Yeah, I stand at this corner; I’m waiting.  I’ve been waiting a long time.  This is Midnight, the City of Night, where dreams have failed and nightmare has taken over the day.  There’s no sun, there’s only the slightest sliver of hope, and there’s a million souls who will gladly shovel these lies into your hungry damn mouth.

This is Midnight, but the drugs are not as rampant as you think, the hookers not as talented, the whiskey not…well, no, the whiskey’s always fine in Midnight.  You might be able to count on nothing else, but the whiskey is smooth and thick and plentiful.

For every dirty junkie, for every murderous madman, for every underground hopeful with a mean streak, there’s a homeless guy leaving pennies, heads up, to give other people the luck he never had, there’s a mysterious ghostly nurse they call Nightingale, there’s a gypsy princess giving away love potions outside the Museum of Curiosities.  Along with the criminals, this city has got seamstresses.  The subways carry politicians and florists alike.

Yeah, there are flowers in this city where the sun never shines.  Got a problem with that?

I want nothing, I need nothing, I lean against this dry brick building, I peer out at the streets from underneath the brim of my hat, I keep my hands in the pockets of my long, dusty coat.  I say nothing to nobody.  I offer nothing.  I’m not selling anything, and I’m not buying.  There’s nothing you can offer I can’t get cheaper somewhere else, and there’s nothing I’ve got you want.  Believe me.  The only thing in my hand in my pocket is a .357 Oliveri.  They don’t make those with safeties.  I’m short tempered, and I’m angry.

Now, I’m not angry at you.  You haven’t done anything to me.  I don’t care to know your name or your story, your thoughts or feelings, your cares or worries.  Just keep right on walking.  There’s a subway station up the street.  We’re not far from the garden.  One or two of the museums.  St. Lazarus’ Cathedral, if you’re the type.  But you don’t want to stop and ask me the time, or pause and light a cigarette in my direct line of sight.  You’re not going to get a smile out of me.

Maybe you deserve one.  I don’t know, and like I said, I don’t care.  You need a smile, get it from the girl up the street, she’s selling something you might want.  Or the punk around the corner.  The Goth kid.  The student.  The cops, those two across the street, pretending not to see me as they hurry on their way.  Yeah, they know the deal.  There’s nothing I’ve done, nothing they can prove anyhow.  They don’t harass me, why would you?

Think you’ve got something to prove?  I ain’t interested.

I’m good.  But don’t ask.  I won’t thank you.  Like I said, I’m waiting, and you’re not the reason for it.

One of the gypsies came into the city yesterday.  Old, she was, like dirt, like dust, like the earth itself, and maybe even older than this hole of a city.  She said something about art, something about whiskey, something about sapphires, something about history.  I asked what she wanted with me.

“Oh, you,” she said.  “I don’t want nothing from you, child.”  She called me child, if you believe that.  You try it, I’ll introduce you, good and personal, to a bullet between the eyes.  But this old gypsy woman, she had more to say, and I thought I wanted to hear it.  “The ones who want you,” she said, “they ain’t gonna be so kind as me.  They gonna come from the woods, from the north, from someplace you know nothing about.”

“There’s lots of places I know nothing about,” I told her.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said.  “But you will know.  You will.”

“This what you came into the city to tell me, lady?” I asked.

“Fool,” she said.  “I’m here to read your fortune.”  Anyone else call me fool, after calling me child, they’d be dead.  “I’m here to read your card.”

“I only get one?”

“You think you need more?”

I shrugged.  I hadn’t given it any thought, and I didn’t have any basis for it then.  “So what’s my card, then?”

She showed me.  It was a picture of two naked people holding hands.  Not what you’d call high art.  She said, “Ah, the Lovers.”

Well, like I said, I am waiting.  This lifted my spirits.  The city will do that to you sometimes, give you that little bit of hope, that blue sapphire glitter.  It’ll give you a reason to live when you don’t want to.  Or it’ll make you a legend.  You know about the Suicide Penthouse over at the Towers, right?  Yeah, well, the old gypsy woman wasn’t smiling, she wasn’t happy at all.  She said, “That’s not what I expected.”

“What’d you expect?”

She said, “Death.”

“You’re a cruel bitch,” I said, and she laughed.  And she left.

So I’m still waiting.  Not for you.  A woman, of course.  I’m like any other guy.  For the right woman, I’d kill, I’d die, I’d bleed out in the gutters of Midnight, I’d wrestle the goddess of night herself, I’d steal from thieves, I’d climb that mountain, that one right there, into the heart of the prison, if necessary, I’d break into the Historical Society, into City Hall, I’d break out of Midnight and bring her back to a world with sunshine and happiness.  For the right woman, I’d give up the gun, the life, the night, the dark.

I saw her once, a long time ago.  She smiled, in exactly the way I’m not gonna smile for you, she winked, and she blew me a kiss.  You call it what you will, I call it torture.  It was a dream, I know, but this was the street corner.  No one knows this city better than I.  This was the place, and she was the woman, and she’s as real as the ghosts at Mirage Station, she’s as real as wind and oranges and clocks.  She made me a promise.  I intend to let her keep it.

So I’m gonna keep standing here.  I’m gonna keep holding this damn wall up.  And I’m gonna keep scowling at you until I decide I’m hungry.  And I won’t apologize.

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