We walk across the street at a pace that would make you think we were trying to not get hit by a car, even though the street is empty. There is no one around. We are not being chased.
I take Allison’s hand again, in my right, and guide her toward 11th Avenue. We walk down 11th against traffic. It’s a one-way street, so we see every car coming our way. Nothing, or no one, can drive upon us from behind. This I find pleasing. We go left on K Street in silence. At 12th Avenue, we see two different lights coming at us, slowing down about a block away, waiting for a stoplight.
It’s the trolley.
We jog across the street and get ourselves in position at the stop. A pack of homeless people rustle and murmur against a dead building. Something about a cigarette, some change, a veteran. Uncharacteristically, I take one of Allison’s smokes out of my jacket and give it to a guy so charred from living on the street it’s impossible to tell his ethnicity. He’s immersed in cardboard and a blanket.
Need a light, too? I ask.
He grumbles something.
What? I say, pulling out the lighter and illuminating his face with the flame.
The trolley is upon us, it’s doors open. Inside is weird dream light. Allison goes first. As I put my right foot on the first step, I hear the bum behind me. I turn to see him standing now, the ember of the cigarette the only thing on him that looks alive.
I say, What?
And then he takes one step forward, pushes his chin out toward the trolley. His voice sounds like scraping metal; it is unmistakable, clear as glass. His eyes glow black.
Your father never loved you, he says.
And the doors close.