Miranda's Dance

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Chapter Twenty-Six

Watch your back. That’s probably the best piece of advice you can give someone out here, especially at night. That’s why so many conversations end with it. “Watch your back” is the skid row equivalent of “Au Revoir.” It’s easy to say, but not so easy to do. Anyway, I’ve got my letter. I wish it sounded better. Hell, I wish it fucking looked better. I dripped a lot of blood on it. Just what you want on your suicide letter, huh? And my handwriting is for shit. Hey, do you want to hear something funny? I never had that cutesy, girlie writing that most girls had. You know, that pretty handwriting that you look at it and right away, you know it was written by a girl? There’s nothing feminine about my writing. It bothered me when I was a kid. My girlfriends all had this pretty writing with round, fat letters and they were all neat and the same size and everything. Mine was a mess. It looked like shit. It was practically chicken scratch. My dad used to say my handwriting looked like a doctor’s. By that, he meant that no one could read it. I once had a teacher who said my writing looked angry. She said it looked like I was forcing it onto the page. Maybe she was right? Maybe it was an indication of things to come, and I missed it? Oh, well. At least it’s legible. Charlie’s smart. He’ll be able to read it. Oh, that’s another amazing thing about Charlie: he’s older than fucking Moses, but he sees just fine. He doesn’t need glasses, even to read. I don’t know how he does it. When I was a kid, everyone over fifty seemed to need glasses. It’s a good thing he doesn’t, though. Glasses are a major headache out here. The missions sometimes have hand-me-downs, but not often. And if what they’ve got doesn’t work for you, then you’re fucked. Anyway, Charlie can read it. He can make sense out of it. Charlie can make sense out of anything – even me. It’s funny when you think about it: Charlie can make sense out of me, but I honestly don’t think that anyone else can. Sometimes I think even God can’t do that.

I should be happy that it’s mission accomplished, right? So why the hell am I still crying? Is it because of the letter? Sort of, I guess. It definitely stirred up some painful feelings. But I think it’s more because of what I did to T.C. I really fucked up with that one. It was like the last test of my life, and I fucked it all up. Someone beat the living shit out of me for no reason other than because I was weaker than him. Then I went and took it out on somebody who was weaker than me. That’s just fucking great, Miranda! On top of everything else, it turns out I’m a goddamned sadist. I had one last chance to prove that I wasn’t like that and I failed. I failed just like I failed at everything else. Now I know how Peter felt when he heard the cock crow for the third time. That’s when he knew he fucked up royally. That’s when he knew he failed the big test. He knew what he was supposed to do – hell, Jesus warned him about it – but he went and fucked it all up just to save his ass. I fucked it all up just make me feel better. I was so scared back there. When Ricky was wailing on me, I mean. I was so fucking scared. I’d have done anything he said just to make it stop. Anything. I sucked on that gun like I was sucking a dick dry just because I hoped he’d like it and let me go. It was humiliating, but I did it anyway. I’d have done whatever they wanted just to make it stop. Anything. I hate feeling like that. I’ve felt like that before and every time when it’s over, I just wanted to curl up and die. And that’s exactly what I made T.C. feel. I know he’s feeling it right now. I can’t make it stop. I can’t even tell him I’m sorry. I don’t know where to find him, and even if I did, I don’t have the time for it. I’m sorry, God. I’m sorry, T.C. I didn’t mean it. No, that’s a lie. I did mean it. That’s the problem. I was furious and humiliated and I wanted him to hurt just like I did. I wanted him to beg just like I did. I wanted him to be afraid just like I was afraid. And I did it. I did it and I got off on it just like Ricky. I’m no better than he is. I’m worse, because I knew better and I did it anyway. And in a couple of hours, I’m going to pay for it. Good! I fucking deserve whatever I get! I deserve worse than whatever I get. I’m a fucking disease; that’s what I am. I’m a fucking virus. Someone should just give me a great big shot of penicillin and fucking obliterate me!

“Hey, honey? Why you cryin’ like that?”

Oh, who the fuck is this? I’ve never seen him before. Just another homeless asshole, by the looks of him. God, just leave me alone! I can’t deal with this shit now!

“Go away!”

“Come on, honey. What’s goin’ on? Why you cryin’ here all by yourself.”

I don’t know who he is, but by the way he talks, he’s looking to get laid. He’s more likely to get castrated if he keeps it up!

“I said go away! Leave me alone!”

“I don’t think you want to be alone just now. Why don’t I sit here with you a while?”

“Go away! Go away! Go away! Leave me alone! Leave me the fuck alone!”

Well, that was pretty fucking psycho of me. Good! Maybe he’ll get the message?

“Hey, what’s your problem, bitch?”

I guess not. I’ll have to make it clear for him.

“You’re my fucking problem! Leave me the fuck alone!”

“Why don’t you come with me and we can…”

“Why don’t you go fucking kill yourself?”

