket, staring down the alley.
Feeling like there was a thin but very heavy layer of something right behind my face.
Wishing some big hand would come from the air and rip out my heart in one strong tug.
The guy in bed capped his marker and put his drawings down and said, "Fuck it, I'm going to sleep."
He put his pens and drawings in a backpack, took out a winterhat.
The winterhat was huge, stood straight up on his head when he put it on.
He grabbed a flashlight from under the covers, situated the backpack backwards against his chest.
"Does this make me look paranoid?" he said, holding up the flashlight. "I sleep with it in case I have to wake up and bash a crackhead or something."
"Nah," I said.
Samantha said, "Do whatcha gotta do man," zipping up her pants and sitting down on the parking stone again.
The guy lay back in bed, pulling a blue tarp over him—over the aluminum-looking blanket he already had on.
He sat up quickly, looked off somewhere. "Oh shit, I have some bologna and cheese still, in here." He put his hand on the dumpster next to the bed. "But it should still be good tomorrow right? It's been cooler out so it should still be good tomorrow. OK, good."
He lay back down, and there were crinkling sounds as he arranged himself.
All I could see over the mass of him beneath the covers was part of the winterhat and part of the flashlight.
Bash a crackhead.
Eat your bologna and cheese.
Live this fucking moment.
Yop Yop Yop.
Kill or be killed.
Samantha smoked a cigarette.
She told me about how her and her mom live together but they were getting evicted soon.
I asked when.
When when when.
"Like, tomorrow du'," she said. "Ti-ha."
"Are the cops coming?"
But maybe something else.
Something about court and extensions.
Yop Yop Yop.
She said, "Fucking, I'on't know du'. It's like, I mean, shit." She shrugged, leaning back. "It is what it is du, y'know?"
She took a long pull off her drink, continuing half of the shrug.
"I can't stop watching that little rat jump around," I said, smiling. "Fuck."
Samantha laughed, covered her mouth with her hand.
"Man, ahh, my fucking teeth hurt du'," she said. "Like, bad. I've had these fucking braces forever man, er, yeah, and my gums are growing into them. Hurts bad du'."
"Brush your fucking teeth then," I said, staring at the rats.
"Du' like, I bleed every time I brush my fucking teeth," she said. "Er, pretty much every time, yeah. Like, here's what I do every day: I get up, have a smoke, take a shower, brush my teeth, then start drinking. Sucks. Ti-ha. I need a fucking job du'. Hey, this is gross and shit, but like, I just had lice too. I think like, pretty sure I got it from sleeping on the ground or whatever. My mom combed it out though. Wait, hold on."
She got up and went around the dumpster to piss.
When she came back, she said, "Damn, like, that was a hard piss. Even though I came back quick, it was a lot du'."
She sat down on the parking block again, looked at me.
Then she turned her head and laughed like "Ti-ha."
I went back to watching the little rat.
The little rat was having success now, eating what little garbage was left after all the bigger rats finally scattered.
And I must have been doing something with my mouth because Samantha said, "Are you—do you have that stuff in your lip? What's it called? Chew?"
"I can't do that shit man," she said. "Too worried about getting mouth cancer. Fuckin', have part of your jaw removed. I can't have part of my jaw removed du'. That shit's so fucked up." She motioned with her hand as if pulling off her bottom jaw. "Fuckin', some monster shit du'. Like, I don't even know, nyarrr, NYARRR. Ti-ha."
She was trying to cover her laughing with this thing where she closed her lips and nodded.
She smoked another cigarette.
"I'on't know," she said, "I'll probably get lung cancer though. Lung cancer's fine."
"Can I have your backpack when you die?"
She laughed and covered her mouth with her hand. "Sorry," she said, trying not to smile, "I'on't like my cross-bite."
A rat crawled up to where the guy was sleeping, sniffed at the bed then crawled up onto the tarp over him.
All I could see of the guy was his winterhat coming out from beneath the tarp and the aluminum-looking blanket.
Samantha and I watched.
We both began laughing quietly.
When the rat went by the guy's head, the guy woke up and flung the rat into the side of a dumpster.
"Geez," he said, momentarily just staring, before tucking himself back in.
And everything was good.
I looked at Samantha and said, "What sound did the rat make when you stomped it?"
Samantha laughed, blowing out a drag from her cigarette a little more quickly.
She rubbed the cherry of her cigarette off on a dumpster.
She put the cigarette behind her ear, took a pull of her tallboy and said, "Eeeeeh-ya, eeeeeeeeh ya."