The ash from John’s limp cigarette fell to the ground, lost in a sea of stains and scars upon the concrete steps on which he sat. His last warm breath hung in the cold air just long enough to be seen before it drifted east with a rush of the city’s wind and whines.
“You know, Henry, sometimes, I just don’t get it.”
Henry turned to him with confusion, tilting his head just enough to prompt John’s continued exposition.
“I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around. I’ve watched this city grow. I’ve watched this city prosper. I saw the planes hit the buildings. I saw the projects become condos. I seen it all.”
His cigarette drew limper still after another agitated drag.
“This is my city, ya know? And I’ve been good to her. But this fahkin’ bitch, I tell ya, she hasn’t been any good to me. I help this old lady with her bags? What’s my reward? She thinks I’m tryin’ to steal from her and smacks me with ‘er fahkin’ purse.”
Henry fidgeted, discomforted by John’s hostility. He listened on.
“I’ve worked hard. Spent all my good years working for the man, doing the best I could, tryin’ do right by the ‘game’. And now what? Bunch of fahkin’ exec jag-offs got rich, bunch more paper-pushin’ ‘directors’ got their fake news promotions and their little houses out in the boroughs, and now I’m out on my ass, lookin’ for another gig just to get a fahkin’ chopped cheese from the bodega. Poverty don’t take me, heart prolly will.”
Another cigarette drag by one. Another wince by the other.
“Why do we do this, man? Why the fuck do we waste our lives workin’ for someone else to get rich? This fahkin’ system sucks, you know. We’re just scurrying around trying to get some cheddah. This can’t be all there is. It’s garbage. There’s so much cheese in this city, why can’t I get a little taste, you know?”
The two sat quiet a moment, before John righted himself and apologized:
“This fahkin’ rat race just really gets to me, you know?”
Henry, not one to dwell, remained quiet. The rat then scurried away.