. . .
“It was at the street corner that I saw him for the first time. A young boy, expressionless, ghostlike crystal pale eyes. I thought he was dead, day after day he’d be at the exact same place on my morning commute. No one ever made a fuss about him and I found it so entirely odd that he just sat there endlessly everyday. He looked about sixteen, wearing a labcoat much larger than he could ever grow into. His hair mangled in a bun held together by a bit of string and he kept that dirt a third grader might consider a moustache untame and unkempt for far longer than since I started to see him at the street corner.
Everyday when I’d head to work at my lab, he’d be there. On my way back, as I made my way to a nearby corner store to pick up some cup noodles for a midnight bite. He would always be there. I broke the cycle of observation one day when I decided I wanted to be part of the story; so, I walked up to the kid and asked him.
“Hello?” he stared blankly.
“Do you have a name?” I asked. No reply. I waved my hand in front of his eyes hoping for his pupils to at least follow my hand around. It’s as though the kid was dead. So I did what any born scientist would do and poked the kid. What was he going to do really, bite me? I had to find out what was up with him. I left my half empty cup noodles at his side and walked home.
The next morning I went out to the corner by the bus stop, and not to my surprise he was still there. In the same spot as he always is. I dared stand closer to him than I normally do, come to think of it- I went to the bus stop early that day. I’m still not sure why I did. When I looked closer however, the cup of noodles was full. Well, not full as in it had- I don’t know how to explain it well, but it was more than full. To the brim, it was almost running through the top of the cup with how much it was full. Even yet, the kid stared blankly at nothing, never moving out of position. I swear it sounds crazy but you have to understand that is what I saw, I can’t stress that enough. It’s not as though it rained last night and the cup was full of rainwater, you know? The cup was full of ramen too!
I decided to ignore it that day, it made no sense to me. So I went to work at my lab as I always do. Of course work ends eventually and you have to snap back to reality right? I went home that day, I don’t think I saw the kid at the bus stop when I arrived there though, my memory’s a bit faded. He was probably there though, staring off with his goat eyes as he always does.
Yet again that night I felt hungry and went out for another cup ramen at the corner. I saw the kid sitting there as I walked into the store, and I saw him again when I stepped out. My hand gripped harder around the warm styrofoam cup. I almost felt as though there were eyes on me. Was the kid sitting differently today? I never really would’ve noticed if he ever moved subtly and now I’m worried about his eyes. Have I ever seen him blink? Questions like those were setting in at a degree faster than I had prepared myself for. I walked up to him again.
“Hey kid, are you alright?” I said that because quite honestly I had no idea what else there was to say, maybe that was what I wanted to hear myself, “are you forced to be out here like some kind of joke?” I even sat next to him. He paid no mind at all, it felt like heaven. Suddenly sitting at that corner at one in the morning that day, I felt peace of mind. Like nothing mattered other than staring off into whatever that kid was looking at. I tried following his pale eyes setting their focus at the bus stop, never looking away for not even a second. Perhaps he sat there always waiting for someone to get off the bus, maybe his father? Or even an older brother? I tried testing my hypothesis, and no. The kid does not blink, I personally found it horrifying. I left whatever was left of my cup noodles there and went home to get some rest.
On my way home I wondered about his lab coat, it was awfully dirty. Wished I could’ve gotten it cleaned out for him sometime, but never did. Two-thirty AM that morning I fell asleep. I have dreams often but this one stuck out. It was about a kid putting on a pair of self-made moccasins for the first time. Like trying a new skin it felt heartwarming but chilling. Not knowing exactly where the leather for those moccasins came from I tried not to let it get to me. There was a feeling of deja vu, I guess. Dreams don’t mean anything, that’s what I tell myself. It would be foolish to think otherwise.
I went to the bus stop that morning and, as expected: the kid was still there. At this point, this matter goes above work and I have plenty of sick days to spend away. I went up to the kid and noticed the cup at his side. Yet again full to the brim and I dared not question it.
“That’s a nice labcoat you have there, would be a shame to keep it in that condition right?” I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t get a response. I asked him for the coat, promising him I’d clean it and bring it back to him. At this point I didn’t understand why I was still talking to someone so obviously not going to respond. Maybe it was just out of formality, for the sake of conversation. The kid didn’t try to stop me when I took the labcoat off him and walked away with it.
“I’ll go clean this for ya, alright? You stay here, unless you want to come along.” No response. Again, not sure what more I expected.
Skipping work that day I went to my apartment complex and went downstairs to the laundry room. It cost me two quarters but I tossed the labcoat in the washer and waited a good forty minutes before taking it and happily tossing it into the dryer. I was happy that day. It felt good to do something nice for someone else and I guess it just made me appreciate life more. Maybe I’ll even start drinking less, I know that’s been a bad habit of mine for so long. Finally the blank stare of my life was coming to an end I thought to myself, things were looking better and this clean labcoat is a marker of that. I’m glad.
Once the coat was done drying I made my way back to the street corner where I saw the kid for the first time. Reality hit me all too soon when I noticed he wasn’t there. In fact, no one was there, no one was allowed there. Cautionary warnings all over the place, I felt lost. Was that blood on the concrete? Where’s the kid, and why were the police all there? I had no explanation, I ran in crying and begging them to let me know what happened. I didn’t even know the kid, it didn’t make sense, why was there such a big scene!”
The cop stared at me, I was in a room with him now and that was my testimonial. There was a recording of me at the bus stop on repeat. It was an innocent kid just going to the corner for some cup noodles and suddenly it made sense to me. I started tearing up, knowing what was next. It was a clip of a man sucking off a fifth and slurring his way through the streets. He was yelling and cussing at a child that never existed or rather one that lived in his memories, there was never a kid at the street corner, until the day came by where there happened to be a kid there. A chance mistake that should’ve never been noteworthy. Details aren’t necessary of what happened to the kid, but the man took off his bloody labcoat after and walked away calmly to his apartment. When he came back there was nothing more to say, all that was left was a cup full of noodles and the spotless labcoat of drunken regret.