If that doesn’t say “fuck off,” nothing will. But I don’t think he’s getting the message. I may wind up killing someone tonight after all.

“How’s about I straighten you out instead, bitch? Because it looks to me like you could use a good fucking!”

Oh, did you pick the wrong person to fuck with tonight, asshole! Where’s my knife? Right here! Open it up and get ready! Now let’s see how you like this, motherfucker!

“Don’t touch me! Don’t you ever fucking touch me!”

“Oh, shit! Take it easy, bitch!”

“Get away from me! I’ll cut your fucking balls off! I’ll do it! I swear I’ll do it!”

“Hey, take it easy! I was just askin’…”

Yeah, I know what you were asking, motherfucker! And this knife is my fucking answer!

“And I’m telling you, no! Get the fuck away from me!”

“Hey, I was just fucking around! I didn’t mean nothing!”

“Oh, you were just fucking around? Do I look like I’m fucking around? Do I?”

“Back off, honey! Just take it easy! Come on! Put that thing away!”

Keep your knife back! Don’t lead with it! Don’t let him grab it! If he makes a move, slash his lead arm and go for the first available target! Stick him in the gut or the back!

“Do you want to bleed, motherfucker?”


“I said, do you want to bleed? Do you want me to slit your fucking throat?”

“Fuck no! No! Hell, no!”

No, I didn’t think so! Fucking rapist! You’re a fucking coward, just like all of them!

“Then run!”


“I said run, motherfucker! Run!”

That’s it! Run, asshole! Run and keep running! Leave me alone! Everybody just leave me the fuck alone! And while you’re at it, go somewhere and die!

God, please let that be the last asshole I run into tonight! I think I’ve had a week’s worth of them already. And I ache too much to keep chasing them off. Yeah, this night is one for the fucking books. Jesus, it’s getting really cold. I guess it’s going to be an early winter. And those clouds look like they’re going to open up pretty soon. Great! Just great! The last night of my life and it’s fucking freezing and it’s going to rain like hell! Just fucking perfect! Hey, why not? Nothing ever went right in my life. Now it’s not going right in my death. It figures. Why should tonight be any different? Jesus, why the hell should I even give a shit? Who cares if I leave a wet corpse? I’ll dry off when they stuff my worthless ass into an incinerator and flush my ashes down the toilet. That’s a fitting end for me, don’t you think? OK, enough of this shit. I’ve lost too much time already. I’ve got to find Carl. I’ve got to get the letter to him. He’ll get it to Charlie. God, I ache everywhere! I just want to sit down. Hell, I just want to lie down! I want to fucking pass out! I’ve still got two of those pain pills I got from the fire station. Too bad they’re not much more than jellybeans. This is when you really wish they gave away Demerol. Still, I might as well take them. God, it hurts! It hurts everywhere! It’s bad enough I twisted my ankle. Now Ricky has to go and break every fucking bone in my body! And my eye is killing me! I just hope it doesn’t swell shut before the night’s over. You don’t want to walk around out here with one eye swollen shut. Trust me, I’ve done it before and it’s pretty fucking scary. You can’t afford to lose half of your vision. God, my head is pounding! It’s fucking killing me! Christ, get it together, Miranda! I need to focus. I need to keep my head straight. I have to find Carl. He said he’ll be on the couch behind the liquor store. Just get the letter to Carl and that’s it. I don’t have to do anything more than that. Well, I have to do one more thing, but that should be easy. I mean, all I have to do is jump, right? How hard can that be? Swing my legs over the wall and let go. Easy, right? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

It’s not too much further, thank God. All of this walking is killing me! A couple of hours ago, I was bitching about how much my ankle hurts. Now I’d give anything to feel that good. As bad as my head hurts, all of those kicks in the legs make walking pure fucking torture. I was hoping that some walking would actually help, but not this time. God, I am really fucked up! At least my eyesight’s back to normal. Well, almost normal. And I just can’t get over what I did to fucking T.C. I don’t know why. Yeah, I cut a nasty scar into his face, but it sure as hell isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done. So why is it kicking my ass now? All right, fuck this shit! I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I mean, why is this shit even bothering me? So I beat the shit out of someone weaker than me? So what? He had it coming. I had it coming. We’ve all got it coming. He’ll live. So will I. From the beat down, I mean. A beating doesn’t kill us. Not very often. A beating like that might have killed you, but not me. Not us. We’re not that lucky. We always recover so that someone can beat the living shit out of us again. It must be karma or something. Fuck! Why am I so torn up about this shit? Everyone out here takes their shit out on somebody; especially in this shithole. Why should I be any different? I mean, did I really think I was above torturing some useless piece of shit just because I could get away with it? Fuck, no! I always knew I wasn’t any better than anyone else out here. This is just more proof. I should just accept it. So I’m a fucking bitch? So what else is new? I’m the lowest of the low. I’m as fucked up as Ricky or anyone else. I’m the vilest piece of shit on God’s green earth and in a couple of hours, maybe He’ll send me straight to hell where I belong. Christ, I can see it now: I’ll show up and God will look down at me with this nasty look on his face and say, “What the fuck are you doing here? I saw what you did! I saw everything you did! I know every fucked-up little thought you ever had! Fuck you, Miranda! You think I’d let an evil piece of shit like you into paradise? Not a fucking chance! Go burn in the lake of fire for all eternity, bitch! And don’t go looking for someone to blame! You brought this on yourself! You got your ass beat and what did you do? You turned around and tortured someone else because you knew they couldn’t fight back! You didn’t do it because he deserved it! No, you did it because it made you feel good! You got off on it! Well, I hope it was worth it, bitch! Think about that while you’re roasting down there! And remember: it’s never going to end. Abandon all hope, you piece of shit! Serves you fucking right!” At least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I brought it on myself. No one else was to blame. Our destiny is pretty much what we make it. That’s not very comforting, is it? But it’s true.

