I sit, heavily breathing, on the wet asphalt. I’m in some alley that I’ve passed a dozen times and have always ignored, yet now it’s become my only getaway place. It’s dark, only the dimmed lights from a nearby street help my sight to make out if it’s a rat or an old bottle of whiskey. I’m just around the corner, where my friends and colleagues can’t see me from where they are sitting in the pub. Tears are running and I blink as I search for the reasons why. I don’t know the reason why. I want to wipe the tears away but they keep streaming out. That’s when I realize I’ve been holding them in for a very long time. I had just been talking to this guy who I guess posed the wrong or right questions and then I was hurrying away, a blind nerve struck. And now I’m here.
I only notice that I’m sobbing when I hear the echo coming back at me like a cloud overhead. My body is trembling but I barely feel it in the cold. Suddenly I hear steps behind me and normally I would panic in paranoia because I don’t want to get murdered in an alley but this time I just sit there, thinking that if this person turns out to be a friend who was looking for me, I wouldn’t know what to tell them. The person walks past me and two other people follow them. It’s a guy I don’t know. And his friends are carrying bottles and already walking as if they’re tipsy. I don’t know them, either. I think they’re passing this alley as a shortcut to their next destination. Only that the guy in the lead turns around and notices me.
He sees I’m crying and I can’t really make out what he looks like as he cautiously walks back to me. I draw backward reflectively as he kneels down in front of me. Only that I didn’t have to because he already kept a good distance. He ushers his curious friends away and they disappear far behind me. He looks at me closely and smiles. It’s not a creepy smile but I just sit there not knowing where to look or what to do. My legs are already heavy so I wish he would go away and not watch me whilst I have a breakdown that I can’t identify.
“Um,” he mutters helplessly, then gazes at his bottle of rum. “Want some?”
“No thanks,” I say, moving a little further away from him.
“Sorry, wrong approach. I’m not good at this. Are you okay?” he asks. He doesn’t seem tipsy. It doesn’t matter.
“Are you sure?” he asks again, a brow raised now.
“Yeah. Just having a mini-breakdown, that’s all.”
“You don’t look like it’s just a mini-breakdown.”
I emit a short laugh. “Thanks.”
“No, that’s not what I meant, you’re really pretty. No, wait, this is not the right time to compliment you. I guess I’m just asking if there’s anything I can get you or do for you. You sitting in a dark alley like this, it could be dangerous.”
“I know. I don’t even know why I’m here.”
“Are you with friends? Are they around?”
“Why aren’t you with them?”
“I just needed to get away. Didn’t want to ruin their night.”
“If you end up in a dark alley crying your guts out and talking to a tipsy stranger, the night was already ruined in the first place.”
The thing is he didn’t do or say anything else after that. He didn’t offer to come with him, or to take me someplace. He didn’t offer anything. He didn’t suggest anything. He just let me be, sat there and listened and nodded. He didn’t move a single bit from where he was sitting. And then his friends come rushing to him again, loudly and annoyingly asking what had happened to me. The stranger with the rum got up quickly again, looking at me apologetically, then led his friends away from me by leaving with them. He gazes back at me and I give a little smile. I gather my thoughts that aren’t of any distinguishable substance any longer and get back up on my feet. I walk back.