"Why aren't shoes ever abandoned in pairs?" Brian wondered as he shuffled along the sleeping city sidewalk. Here was a red satin high heel, slightly scuffed, in the middle of the sidewalk with no real reason for being there. It laid upright, as if the woman had just casually stepped out of it and trotted off to who knew what fate. From the look of it, it had probably set someone back a pretty penny.
Brian thought of these sort of things on his nightly walks. That was one of the advantages of being an insomniac. You got a chance to enjoy more quiet time alone with your thoughts then the rest of the world allowed themselves. Sure it had it's drawbacks, as all of your waking life took on this heavily surreal quality that you could never really shake, much like living your life in an oil painting. He thought of it much like being a vampire. You were cursed to wander the night time world for the rest of your days but you had a lot more time to get things done. Brian prefered walking.
For no good reason that he could think of, he picked up the shoe and tucked it in his Army field jacket pocket and continued walking. Brian always wore his Army jacket on his nightly walks. A lot of the bums and winos wore them, not to mention that it gave muggers the idea that he didn't have anything worth robbing and perhaps he could handle himself if something bad went down. Wearing a windbreaker or a sportcoat never gave him the reassuring comfort of his field jacket. It was his armor against the vagaries of the night.
Brian listened to his steady footfalls on the damp pavement and vaguely imagined that he could hear the scitter of little rat feet amongst the garbage. The neon of long closed stores reflected from the oil-slicked puddles. These were the sights and sounds that made him feel alive and set his nerves on a comfortable razor's edge.
The night had everything that the daytime could never hold. The daytime was when every living soul trapsed these streets, seeking out a meager living or some low-rent, average dream that was held by millions. At night, there was only a certain kind of people who ventured out. Early on, it could be a desperate father chasing after diapers, or the cheeseburger that his pregnant woman craved so badly. Sometimes it was the working girls from the typing pool, out for a night on the town, but heading home at ten-thirty after suffering an evening of greasy over-priced appitizers and watered down drinks with bitches they could barely stand. These were the ones to be pitied. These leftover remnanents of the day. These people who had no business being out after dark. Regular people who staid up too late. Poor, sick, dim-witted bastards. After twelve, these souls who would forever be chained to their alarm clock vanished, and good riddance.
After twelve, the night people started to come out in full force, as if some unconcious pull of the moon made them appear. The pimps, the thugs, the crazies, the vagrants, the drunks, the druggies, and the bums. All of them out to pay divine homage to the absence of light. These nocturnal creatures seemed to bubble up from the concentration of shadows to repopulate a world fading fast into blackness. The dregs who came to feed at the trough of life after the respectable pigs had all gone to bed. These were Brian's people.
The best part of the night by far was the hookers. He watched these poor, saintly girls who pressed their bodies into service, night after unforgiving night, and blew their money on clothes and make up to make themselves more attractive to the next nights sweaty, heaving customers, only to blow their little wad of cash the next day on more make up, more clothes, more drugs, and with any luck, a better pimp.
Brian had tried a hooker once. It was early on, when he first started his nightly prowls. He had secured a job with a reputable company doing computer work from home after his hitch in the army. It was about the time the insomnia set in. She wasn't pretty, although she may have been at one time. Her hair was crunchy with hair spray and her eyes had more bags than Heathrow airport. Her scuffed leather skirt covered a few of her purple veins in her snagged fishnet stockings. She was the kind of woman who only looked presentable in the half light of three AM. The five minutes and fifty dollars later in a dirty alley were only memorable from the feel of the cold, wet brick wall that he rested against as she did her work. He could never remember the feel of her exertions, only the wet brick aganst his back. There was no warmth. No sensation that communicated the touch of another human being. Just cold, wet brick and the leering smile she wore as she wiped her mouth and thanked him for his fifty. "Swing by any time," she chimed as he buttoned his jeans, "I'm here every night by ten, you hear?" From there on out, Brian cursed the daylight and never left the blue glow of his computer until after twelve.
Brian's fingers reached around the shoe in his pocket and softly crumpled the ten dollar bill resting beneath it. It was his walking cash. The money he allotted himself for the evening. Not enough that some punk would want to stick him up for but enough to buy a sandwich and a cup of coffee. When the insomnia first started to kick in full force, Brian tried to fight it. but there really was never any hope of overcoming it. He went to the VA, to doctors, to sleep specialists. They all handed out nasty tasteing pills and false hopes of ever joining the regular people again. Screw 'em, every one. The day people were all foreigners now. They spoke a different language, valued different things. Brian never, ever wanted to see eight AM again unless he had seen seven, six, five, and four before it. His world at night was enough for him and only coffee could slake his thirst. Coffee with lots and lots of sugar.