You’re surprised to hear church bells in the distance. You thought the church had been demolished a long time ago. In a strange way, the bells are comforting. Unusual for an atheist. Must be the memories of church bells during your childhood. The neighborhood. The friends. Suddenly the memories flood you and you have to sit down for a moment, on a stoop.
The church bells take you back to the old days when everyone knew everyone else, doors were never locked, you and your best friend Ralph were inseparable. I wonder what happened to him you say out loud. Ralph was great. He had no fears. You liked to follow him around, imitate him. Your mother used to warn you about that but you never paid attention to her. You were spoiled, her favorite son. Her only son in a family of girls. Five girls…geez…you were the golden boy.
You’re listening to the bells when the door behind you opens. Excuse me someone says. I’m sorry you reply and get up. I’m sorry. I felt faint for a moment you explain to the lady looking at you suspiciously. You start to walk again, down the block to the 711 to buy cigarettes and a six-pack.
You walk out of the 711 with the six-pack under your arm and a cigarette in your mouth. Stopping to light it you realize the church bells have stopped tolling. You inhale deeply and blow the smoke out of your nose, cross the street, smile. You’re going home to drink and forget the neighborhood, Ralph, your mother.
That’s what grown men do. They drink. They forget. They forget until they’re forgotten.