The city could be unforgiving, especially in Winter when her streets were battered & windswept. Danny cowered then, in alleyways and bus shelters, squeezing into corners, hiding out from her fearsomeness; sucking on tar between coughs.
From his position outside the Car Hire place, he had a great view of the trendy restaurants across the road. This area had recently become In and the regulars were used to bounding over bodies strewn across pavements and doorways. They rarely gave him a sideways glance, but they gladly parted with their change; their fortune weighing heavily on them at the sight of this miserable soul. He milked their discomfort; played on their sympathy; he was a master of deception; his skills honed at The Little Theatre, UCT in the days when he could pretend that his brilliance as Macbeth was performance art, and not dug out from the depths of his own tragic life.
Danny's eyes darted when he saw the young couple swaying his way, their bodies joined together at the hip, him shielding her from the cold with his oversized parka; she getting lost in the khaki and wool, hiding her face in the folds.
"Merem, please?" he begged reaching out with grubby hands, "jus a 20 cents..." His eyes imploring for mercy.
He added a shiver, though he stopped feeling the cold years ago, his body soaked through with cheap liquor and glue dulling his senses.
Janice averted her gaze, leaning into Harry for shelter.
"Voertsek!" Harry swore, kicking at his outstretched hands, "go get a job!"
Danny retracted his hand, he knew when there would be nothing on offer.
He nestled down into his made up spot.
"Ohhh..." his fingers reaching out from beneath his blanket to stroke wet tar. He loved running his fingers over the dark gravel glistening in places as the moonlight touched rivulets making it sparkle. It reminded him of her. Her dark body glistening with sweat after their love making. She loved the rain, running outside when it came down, giggling as it plastered her dark curls to her face. She would soak him with wet kisses, shifting his mood from broody to bubbling with each wet one.
He didn't mind the rain, it turned his world to a shimmering spectacle; store windows were washed cleaned, and his spot reeked less of mustiness and misery.
Misery cemented in his soul with her sudden death.
Misery, his friend, way before then when he sought it out in the bottle, becoming his dad against his will.
He checked out. Attachment not an option when misery was engraved like a fingerprint.
Danny shuffled around seeking comfort, and silencing his mind in the process.
He loved voting season, there was always lots of cardboard left discarded on lampposts by political parties slack about removing them.
He curled up on his latest find: "Register to vote!" He felt inspired to dispense some advise of his own.
"Run, girly, run!"
Janice turned round, the wind having carried his voice, her ears on high alert, the sound making her skin prickle.
"No, Harry, leave me!" she said breaking free from his grip and making her way to Danny.
"What's your problem, mister?" she wagged a finger at him, "you don't know me...or him," her finger now pointing in the general direction of Harry where he was standing leaned against a lamppost.
He was enjoying the show.
"Ag, merem, I was only making a joke!" Danny sat upright, peering out at the girl with crazy eyes, "I meant no harm."
"Sorry, Danny is sorry."
"You useless, responsibility-dodging, family-ditching, pathetic parasite!"
Insults flew off her lips along with spittle used to power p's.
"So, no, Daddy, APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED!"
"I'm Danny, miss, D A N N Y!"
"WHAT?" Janice stammered, reeling back in, "here, take it," she said, handing him a R10 note, "go buy your dop, that is all you want!"
Danny's hands groped for the cash, his hands touching hers.
"Come, Harry," she said grabbing at his coat to peel him away from the lamppost, "I need a long hot shower."
"Yoh, it's always the quiet one's," Danny whispered to himself as he settled down once more stashing his green in his shoe.
Janice peel off her clothes in haste and stepped into the shower. The scorching water pelted down on her head bent against it's onslaught. She willed it to wash away the unpleasant thoughts which had settled on her.
"How long has it been?" she admonished herself for allowing him to resurface.
She needed to banish him back to the dark recesses, along with her failed marriage and her unforgiving bitter mother.
Harry was all she had. He was hard and angry and knew how to be just rough enough to bang the past to the back of her mind.
She needed his brutishness to feel human.
Her heart felt heavy and dark as tar.
She called out to him: "Harry! Here!"
He knew what she needed.
He stepped up.
Stepped in, ready with his rod to batter away her reality.