The homeless man living outside my building occupied himself with rearranging his fantastic collection of junk into fantastic shapes and sometimes even spelling out things like THAT’S JUST NO GOD. I thought it was kind of beautiful. Had plenty to say, too. Some nights, I left my window open just so I could hear him screaming about the reprobates in Congress and consumerism for hours on end.
The first time I walked outside and heard him yelling, I’ll admit it scared the daylights out of me. WE’RE BUILT FOR DEATH, he’d said to me. RUNNING ON SUFFERING, WE BLISTER OUR HANDS IN THE FIELDS FOR NAUGHT. There was just something inexplicably charming about him, but I still kept walking. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk. I just didn’t know what to say. So I kept my head down and he hollered at me like any other passerby. It wasn’t enough, though. I knew I needed to be different. He’d had a new sculpture up one day and all I did was say HELLO and I LIKE WHAT YOU’VE GOT THERE. You know what he did? Scurried right back into his box, didn’t say another word to me.
He quit hollering at me altogether after that.
I started getting worried, thought it was my fault. I tried again the next day and he just hid in the box again. Every morning, I would try again and he would always hide. It turned into a routine we kept for the longest time, ‘til one day I couldn’t take it anymore. I came right out and said, PLEASE TALK TO ME I LOVE YOU. Of course, he got startled and hid in one of his boxes with his head poking out.
I’M NOT LEAVING THAT EASILY, I said and sat down in front of him.
He stared at me for a few moments, then spoke. SORRY I REALLY DO THINK YOU’RE PRETTY, he said, BUT I’M NO GOOD AT THIS.
My heart was all a-flutter at that. WE CAN MAKE IT WORK, I said.
He turned away from me and I was sure I’d lost him again. But he just started digging around the junk nearby and pulled out a a tin can, threw it at me. There was a thin string connecting it to another tin can he was holding. THEY HAVEN’T TAPPED MY PHONES YET, he said, CAN I CALL YOU SOMETIME? Then he turned away and said, RING RING. He looked back at me and jerked his head towards the other tin can. His voice grew a bit louder. RING RING, he said, RING RING.
I picked up the can and held it to my ear. For a moment, I was afraid the string might break, but it held fast. I smiled and said, I MISSED YOU.
Amanda Malone currently attends Georgia Southern University. She manages submissions at BULL and her own work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bartleby Snopes, Wyvern Lit, and Luna Luna Mag, among others.