Dave Shutters stood in a Hollywood alleyway on a cold Tuesday night, looking down at a body.
It was not a pleasant sight. The body was scrawny, wasted, from an extraordinary run of bad luck. The needle in the arm represented an attempt to escape from that bad luck. Looking back, not a particularly wise attempt. When one has quit, and then goes back with the same dosage from before... well, he thought he would be the one to defy that old story. Better men than him had thought so too.
Dave felt pretty good now, though. With the fairly large complication that he had this body to deal with.
Should he go back into it? Isn't that what you were supposed to do? To signify your willingness to power through, to rise above, to surpass all problems?
A person entered the alley. Dave could hear high heels rattling percussively in the damp, cold silence. Inhibited, he tried to shield the body from view, to play it off like everything was cool, like he was just standing there.
The woman, for that's what it was, a woman in dark makeup and leather and boots, came closer. The clocking sound of her heels slowed. Dave wished he had a cigarette, he would just smoke and like look away, all casual and she would just not notice anything unusual. She was probably just some party girl on her way from here to there anyway. People like her didn’t like to speak to strange men standing alone in such a place at such a time, surely.
She didn't go by, though. She stopped. Approached.
Dave continued looking away, but he could feel her nearness. He thought it was a bit rude of her to do this, but he had to turn and face her.
He turned to face her.
She was looking at his body, lying there.
Oh right, she can't see me, he realized. Obviously she can't see me. He stepped aside as she got too close. He didn’t want her to go through him. That'd be weird.
She knelt down, a visage of compassion and sadness. Slowly she reached out a tattooed arm with two long-nailed fingers which she placed at the carotid artery of his body's neck. Feeling for a pulse. She found none.
Dave watched her. He felt sad. As if he was intruding on something that had nothing to do with him at all.
"So sad," she mused. Exactly, thought Dave. That body would just sit here now, for god knows how long. Alone and unloved. Nothing new, really.
The girl pulled out her phone and dialed. Put it to her ear. "Yeah, hi, I'm in an alley off Franklin. There's a dead guy here." She listened. "O.D.'d, judging by the needle in his arm." Listened. "No ma'am, this isnt a joke." Listened. "I really don't want to, I got places to--". Listened. Finally just hung up.
She put her phone away in her jacket. Straightened up.
"Well, that's that, I guess," she said.
Then she looked at Dave. Not the body, the guy who was still standing there.
"You want to wait around for this?"
Dave looked around. Did she see him?
"Yeah, you. You want to wait around? It's kind of a closure for some people."
"Huh? Are you--"
"--talking to you, yes I am. I mean, if you had no friends or family, they're gonna cremate the body and then save it up for this mass burial they have every year. L.A. buries their unclaimed, unknown dead at this cemetery downtown. On 1st street. Early December every year, on a Wednesday. Open to the public." She looked at her watch. "Oh hey, it's Wednesday now, isn't it?" She looked at him. "I know, that's irrelevant. You don't have to speak if you don't want to or can't."
"I can speak."
Sirens sounded in the distance. "Damn, that was fast," she said. "Come on."
She walked off. He lingered, looking at his body. The only body he'd ever known. He felt so sad to leave it. He'd never given it much thought before, but now that the time had come to leave it, he wasn't sure he could.
"Best just to make a clean break," she prompted. "Come on."
Still he lingered.
"Dave...you're dead. All things considered, it's not the worst thing that's ever happened."
He looked at her.
"Trust me." She beckoned. Walked off.
Finally, he followed.