Jesus, do you think God would actually talk like that? I think God is pretty much above profanity-laden rants. I hope so. On top of everything else, I don’t want to have to stand there and get motherfucked by God before he condemns me to hell for all eternity. That would be beyond humiliating. So anyway, I guess I can kiss heaven goodbye. God will probably let me see it for a few minutes, just so I’ll know what I’m missing. He did it to Moses, you know. He showed him the Promised Land, but he never let him in. In a way, he did it to everyone out here. I’m not kidding. Just look over there, up above the rooftops. Do you see them? I’m talking about the skyscrapers. They’re so damned beautiful at night. That’s another constant out here: wherever you are on skid row, the Emerald City is never out of sight. Paradise. The Promised Land. The place we can never go. The place we can see, but never touch. God, it’s so close. I can almost reach out and touch it. But I can’t. I know I can’t. That’s just how it is. It’s funny: with all the clouds moving in, the skyscrapers are pretty hazy. They’re like glowing white pillars of light in the distance. Almost like a ghost city or something. They’re surreal. I don’t like the way the skyscrapers look on really cloudy nights. I don’t know why. It’s like they’re more unapproachable somehow. They look almost mean. They look intimidating. It’s like they’re staring down from the mist and saying, “Keep out, Miranda. You’re not allowed. You don’t belong here and you never really did.” Don’t worry, guys. I got the message. The strange thing is, they look downright inviting on a clear night – the way they’re all lit up against a black sky. It’s like the stars in outer space. They’re so beautiful. Sometimes they actually do look like a space station in the blackness. God, they’re so close! I can almost touch them; even down here. It’s crazy when you think about it: the edge of the normal world starts over at Heller Plaza. It’s about eight blocks south and five blocks west of here. I could walk there in a few minutes. I could be in a place with clean sidewalks and benches to sit on and beautiful buildings with pretty things in the windows to look at. I could sit down on real grass. I could smell the shrubs along the walkways. I could enjoy the lighted pathways. I could lose myself in how quiet it is. I could almost forget this fucking place even exists. Yeah, right! And it would all last for about ten minutes until someone saw me and called the fucking cops! Then I’d get my ass kicked all over again, or maybe even lit up with a goddamned Taser! Yeah, I know the rules: stay in your fucking place, Miranda! You’re a junkie and you’re street scum. You don’t belong in the Emerald City. Maybe you did once, but not anymore. You had your chance. Now it’s too late. Once you end up here, this is your place for the rest of your miserable fucking life. And the rules say you have to stay in your place. You don’t ever cross the line. Not if you know what’s good for you. Not unless you want to shit sparks or bleed a whole lot.

Christ! Stop thinking about it already! Stop! Stop, already! Why the fuck do I do this to myself? Why can’t I leave it alone? Stop it! Stop thinking about what might have been! It’s useless! I’m just torturing myself! I can’t change what’s happened. No one can. There’s no such thing as a second chance at life. If there were, then this place wouldn’t exist. Skid row is living proof that you only get one chance in life. It exists because they have to have somewhere to dump the fucking rejects like me. Thinking about how things might have turned out if only things were different is a fucking waste of time. What was it Shakespeare said? The saddest words in the world are “It might have been?” Yeah, something like that. You’ll have to forgive me, but my memory’s a little fuzzy right now. Getting your head bashed in by a maniac does that to you. Anyway, he was right. And thinking about it just makes me miserable. But I keep doing it. You’d think I’d be smarter than that, but I’m not. I keep fucking torturing myself. Oh, what the hell? It doesn’t matter. I can’t change the past, and I can’t change the present, either. All I can do is choose to end the present. I can do that. I can put a stop to it once and for all. I can choose not to live like this anymore. I can make sure nothing like this will ever happen to me again. And I can make sure that nothing worse ever happens to me. That’s a good thing, right? It’s the only control I can hope for. I’m not strong enough to own my own life. I think that’s pretty obvious right now. I can’t compete with these animals. Not on their level. I’m still able to feel guilt, and that’s an unacceptable weakness out here. And if I can’t stop them from using me as they please, then the least I can do is deny them the chance to do it. That’s what I’m doing. I’m taking that last bit of control over my life. No one’s ever going to put their hands on me again. No one’s ever going to humiliate me like that again. Not after tonight. I can stop it tonight. And I will.

