Most people consider the brutal temperatures of winter to be the harshest. The frigid wind whistling through the canyons has taken its deadly toll, no question. Seems like every year, he loses a friend to its cruel indifference to life.
But, so far, he has been able to survive the hungry appetites of winter. It’s this gawd-awful heat that threatens to consume him. It is everywhere, oozing around corners, filling every inch of space with its suffocating presence. In winter, he can always find shelter from the cold if he looks hard enough. But today, he can find no shelter from this monster which will surely devour his flesh, having roasted it to perfection first, of course.
Every time he really thinks about this sorry state he has come to, he is surprised all over again. In his heart, he still thinks of himself as the big time big deal he was. Wall Street hotshot. Not just any Wall Street hack, but the best. Oh, yeah. He was that guy who walked by a few minutes ago, all crisp and cool in his tailored
Bond Street summer-weight suit and Italian butter-soft leather shoes. And like that guy, hurrying to his destiny in the bright sun, he’d been blind to the future that awaited him, sleeping in what little shade he could find in doorways and under park benches.
He’d never seen it coming. He thought they were too blind to catch on. One day, he’s on top of the world. The next day, he’s at the bottom of the heap. On the way down, he’s lost everything. First his license and the job, followed closely by his reputation. Then his Ferrari and the
Park Avenue apartment. And finally, his wife, who took what little remained with her when she left.
Mostly, though, he doesn’t think about all that. He thinks about where to sleep awhile before the cops roust his ass and tell him to move on. He thinks about where to find food still good enough to eat. And he thinks about begging for enough change to buy himself a bottle of cheap booze to carry him though until he’s forced to think about these things again.
He finds a patch of marble steps not too hot to sit on in the alley in back of the Exchange and he settles in to eat lunch. He has managed to find a half eaten hamburger than hasn’t begun to rot yet, and even better, filled his water bottle from the hydrant they opened for the kids. He’s grateful that the kids were blind to the bum who joined them under the spray. City kids have seen it all.
He sets down his ragged bundle of belongings, and begins to lay a few scrounged newspapers on the step to protect his backside from the hot surface. As he spreads out the papers, a headline from today’s front page catches his eye: