M.D. Neu © 2019
All Rights Reserved
Doug glanced up at the big void where
the buildings once stood.
How could anyone do that? All those
people, and for what? Thank God, no one I know was there. Thank goodness,
Garret’s train was running late. Even from across the river, seeing the
buildings fall, one minute there, the next not, awful. Not knowing if Garret
was alive or dead. The not knowing was awful, and it seemed to last forever.
Then getting his call when the phones were back up. It was a relief. Still, the
not knowing? Horrible. How do survivors do it?
Doug shuddered. He had to look away
before he started to cry again. That day. The world wasn’t the same. How could
it be? Would it ever be the same again? He swiped at his eyes, keeping the
tears he was trying to hold back from dropping. He caught his reflection in one
of the storefront windows and fussed with his spiky blond hair.
The months right after the attack had
been hell for everyone. People from all over the world sent support and offered
help. But New York was moving on, as it should. They already had seven
different architects offering new designs to fill the empty skyline. Mayor
Giuliani was doing everything he could for the city, and there was even talk of
him running for president.
Doug checked his flip phone and picked
up his pace. He was running late. He shouldn’t have spent the night at Tim’s, but
leaving such a sexy guy was no easy task. Not to mention they might have
partied too much.
I doubt that is even possible. You can
never party too much.
There was a large group of mourners, and
he had to step to the side to let them pass. He took a deep cleansing breath,
pushing all thoughts from his mind, and started walking again. He rushed past
the families and friends heading to Ground Zero. Now he had to hustle to make
it to work. He’d gotten lucky no one he was familiar with was killed. Still, every
time he thought about the attack and looked up at the twin lights filling the
night sky, he wanted to cry.
Why President Bush didn’t blow up the
whole of the Middle East after the attack, Doug would never understand.
Instead, the president sent troops to Afghanistan, searching for Osama bin
Laden and taking out Al-Qaeda.
Just as long as they find and kill the
monsters who did this to us.
Doug couldn’t help but stop again and
glance up to where the twin towers once stood. He quickly wiped at his eyes. “I
need to get out of here.” He moved over to the brick façade and leaned against
the wall as more people passed him, heading to the memorial ceremony.
“So much suffering and for what?” Doug
mumbled. He started walking again, taking a deep breath and trying to avoid the
crowds. A woman in a dark jacket passed him and bumped his shoulder, causing
him to step closer to an alley. She didn’t bother saying anything; however,
Doug thought she said something about his size. He caught his reflection again.
He hated how everything made him feel so fat. Nothing he wore looked right on
him. Even the baggy pants still made him look fat and messy. He would need to
start at the gym if he wanted to continue dating Tim and keep up with his
partying. He frowned.
At least I have good hair.
He played with the spikes of his hair.
“It’s my fault,” a gruff voice whispered
from behind him.
Doug startled and turned around, but no
one was there. He glanced over to the dumpster.
Sitting there, a raggedy black man, with
kinky hair in desperate need of a cut and wash, stared at him. The man had the
most beautiful green eyes Doug had ever seen. The rich tones of his skin really
made his eyes pop, quite possibly the unkempt man’s best feature. The man was
in shambles, and tears streamed down his dirty cheeks.
The anniversary affects everyone.
“I did this,” the man groaned through
his sobs. “And now I’m being punished.”
Doug wasn’t sure what to do or say.
Should he walk away and get to the salon? Leave what appeared to be the crazy
homeless guy alone? Could he do that now that they made eye contact? Could he
do that today of all days? The man needed help. The man needed a shower and
clean clothes. Perhaps, if he talked to him, that would be enough…well, the
talk and ten bucks.
That’s what Shannon would do. Talk to
him and give him money. Shannon was such a kind soul, and I need to be more
like him, more like he was. To honor him. Just like my drag name. Maybe Miss
Enshannon needs to be more. I need to be more.
Doug’s heart ached at the memories of
Shannon and how wonderful he was. When he picked his drag name there was no
doubt on what it would be, but to honor someone you loved had to be more than
using their name.
“It’s not your fault.” He knelt close to
the man, still keeping his distance just in case. “It was the work of
terrorists. They killed all those people, not you.”
“I should have stopped them. I should
have done more,” the dirty man moaned.
“Oh, baby, no one could have done more,”
Doug offered. Some people thought the government knew about the attack
beforehand and the president allowed it to happen. Doug didn’t buy it. Why
anyone listened to these people was beyond him, but they did. He just wished
they would shut up and crawl back under the rocks they came from. They weren’t
helping anyone, and in the long run, their remarks and comments only hurt
“Now, I’m being punished. They sent me
here and took my wings,” the man whispered.
Was this guy a pilot? Oh, that would be
awful. I bet he was supposed to fly one of the planes, and he couldn’t take it.