But fuck! I still can’t let go of what I did to T.C.! Christ, would you listen to me? “What I did to him.” God, I hate fucking euphemisms! All that trouble to avoid saying what you really mean! What I did to him is I kicked the living shit out of him and cut a thirty-stitch gash across his fucking face just to make myself feel better! I fucking terrorized him! I waved a knife right in his face and said I was going to kill him! Did you see how he was bleeding? I really hurt him! I scarred him for life! And then I fucking robbed him! Christ! I had no right to do that! I had no right to do that to him. It wasn’t his fault Ricky beat the shit out of me. Sure, he should have told me not to mention his name. And yeah, he set me up. But Ricky probably would’ve done it anyway, just for the hell of it. Besides, I know what a fucking pig Ricky is. I knew there was a better than average chance he’d fuck me up. But I did it anyway. I could’ve said no. I could’ve told T.C. to forget it. I could’ve found another way to get the money. No, I did a really stupid thing and got my fucking ass kicked for it. So I had to go be a bitch and kick the crap out of someone else just to make myself feel better. What am I going to do if T.C. ends up killing himself because he can’t stand being afraid like that? It’s possible. A lot of people out here kill themselves because they can’t stand being afraid anymore. Shit, I’m one of them! What am I going to do if I see him up there and I know he’s dead because I pushed him over the edge? How am I going to live with knowing I broke the poor guy just because I was fucking humiliated and I wanted to make someone else feel the same way? I only picked on him because he’s a pussy and I knew I could take him. That’s the same reason why people pick on me. God, I hate that! I hate it when people do that shit and I hate it even more when I do it! Jesus, look what it’s doing to me! Why? Why is this shit eating me up? Why can’t I just not give a shit like everyone else? Why can’t I just fucking abuse the shit out of people and not feel a fucking thing about it? I’ve been out here almost seven years. Why am I still so fucking soft? I’ve seen this place turn good people harder than steel in just a couple of months. Why not me? Why can’t I just look at these miserable assholes and never feel a goddamned thing? Why does it all have to rip me apart? Why does it make me feel so goddamned guilty?

Because I’m not built like them, that’s why. Even worse, I’m sort of hard-wired in the opposite direction. You see, the truth is I can’t stand to see someone in pain. I never could. I don’t mean metaphorically or anything. I mean really. I physically can’t stand it. I don’t mean physical pain. Seeing someone with a bad bone fracture or something might make me wince, but for the most part, I don’t get bothered by someone else’s physical pain. It’s probably because I know that physical pain passes, one way or another. No, it’s their emotional pain. I can’t stand to see someone when they’re really hurting inside. I’ve always been that way. I don’t know why. I just have. It really sucks. When I see someone that’s really suffering or miserable or so mortified that they just want to curl up and die, it’s as if whatever is happening to them is actually happening to me. It’s like empathy to some psychotic extreme. Christ, it’s like the shit you read about in ghost stories! And it hurts worse than real pain. I’m serious. It hurts worse than getting my ass kicked. I don’t understand it. I’ve just been that way my whole life. I remember trying to explain it to my stupid shrink when I was a teenager. You know what he said? He said I shouldn’t let things get to me so much. That was his professional advice. What a fucking idiot! Did he think this was something I could control? Did he think I wanted to be like this? Did he really think I was letting other peoples’ pains tear my guts out on purpose? Because I’m a fucking masochist or something? No problem, Miranda. Just don’t let it bother you so much. Brush it off. Yeah, right! Is that what they taught you in ten fucking years of college? Just don’t let it get to you? What a stupid motherfucker! That’s like when some athlete gets his goddamned shoulder ripped out of the socket and the stupid fucking coach tells him to just walk it off. Do they really think you can eliminate that much pain just by ignoring it? For that matter, do they think you can somehow just ignore pain? Give me a fucking break! You don’t have any control over it! Christ! Everyone knows that! Fucking shrinks! Hey, here’s a news flash for you: I don’t have any control over how I get torn up by seeing someone in pain! Hell yes, I’d stop it if I could. But I can’t, and that’s that. So unless you people have a pill for that one, you can go fuck yourselves!

