A stale fog hung on the edges of evening. Joe slipped the pint out of his pocket and took a deep drink. It burned. He was not a drinking man. He did not consider standing because he was not sure he could. The building would hold him up until he was feeling better. Through the grime of tears, Joe stared numbly ahead, watching the parade of commuter thighs.
It still lived in him too strongly. It was too bright and too strong for him. Drinking stopped it. He tried to remember the last time he had felt right – the last time that he had looked into his home. The blood and lingering smell of gunpowder had gagged him. He would never forget the smell. He was speechless. Then it was pure shock. And that was the last time he had been home.
It had been weeks. Months? Shit, he had no idea. He could still hear the police…someone to call? Someplace he could go? But there was no place. There was no one to turn to, no place to go, just the streets. On the streets, he could almost convince himself that he was on his way home, ready to see what Jen and the kids had made for dinner.
He wasn’t even angry. That amazed him. There was nothing to be angry at. A force. A disaster. Like being angry at an earthquake. The anger had left quickly, replaced by a deep hole that he could not fill with anything resembling decency. His faith, the little he had possessed, was now gone entirely.
For days he had read the paper, read about the murders, and he had not been able to understand that they were talking about his family. He knew it – knew it in the way that you know you have offended someone – it was a glancing acceptance. But a larger part of him did not believe it was true.
An image sliced through his brain and he winced, reached for the bottle. He would always see it. The small, innocent faces he had cupped in his hands. The woman he loved.
Don’t think. Just don’t think about it. Don’t ask the questions. Don’t start the goddamn questions. Why? Why not just rob the house? Why this? Stop it. The police. They were looking. Sure, they were. He could still hear the young cop ask, “sir, is there anything missing?” He could feel the gape-mouthed incomprehension on his face. Then the older cop pulling the younger one aside. Anything missing? Don’t fucking think about it.
He took another drink and tipped the bottle high. He was forgetting. He was becoming wooden. His mind was skittering slowly over something, like a scratched record, pebbles in a stream. A whisp of dream. He was no longer there. With the liquor in him, he was there – death – the real home he had chosen. The body could give up any time it wanted. As long as there were buildings to hold him and liquor to drink, he would just be dead. And if he kept being dead long enough, the questions would stop.