Is there anything worse than kicking a guy when he's down? I'm sure there is, I'm sure there's plenty of horrible, terrible things someone could come up with. Murders, rapes, genocides, starving kids, plenty of shit to go around, but when you're the guy with the boot to his ribs there ain't much else you can think of. It's like there's always someone waiting, someone who knows just when you're at your lowest, I mean so far below rock bottom you're eating pork fried rice through a tube when you wake up. There's a lot of boots in this city, a lot of guys just asking for one of those kicks, so you often find yourself, face down in the concrete of course, wondering how you were the unluckiest bastard on your block that night. Maybe they can smell weakness, they just know you've taken just about everything you can. Then again maybe you did something, maybe you made some enemies, maybe you're asking for it.
I never stopped to ask those kinds of questions, not when I was the one doing the kicking. Why bother when there's a guy willing to pay you good money to just swing your leg? Of course that also gives you a little advantage when it's your turn, you know when it's coming at least. Unless they catch you drunk. Then, well, you find yourself coughing blood and who knows what else into a gutter. It's raining of course, it always pours when it's you doesn't it? So what's left to do when your woman's left you, your boss set your old kicking buddies on you, and it's coming down like a bad trip? What can you do? You just lay there for a while, you wait for the world to stop spinning, then you get up. You walk the six blocks home with a busted rib or two because you know they already trashed your bike, that's just how it is. You shrug it off, you take a breath and take joy in the fact that you can even feel the pain in your side.
That's always the worst part, anyone could tell you that. There's a lot to think about on that walk. Shame mingling with the pain, questions that have no answers, blacking out a few times, your mind is far from unoccupied. Me, I did the only thing I knew how. I lit up my last cigarette, busted and soaked, and thanked every faith I knew that the guys went easy on me. There's nothing quite like the taste of smoke to clear the palate, be it booze or puke or blood, but taking a draw with a broken rib hurts like hell. It's enough to remind you to stay awake, to make sure there isn't anyone lurking around that'll see you as an easy target. It's the last thing you need, getting robbed after catching a beating like that, and it's enough to push a man over the edge. It just so happened there was a little push waiting, some punk with a knife just around a corner, must have seen me limping, figured I was easy cash. God damn if he wasn't right, and god damn if I wasn't stupid about it.
I got the bright idea to grab for the knife instead of reach for my wallet, my patience just about done, so he realized it'd be easier to force feed me his elbow instead of asking nicely. The second time that night me and the concrete made nice with each other, though the third or forth I tasted blood. Just like before I was alive, and on the bright side the prick tossed my wallet back down after he took what bills I had. So that was that, it seemed. Out of smokes, a wallet with no cash, though I still had my jacket and I still had a place to get to. It took almost an hour to walk those six blocks, the worst walk of my life, all the way to Joy Street. Some joker had tagged the word “No” in big black letters, must have thought he was as deep as the Marianas Trench, but it fit pretty well. One streetlight was all that was left, flickering off on the far corner. It's the sort of place dreams went to die, a failed industrial district with nothing left but broken glass and gunshots, and it was home.
Home, at least to me, meant dingy walls and carpets that smelled like piss, a lock that wouldn't latch and a television that didn't work, not that it mattered. The power had been cut ages ago and there was nothing to steal unless you wanted a few bottles of stale, piss-warm beer. Hell, the water hardly made it through the faucets without at least a little rust mixed in. None of that was a concern, not just yet, not when there was a couch to fall into. It still smelled of her even after so long, it was enough to drive a man even further down, down so far you think you might never see the light again. As it turns out, a guy can find some right fine friends down there, scrape around and make himself what passes for a life. But you never know when you've actually hit that point, do you?