Now I’m really worried. I’m all busted up. I’m hurt bad. Am I going to be able to finish this? Am I going to make it? I honestly don’t know. I’m a fucking mess! It hurts to breathe! God, I ache everywhere! I could have some broken bones. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a concussion. My vision’s a lot better, but it’s still blurry. That’s a sure sign of a concussion; especially after you got your head bashed in. Fuck! Ricky really did a number on me! It makes sense when you think about it: Ricky’s always been one of my biggest fears out here; ever since the day I met him. So who better to totally fuck up my plans? He’s made my life in hell a living hell, so why not fuck up my death, too? Fucking asshole! God, how I hate him! What the fuck, God? How can you let someone that fucking evil stay alive? How do you not strike someone like that down with a fucking lightning bolt? You know he fucking deserves it! Kill him! Just fucking kill him! Kill him and send him to hell where the devil can fuck him up the ass for all eternity! He deserves it! You know he does!

Jesus, would you listen to me? I’m telling God who to kill just a few hours before I’m going to be staring him in the face! That’s not just arrogance. That’s almighty stupid fucking arrogance! Don’t I have enough sins to account for already? Aren’t I in enough trouble? And here I am, making it worse! I beat the hell out of the only person weaker than me and I did it because I wanted to. I wanted him to hurt as much as I did, and now he does. Now he’s bleeding and aching and crying just like I am. Now he’s just as terrified and miserable as I am. And no matter how much he deserved it, that didn’t give me the right to make him that way. Yeah, he fucked me over. But when you’re just a few hours away from death, you don’t want to go fucking with God’s rules. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. So what did I just do? I avenged myself on a miserable little piece of shit that couldn’t fight back. As banged up as I am, I could still take him easy and I knew it. And I did it. Another sin for my ledger. I should’ve cut him a break. He didn’t deserve one, but maybe it would’ve scored me some points with God. I need them. I’ve got a whole catalog of sins to be forgiven as it is. And I’m still not sure that killing myself isn’t the one that won’t be forgiven.

I’m afraid of God. I always have been. I think it’s because I was taught that he does everything for a reason, and so I must be all fucked up and living on the street for a reason. I know I did a lot of this to myself, but I didn’t make myself crazy. I didn’t set myself apart from everyone else. I didn’t try to fail at everything I ever did. No, there had to be another hand in it. I never believed that it was the devil’s. From what I understand, the devil doesn’t fuck with people directly. He just gives us enough rope to hang ourselves with, and then stands back and watches while we do. He gets a kick out of it. No, he didn’t do this to me. So who’s left? God. He must’ve had a hand in it, and that means he must have his reasons. I must’ve done something to deserve this. I don’t know what, but it must’ve been something. I’ve often thought that all of the shit I’ve been through was me paying for some horrible transgression I committed. I don’t know what it could’ve been. Maybe it was from a previous life? It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is whether I’ve suffered enough in this life to atone for whatever I did. And I’m scared to death that I haven’t. And now I’ve added one more to the list. If that doesn’t prove I’m crazy, then nothing will.

Is God going to hold it all against me? Is he going to say that whatever’s wrong with my brain doesn’t excuse anything that I’ve done? Is he going to hold me to the same standard that he holds all of the normal, well-adjusted people to? If he does, then I’m fucked. I’m eternally fucked. I might as well start getting used to burning in a river of fire for eternity. That scares the living shit out of me. The idea of trading this hell for one that’s infinitely worse is more than I can bear. They say God never gives you more than you can bear, but the truth is that he does. He does it all the time. The Bible says he never lets you get tempted more than you can handle, but dumping shit on you that can crush you? That happens every day. You know I’ve read the Bible. The book of Job? That’s exactly what happened to him. Job didn’t do anything wrong and look what happened to him. And when he called God on it, God didn’t say he was sorry or try to explain it to him. No, he was massively pissed off. He made it clear to Job that God does what God does and people just deal with it. Let me tell you: when you’ve led as miserable a life as I have, those are some of the scariest words you’ll ever read. I wish I’d never read it. But I did, and as they say, you can’t un-ring the bell. Please, God! Don’t hold it all against me! You know I’m sorry! You know it! I fucked up. I get it. I admit it. It’s just…I’m a mess. I’m damaged goods. It stands to reason that I was going to make a lot of bad choices. It’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation. It’s all I’ve got. Please let it be enough.

I guess I should cut that shit out. Begging God doesn’t help. If it did, then I wouldn’t be here right now. I’ve been begging him for years and it never did any good. I know he can hear me, but I’ve never heard an answer. And why should he bother to answer me? What did I ever do for him? He’s got better things to do that worry about a piece of shit like me. Even I know that much. As long as he gives me a pass, I’ll be happy. Hell, I’ll be ecstatic. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

