The man is dark. Black hair. Black eyes beneath the brow that shades them, the way outdoor-stadium scoreboards shield only a select few from harsh conditions. Gales, swelters, torrents. Whatever comes.
I’ve been asking The Dark Man about payloads for ages. Seems people have been following drivers, stalking them. Some, even, with guns. Delivery schedules are now top-secret.
I live in a shared dormitory. Urine, dumped in sinks. Noodles, floating in tubs. Toilets with no covers that flush whenever, misting your skin, clothes, eyes. Few among us wash our hands.
Doorknobs, elevator buttons…
I’m motoring through Rite Aid wearing my Billy-the-Kid bandana and $4 black-knit gas station gloves when The Dark Man emerges from a side-aisle—joins me, in stride—and slips me a bottle of germ-X.
“I pulled one for you,” he whispers, each of us grinning. “Before they hit the shelf.”
I try to tell him how thankful I am, how—
“No,” he calls, already disappearing down another aisle, “thank you.”
I stand there a long time and think about that.
The next morning, clouds roll in. I head back and ask because I have to know. Because it matters.
The man’s name is Ali.