Things were hot and cold in varying degrees all over that place. Ray liked to move a lot to be a part of something for a moment, before he got anxious and had to leave.
Sorry, he’d say. Then he would go out for a little walk, move the bone a bit, send it somewhere that it should never have been in the first place, send it out and then watch what happens. Walking silently down the road, everything else around him noisy though, he held in the whispers he usually comforted himself with when alone.
The high high buildings leaned in and told him it was alright, time was going on anyway and he didn’t have to help or cry and it wouldn’t benefit anyone if he did cry or help, it was all going to end the same way anyway.
Clanging noises were now coming at him from the scaffold above. He saw floating hard hats moving around up above him as his hands found his pockets and went on walking, getting the feeling that he was getting in the way of these gruff fellows. Perhaps a wrench would drop through the air and strike him on the head and relieve him of his brain and Woody Allen. An accident. A tragedy. Someone would find it funny though, surely.
He heard wolf-whistling behind him and his ears perked up to sniff the cause. The eyes under the hard hats were looking at him and laughing. Someone was doing the whistling. There, that tall one on the left. Alpha male.
He suddenly became conscious of his effeminate stride.
Sorry, he mumbled.
No one said anything back. They went back to their work laughing still. No one even noticed he’d said anything. The steel cacophony continued, and without him, and now his sorry was part of the windless landscape and not part of him. He noticed that but he said it again anyway.
Disturbed, he turned on his heel and went back along the road the way he came, begging the sky that the Alpha wouldn’t start whistling again. People walking with their heads fastened on straight looking ahead, brushed by him. He said it again, a couple times, a few times: to all of them, that thing that he says. He was almost away from the scene, the scaffold way back behind him now, the builders knocking iron against grey iron, the colour he could feel most.
He quickened his pace, his hands slipping out of the pockets that protected them. All he could hear were people shouting and screaming. They were demanding something, and he never could quite understand it, nor what it was they wanted him to do. What was it they thought would happen if they could only get their way? He could feel himself becoming embittered. Tasted grey.
He said the thing that he says, looking up at all of them running around to all the places they had to be at and chasing the dogs barking on leashes, dogs he sometimes smiled at that. They never had to say sorry, he thought, they couldn’t. He was sorry for them though. Punished for doing what instinct told them, and even for what it didn’t. Ray had no instincts so his sympathy was just that. He couldn’t feign empathy.
He would soon be inside and away from all of the noise, all those people and all those flying shoulders, away from those things happening out in the mess. He looked at a poster: “Sometimes it’s good to be a sheep”, it read. He understood those words. He understood but he didn’t like it.
A boy went by singing like a bird, to the annoyance of his mother. That bird would be shot down eventually, Ray thought. With that, he could empathise.
“Make money fast” a smaller one said, further along the wall. Success, he thought, so he wouldn’t have to say sorry anymore. He didn’t even want money, he didn’t want to hear those annoying voices, the voices that said nothing but shouted so much, so close to tears, or so close to laughter, one or the other. Sometimes he did those things, quiet and away, with friends, in between saying sorry. He had friends. Or did they have him. They seemed to become his friends without his input and indifferent to his concerns.
He was just sitting there alone (said it again anyway) with only the hollow noise rising up the outside wall of that dirty block of flats. Nothing was happening in those flats, nothing at all, no life. All barren, musky death hanging around on the walls, put in frames, nailed into the plaster for temporary posterity, or carpeted wall-to-wall. Ray looked at the rug and saw its speckled surface rife with dead skin and dandruff and dust. It needed a good shaking out the window, like a lot of things, but that would be too much effort, even revolutionary to him. He played with its edge under his shoe.
For whatever reason he stood up. Oh, he said, opening and looking out the window, I feel as if the world is saying sorry to me too now (it wasn’t).
Oh you don’t have to do that, he said. His limp wrist shooed it away. He didn’t think it had to, he understood the things that happened and understood the things that were going to happen.
He opened the window a little wider and leaned out.
He said it, twice probably.
Grease wiped his brow with his fingers and took a bite into a medium-rare hamburger, somewhere.
Then the pavement apologised for missing.