I need to sit down for a minute. Just for a minute. I really don’t have time for more than that. Christ, my fucking legs feel like they’re going to buckle under me! It’s bad enough to get kicked in the legs half a dozen times, but it’s worse when the asshole does it with cowboy boots! Those fucking pointy toes really do a number on you! I’m glad I won’t be around tomorrow morning to see all of the fucking bruises Ricky gave me. God, I’d be black and blue from head to toe! I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. And since I wouldn’t have a bed to get out of anymore, it would suck even worse. I don’t know if you’ve ever slept on concrete – let alone slept on it after you got your ass kicked – but it makes every little ache and pain feel a million times worse. And these are no little aches and pains! They’re fucking agony! Damn! I should’ve kept that dope I got for T.C.! I could’ve shot it and felt a hell of a lot better! No, I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to slam on my last night on earth. I wanted to have a clear head – or at least as clear as I can ever have. And I wanted to meet God face to face with a clear head. I don’t know if the dope would’ve followed me into the next life, but I didn’t want to take any chances. You should meet your maker with a clear head. He’s going to put you on the spot, and you need a clear head to respond. Besides, I don’t think God thinks very highly of junkies and other dope heads. From what I’ve heard, he’s got no tolerance for fools. He doesn’t tolerate their bullshit. I’m in enough trouble with him as it is.

Just sit and try to breathe. That’s it. Just breathe. Don’t think about the pain. Fuck! I don’t have to think about it! It’s got my undivided fucking attention right now! It’s like I can feel damn near every fucking bone in my body jabbing me from within! And my head! Jesus fucking Christ! My head’s pounding like you wouldn’t believe! But I can take it. I can handle it. It’s happened before. Thank God it’ll never happen again. Not after tonight. I guess I should look on the bright side: this is without a doubt the last ass-kicking I’ll ever have to live through. Hooray for me! Another milestone in my miserable fucking life! Why the hell do they all have to be bad? Why do they all have to be so fucking rotten? What happened to all of the good milestones I was supposed to have in my life? Oh, who the fuck am I kidding? I was never supposed to have any. The good times in my life ended shortly after I hit double digits. I think I used all of mine up by the time I was twelve. How’s that for a life that’s not worth living? Whoever said that living is always better than dying should be forced to go through what I’ve gone through tonight. Or for the last few years. That would change their tune in a fucking heartbeat.

Hey, do you want to hear something really stupid? I’d really like to pet a dog right now. I feel horrible and I can’t stop crying and every time I look at these pages I wrote, I start crying even more. I need to get out of my head, and that’s no easy feat for me. Petting a dog always made me feel better. It got me out of my head. Too bad. There aren’t any dogs around at this hour, unless you count the police dogs. I don’t want to pet one of those. They bite people like me. They get paid to do it. Still, I’d love to pet a dog one last time before I die. That’s not asking for too much, is it? But it isn’t going to happen. That’s pretty much the story of my life.

Oh, hell! We’ve got company! And it’s not good company! See those three guys over there, down the street? The two white guys and the black guy? Yeah, I know them. Well, I know about them. They’re serious assholes. They wander around at night, looking for someone to beat the shit out of. If they see me – especially looking like this – they’ll pounce on me. Guaranteed. First, they’ll beat the shit out of me. Then they’ll take turns raping me. I know for a fact that they’ve got a bunch of rapes under their belts. It wouldn’t be the first time they tried to add me to their collection. I need to get the fuck out of here! Quick, before they see me! Oh, God! It hurts! It fucking hurts to stand up! I feel like my legs are going to buckle under me! Forget about it! Forget the pain! Fight through it! Focus! Move! Move your ass, Miranda! There’s no way in hell you can take those three! No fucking way! Move it!

Where do I go? There’s not many hiding places around here. Fuck! I need to get out of sight! They’re headed this way! They haven’t seen me yet, but they will! Where can I go? Over there! Between the dumpsters! I can hide out there!

God, it hurts to walk! I can’t run! No fucking way! It hurts too much! I can walk. I can still walk. Walk fast! Get it in gear, Miranda! Move it! Go! It’s not much further! Just don’t think about the pain! Move it! Oh, fuck! I think they saw me!

“You, dudes! There’s someone over by that doorway!”

Yeah, they saw me all right! Hurry! Duck down! I don’t think they saw me go behind these things! Get my knife ready! If they make a move for me, I’m going to have to take them out as fast as I can! Jesus Christ! My visions getting blurry again! Not now! Please, God! Not now! Fuck! Here they come!

“What did you see, bro? There’s nobody over here!”

“I know I saw somebody!”

“I think you been smoking; that shit too much! You’re seein’ shit!”

Listen to him, asshole! Just keep walking! There’s nobody here! Just keep going! Fuck! They’re not moving! I think they believe their friend! God damn it! No more! Please, God! No fucking more!

“Yo, dude! Check it out! I told you I saw somebody! There’s blood on the ground! Check it out! Fresh blood!”

Damn it! Now they know there’s someone around here! I’m fucked! I’m going to have to fight! I’ll hit the fat guy first and then go for the white guy. The tall one. He looks a little fucked up, like maybe he’s drunk. That’ll leave the one in the black t-shirt. He’s big. He looks like the strongest. He’ll be the hardest one to take down. Better to face him alone than with his friends.

