It was a late night in downtown Seattle and, staggering alone toward a familiar bus stop on 1st & Union, I cursed the rain. Half-jokingly, I shook my fist in the air, mumbling about my petty problems. Then, a strong hand grabbed my arm and whipped me around. In the space between pounding heartbeats, a disheveled old man howled in my face like a bleeding animal, his graying stubble standing on end like whiskers. I ripped my wet sleeve free from his grip, but he had already snatched fistfuls of wool around my zipper, jerking my ruddy face close enough to feel a sobering bog seeping past his lips. “It’s still a jungle, pretty boy,” he wheezed and immediately let me go.
From then until the bus stop, I only remember how slippery the concrete felt under my feet and the unnatural colors from traffic lights that spilled across the roads like neon paint as I darted across them. The whole ride home, I thought about what the old man meant. I think about it even now from time to time, and every time I come close to understanding, I’m ambushed by a sudden feeling of solitude and self-pity, like I’m putting on a suit to join a parade of dolls.