I heard the shot as I was looking at his face, or at least I think that was how it happened, sequentially. I remember his head as a bit of a blur, as if it were moving just a bit fast for my senses, like the bullet that penetrated the adjacent brick and sent clay shards to scrape the left arm of his jacket. The speed of sound is slow, I remember from school, and because of that the audible crack of the shot gave me no clue to the distance of the shooter. Human reaction is slow as well, at least in stunned surprise, and if there was intent to aim and fire again then he was a goner, standing as he was perpendicular to but still against a wall, a blind man sent to a firing squad.
There was no second shot, just a disoriented mumble, and maybe a stumble, as the event came and passed. Mostly it felt like silence, though I must have heard the trickle of brick parts as they hit the pavement, but it seemed a long time before he said “What the hell…”. I grabbed the unscathed sleeve of his leather and pulled him around the corner into an alley where we ran like we did when we were kids. Thank God for Chicago alleys, always our hideouts, now our escape route. In the passage we went from numbness past fear and into silliness, laughing by the time we’d traveled a city block and out a side alley, into a busy diagonal intersection. We aimed to get lost in a crowd, but finding only small groups, we serpentined in and around until we ducked into a diner. We had a few bucks so we ordered coffee and fries, and examined the scars on his left sleeve through the cigarette smoke rising from the ashtray between us. Outside it began to drizzle, and I didn’t know why but I thought that if it was to become a hard rain, I would run outside and stand in it, my face turned up against the deluge.
The beret was raspberry and she bought it before anyone ever heard that song. She wore it on the back of her head in an ecclesiastical fashion, and she imagined the office of it all, the feeling of being separate, a tad off, different. On cloudy days like this her skin looked blue and she liked the way that complimented the color of her millinery find. To pump up the effect she wore raspberry lipstick as well, applying it throughout the afternoon within little vignettes she’d direct; next to the phone booth, bending to the chrome-framed side mirror of a parked car, in the window of the coffee shop where that beautiful man-child worked. There she’d feign absent-mindedness and linger a bit after she’d placed the cartridge back in her patent leather clutch, sometimes pulling at her sleeve a bit in an oh-so-cute way. She imagined herself fifty years older and doing the same thing, in a version of the same ensemble, and still not knowing whether she and the man-child would ever be together. She’d feel a strange pain in her hip joint.
Time for a movie, she thought. She knew a way to sneak in through the alley, so she didn’t have to pay, as she wasn’t working. She only worked when she had to, and she didn’t have to, not with her imagination, her raspberry things, and a way to get into the movies for free. She’d eat the complementary happy hour food at the club, and then sew her landlady’s curtains for this month’s rent. She’d take the remnants and make herself a skirt, maybe dye it indigo. Raspberry and indigo; she liked that, cool names for two adorable children. She wondered if the man-child would like to have a family…