I’m walking down a city street late at night. It may be New York, but if it is, it’s the cinematic archetype of New York’s dark side. The street isn’t empty, but sparsely populated. It’s been raining, and the stone and brick walls glisten, reflecting the street lights. I’m on my way home from somewhere, some entertainment, and I’m feeling pretty good, almost lighthearted. I have a phone call to make when I get home, to someone important to me, and the anticipation of that call makes me happy.

As I pass an alleyway, I hear a sound from the darkness, a near-cry, high-pitched. I’ve passed the entrance, but I pause and listen. The street is quiet, so I hear some wet cardboard boxes fall over, and a thump. I turn around and enter the alley, asking if anyone’s there.

In a blur, someone grabs my shirt front and yanks me into the darkness. I stumble, nearly falling, but am quickly slammed backwards against the wall. The streetlight illuminates my half of the alley, but all I see of my attacker is a maroon windbreaker, and the hand retreating into the darkness ten feet from me. Strangely, I am aware of the rips in my shirt where the bricks have torn it, and the stinging scrapes on my back.

I’m not frightened, though. I am breathing heavily, staring into the shadows, seeing nothing, when I am punched hard in the chest. I’m confused for a moment, and then I realize I’ve been shot, and I can’t breathe. Four more times I feel the impact, but all I hear is the rainwater dripping off a fire escape, and the distant sounds of traffic.

My legs start to fold, and I slide slowly down the wall, painfully grating my skin all the way. When I’m sitting, unnaturally contorted, I look at the silver light of the lamp, haloed by mist. I’m not in pain, but I know I am dying, and all I can think of is this: I have no paper to write on, no voice to speak, no audience. I’ll die without any last words.

[June, 2003]