“No one is punishing you. Look, it’s a
tough day for everyone. We all feel like we should have done more.” Images of
the planes flying into the towers and then seeing and feeling them collapse;
even at the Paul Mitchell campus on Staten Island, they were affected. I really
need to call Garret. Doug pulled out his flip phone and checked the time. “I’ve
got to get to work.” He stopped and peeked at the crowd of people passing by and
then faced the guy. A bright smile filled his face.
I know what I’ve got to do. A makeover.
Help this guy out.
“You want to come with me? We’ll get you
a shower and give you a cut. My girl Minx knows all about your hair type. It’ll
What the hell am I doing? I must still
be drunk from last night. Or affected by what Tim and I took. This guy might
kill me. No. He’s sad, and on a day like today, someone needs to be nice to
him. Plus, I’m a big enough guy I can take him…
Doug extended his hand.
“You want to help me?” The man glanced
around at his filthy surroundings.
Doug nodded. “Sure. Why not?”
“Most people ignore me. Some people give
me money, but they rush by.” The man’s voice was filled with surprise.
He stood and Doug took in this guy’s
build. Strong shoulders, even if hidden by a disheveled brown shirt and coat.
Doug got a whiff of the funk that enveloped the man. It was a mix of… Doug
didn’t want to think what, and he pulled back.
Definitely a shower and some new
clothes. These are getting burned.
“Well, not today.” Doug dusted off his
pants. “I work at a salon near Washington Square. You know it?” His face got
warm. “Anyway, we can walk there and get you all cleaned up. My boss won’t
Or at least I hope not. Nah, the bitch
owes me for helping him with his makeup the other night at the club. What a
show that was. I killed it.
“Thank you.” The man beamed a bright
pearly smile, in contrast to the dirt on his face and clothes. His teeth and
mouth were probably the cleanest part of him. What’s more, there was no foul
odor coming from his mouth.
Good oral hygiene. I’m not even sure
that is possible, given the state of him, but thank the lord.
“What’s your name?” Doug asked as they
weaved through the crowd, people giving them a wide birth. “I’m Doug.”
“I don’t have a name.”
Doug froze. “What?”
“I don’t have a name.” The man met
Doug’s gaze with his big eyes and innocent face. “They used to call me…” His
gaze dropped to the sidewalk.
“What?” Doug stood watching him. A tall
man with a goatee hit his shoulder as he passed. “What did they used to call
you? Can’t be any worse than what they’ve called me.”
The dirty man faced Doug. “They used to
call me the Angel of Death before they took my wings.”
Doug let out a nervous laugh as he
glanced around. There was a break in the stream of people.
Great, this guy is crazy, and I’m stuck
with him. Good job, dumb ass.
Doug shook his head, studying the sky.
This is all Shannon’s fault. I should
have kept walking. Everyone tells me not to make eye contact with the homeless.
Why didn’t I listen?
Doug cleared his throat. “Well, we can’t
call you that. How about Angel?”
The man shook his head.
“Well, I’m not gonna call you Death, no
matter how cool it sounds,” Doug teased as they walked again and got to the
intersection. They crossed the street, ignoring the odd looks they were
getting. He was used to odd looks. He had been getting them his whole life.
People needed to suck it. “Oh, I know. How about Tad?”
Doug smiled. “Short for ‘the Angel of
Death.’ Well, that would be Taod, but that sounds dumb.”
The man shrugged.
“Tad it is.” Doug’s mouth grew into a
smile and warmth rushed through his body that wasn’t there this morning. It was
nice. Doing something good for someone on a day like today felt like a good
call. Even the stench coming off the man seemed to lessen. Maybe the man didn’t
smell bad after all. Or maybe I’m getting used to it. Gross. As long as he
doesn’t go all batshit crazy, he could deal with the smell, which would be
fixed soon enough. He hoped.
They picked up their pace and walked in
silence. Doug wasn’t fully sure why he was doing this. Was it because today was
such a hard day? Was it his small way of acknowledging that we all need help sometimes?
Was it because the world was a massive shit hole and he wanted to make it a
little better? Was he doing it for Shannon? Shannon had been so kind and sweet,
never having it easy. At least Doug passed for straight, when he wanted to,
which wasn’t often these days. And forget it when he was onstage with his big
blonde wig, big red lips, and big old fake titties. Hell, this might even be
fate for all he knew.
Fuck it, who cares? I’m fierce, and
Tad’s gonna be fierce.
Doug pulled open the door to the salon.
“Hey, girls, I have a project,” he announced in his loudest, most over-the-top
voice possible. “This is Tad, and we’re gonna make him fabulous.” He snapped
his fingers and everyone in the shop froze and stared at them.