“Check around, bro! They may be lurkin’ around here somewhere!”

I see he’s giving the orders, too. He’s definitely their leader. The strongest one always is. Just a little closer. They’re almost here. Go for the fat guy first. He’s in the lead. He’s the one who saw my blood. If he moves the dumpster, slash him right across the top of his hand. Cut deep! Just like Charlie and Sid taught me! Hurt him and take out his weapon! His hand! Take out his hand and then go for one of his legs! Knock him out of the fight right away! Once he’s down and can’t get up, I can move on to the next one!

“Dude, check between them dumpsters!”

All right! Here we go! A little closer and I hit him! Wait for the…oh, shit! We’ve got someone else! I don’t fucking believe it! That’s Moe! That’s fucking Moe! What’s he doing over here? Oh, this is some fucked-up shit! He’s a total fucking psycho! He throws shit at passing cars and attacks people for no fucking reason! Yeah, he’s fucking tinfoil hat crazy! This is going to get ugly, fast!

“Motherfuckers! What the fuck you be doin’ on my block?”

There he goes! Look at him! He’s totally out of control! He’s fucking foaming at the mouth crazy! Oh, shit! He’s got one of his cinder blocks! He’s going to attack those guys! He’s going to take on all three of them! Fucking psycho!

“Eat my shit, motherfuckers!”

Jesus Christ! He fucking nailed him! He whacked the strong guy right over the fucking head! He didn’t even see it coming! Oh, fuck! He fucking bashed his head in! He’s fucking down! Down and out! He’s not moving! He’s not moving at all! I think he might’ve killed him! And now he’s going after the other two! What a psycho motherfucker! Jesus fucking Christ! Those other two assholes had better start running!

“You fucking asshole! You’re fucking dead!”

So says the white guy! The fat guy’s running for his life! Smart move, motherfucker! Moe’s a hell of a lot stronger than he looks! He’s fucking crazy strong! I know! I’ve seen him fuck up guys twice his size! Jesus Christ! The white guy’s still going after him! Stupid motherfucker! Moe’s going to kill his ass!

“I’m gonna kill you, you psycho nigger!”

“What the fuck did you just call me, white boy? Fuck you! I’ll kick your motherfuckin’ white boy ass and shit in your motherfuckin’ mouth, motherfucker!”

That guy’s a fucking idiot! He’s going to get killed! Even from here, I can see Moe’s got a knife! That asshole’s got nothing! He’s going to get killed for sure! Oh, fuck! Moe got him! Right across the gut! He fucking slammed him! I could hear it from here! That’s got to be a deep wound! Jesus fucking Christ! That asshole’s guts are going to spill out!

“God damn it! You motherfucker! You’re fucking dead, nigger! I’ll fucking kill you!”

Don’t antagonize him, asshole! You’re hurt bad! You can’t fight with your gut slashed open like that! Just run! You don’t have a fucking chance! He’ll kill you for sure! Run!

“You want some more, white boy? Eat this shit, motherfucker!”

Fuck! He got him again! Right across the face! There’s blood flying everywhere! That’s got to be down to the fucking bone! Oh, that asshole’s fucked! He’d better get the fuck out of there before Moe sticks him! Run, you stupid motherfucker! The fight’s over! You lost! Save yourself! Oh, shit! Too late! He got him! He stuck him! Moe stuck him! Right in the gut! That’s a bad one! That’s a fucking kill shot! Holy shit! I can see the blood pouring out from here! Run, you stupid motherfucker! You don’t stand a fucking chance! Get the fuck out of there while you still can! A hit like that? You’re fucking finished! You’re a dead man! Run for your fucking life!

Shit! He can’t run! He’s too badly hurt! No way can he run with a hole in his gut like that! It’s all he can do to keep standing up! He’s fucking finished! Moe’s going in for the kill! God, I don’t want to watch! Oh, Jesus! He got him again! Right in the side! All the way to the fucking hilt! He’s fucking dead! He’s fucking dead for sure! No fucking way can he survive a hit like that one! Yeah, he’s down! He’s down for good! He’s not moving! I think he’s dead! He’s got to be dead! Two hits in the gut like that? No way can he survive that shit!

“You like that shit, motherfucker? Motherfuckin’ white boy motherfucker! You don’t fuck with my ass, motherfucker! That’s what you get! That’s what you get when you fuck with my ass! You don’t come around my block! This shit is my fuckin’ block! You hear me, boy?”

No, he doesn’t hear you! He’s fucking dead! And Moe gives him a few good kicks just for the hell of it! Yeah, that motherfucker’s dead! He didn’t even flinch when Moe kicked him! He’s fucking dead! Just like that! He’s fucking dead! The other guy’s not moving, either. He might just be knocked out. God, is Moe going to finish him off, too? No, he’s leaving. He’s leaving like it’s nothing in the world. Jesus Christ! He just killed that guy! He may have killed two guys! And he just walks away like nothing happened!

