The rain continued pouring as he walked down the sidewalk towards the shopping center. His cargo shorts and light, cotton zip-up Etnies hoodie didn't provide much protection from the water, but he didn't care. This was Oregon, after-all. He adjusted his camera around his neck and tucked it deeper into his soaked clothing.
"Shit," he though to himself, wishing he had left it home instead. Earlier, when he left the apartment, it was a perfect evening for a photo walk. And now the temperamental mood of the west coast skies had shifted against his favor.
It was still nice to be walking, regardless of the weather. He just hoped his desire to burn calories didn't destroy his camera in the process. His journey lead him down the length of Senate Street and across Rosemont Ave. Upon reaching the intersection he noticed a Coca-Cola bottle lying on its side on the pavement against the curb. Stopping momentarily, he gazed at the bottle devoid of contents. He thought about his current situation in life and realized the similarities shared between them, "I am alone like this bottle. I am empty on the inside too, though once I used to be filled. I remember when I had something to offer, and how people loved and wanted me. Yet now I've allowed myself to become discarded, abandoned, and useless. I feel so very unimportant".
Despite the rain, he pulled his camera out from the wet depths of his clothing, removed the lens cover and snapped a few shots of the bottle in its lonely resting place. He lowered himself to his knees and captured the angle of life lying wasted in the streets. A few leaves, some debris, a plastic cap... slightly blurred in the foreground, the empty cola bottle crisp and clear just behind them against the concrete curb. Satisfied with the shots, he arose and began walking again.
He thought about the decision he made a year ago to quit writing. The pressure from his girlfriend to "spend more time, to stop drinking so much". He thought about the many times he tried so hard to write sober, and to write only during their scheduled "off-time". He remembered the feelings he hid from her, the internal war that was taking place that he could never explain. There were moments that felt as though pieces of his soul were chipping away like old paint and falling to the ground below. He could see the ugly wood showing through, the exposed nature of his nothingness. No more words written down, no more stories being told, poetry placed on pause in perpetuum.
He continued walking... past the grocery store, past the Dollar Tree, the pizza shop, and the hair salon. He crossed Edgewater Street in tears and made his way to where the homeless hung out, panhandling their way to each new meal. He stopped just outside of their vicinity. There were five roughly dressed men positioned in a clustered circle, all talking and motioning with their hands at things invisible to most passerby's. A few shopping carts were stationed nearby like sentries filled with war-torn armament, and not a single bum stood at the lighted intersection begging for change.
He kicked off his sneakers, pulled off his hoodie, removed the camera from his neck and rolled it up inside and set them all down near a tree. From his back pocket he removed a folded cardboard sign and a stack of poetry and short stories he had written and quickly walked past the group of homeless guys. He made his way for the part of the sidewalk opposite their side of the street, and upon reaching the the chosen spot that would expose him to the highest volume of traffic, he unfolded his sign and began this new chapter of his life.
And as fate would have it, the very first car to be caught by the red light was driven by none other than his girlfriend. And as their faces connected he felt a pang of despair as he watched her eyes move from his, down to the sign that read: "GIVEN UP ON LIFE, BUT NOT WRITING. WILL TRADE MY WORDS FOR A DOLLAR".