All right, Moe’s already halfway down the street. I can get out of here. I don’t know how long it’ll take for the cops to show up, but they’ll show up sooner or later. I can’t be around when they do. If they see me, they’ll probably think I did it. And even if they don’t, they’ll drag me back to the police station as a witness. I can’t let that happen. I have to get out of here. Hurry! Don’t think about the pain! Watch the blood! Don’t step in it! Don’t leave any footprints! Don’t get any of it on my shoe! I don’t want them telling my mom and dad I was at the scene of a murder on the night I died. They might tell them I did it. That would kill them. Be careful! That’s it! Get the fuck out of here! Now!

I’m clear! I’m in the clear! Holy fucking shit! I need to catch my breath! Jesus Christ! That’s something you never get used to: watching somebody die. I’ve seen it more times than I can count, but I never really got used to it. Well, I promised to show you everything on skid row. You’ve just seen a murder. It’s a pretty common occurrence out here, but it’s still pretty horrible to watch. God damn! I knew Moe was fucking crazy and I’d heard that he’d killed a few people before, but that was fucking unbelievable! I thought he only threw shit at cars! So much for that idea! He used that knife like a fucking expert! As soon as he saw an opening, he hit it! No hesitation! He knew exactly what he was doing! And to think, I’ve been within arm’s reach of that crazy son of a bitch on plenty of occasions! If I’d only known!

I guess I’m not surprised that happened. Everything else has gone wrong tonight, so why not see some asshole get killed right in front of me? Like I said, it’s happened before. More than once. And out here, what you saw is pretty much how it goes: life isn’t worth jack shit. People get killed over the most ridiculous shit all the time. You don’t even have to do anything for someone to kill you. You just have to be there. That’s what this place is all about. It’s not a question of why should you kill someone. It’s a question of why not kill them? I mean, what are they going to do to Moe? He’s totally fucking psychotic. If the arrest him, there’s no way in hell he’d go to trial. They’d lock him up in the nut house for the rest of his life. And as crazy as he is, he probably wouldn’t even notice it. He probably wouldn’t care. He sure as hell didn’t care about killing that guy and bashing the other guy’s brains in, did he? Hell, no! And nobody out here ever does!

Why do we do this to each other? Why the fuck don’t we all just leave each other alone? Like those three assholes. Why did they go around beating the shit out of people for no reason? They were homeless, just like the rest of us. They were no better or worse off than anyone else out here. So why go around torturing people? Why not leave everybody alone and just deal with your own shit? I don’t know. They do it because they can. That’s the best answer I’ve got for you. You can kill, so you kill. You can rape, so you rape. You can terrorize, so you terrorize. They say it’s the law of the jungle, but that’s a load of bullshit. Animals in the jungle don’t do this kind of shit. They kill for food. When they’re not hungry, they leave the other animals alone. But not us. Not out here. We kill for the fun of it. We kill for the hell of it. Life doesn’t mean shit. People don’t mean shit. You’re angry and frustrated or just plain crazy, so you take it out on somebody else. Because you can. And the victims? They’re just targets of opportunity. Those assholes would’ve killed me if Moe hadn’t happened along. But he did, and he killed one of them. Maybe two? He’d have killed all three if he could’ve. Because he can. Welcome to my world. Oh, brave new world that has such people in it. What in God’s name have we become?

And the truth is, I’m no different. I’m as vile as those three assholes back there. I just don’t give into it as easily. But how is what they did any different from what I did to T.C.? And as for Moe? He scares me in more ways than one. Sometimes I think I’m only a hop, skip, and a jump away from being just like Moe. That always scared me because I knew it was true. It could happen. I’ve come close a few times. The stress got so unbearable that I thought that all it would take it one little push to send me over the edge. And then I’d never come back. Not ever. You don’t get better once you join the tinfoil hat club. I’d be out here for years – maybe even decades – and I wouldn’t even be aware of it. I’d be in some horrible world where I’d have no control over anything. I wouldn’t even have the presence of mind to kill myself. Having lived through a few psychotic breaks over the years, I’ve come to realize that completely losing your mind is one of the worst hells there is. It’s like demonic possession: you check out and a demon takes over your body. So what happens to you? What happens to your identity when your mind completely snaps? I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does. Even Charlie couldn’t answer that question. I know because I asked him. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned out here, it’s that if Charlie doesn’t know the answer to a question, then you want to stay as far away from that question as possible. It’s definitely sound advice. So we’re all evil. We’re all the scum of the earth. And once you get past the appearances, you realize that there are no divisions among us when it comes to how bad we are. One of us is just as bad as the next. Some of us just do a better job of hiding that fact. Appearances really can be deceiving. And out here, being deceived can get you killed.

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