I never liked going through alleys. It was the homeless people that bothered me.
If you encounter one on the street, it's no big deal and you can just pretend you didn't hear them begging. If you're in the middle of a crowd, it's easy to be anonymous.
But in an alley, you have to directly pass them. It's just you and him (female homeless people are a bit rarer).
I usually stop to give him whatever change I have if it's in an alley, opposed to when on the street I just fleet by, pretending to be caught up in my life.
I know I do this and I feel a tiny stab of guilt every time. It's because of this little drip of resentment that I stopped for him today.
I normally avoid alleys, but I was late for work and I save about three minutes shooting across one instead of waiting for lights to change. It's a few blocks, but New York City traffic is too rough.
He was on my left, leaning against a garbage can and the wall of one of the buildings. As I was approaching him, he politely spoke up. "Sir?"
"Oh!" I started, pretending I hadn't noticed him at first, and began reaching into my pockets looking for spare change or a dollar. While I was searching, I stopped at his feet and saw his face. His left eye had no iris. No pupil either. Just white.
"I don't want your change, mister." His voice almost sounded metallic, about as much so as a cheap beer or the aftertaste of blood.
He had caught me off guard. "Then... uh... what is it you want...?"
"I want... out."
I wondered what he meant as I gazed into his two sparkling green eyes. He looked too intelligent to be homeless. Whatever, I thought. I have a job to get to. Smart people go crazy easily; he's probably on heroin or something.
I walked swiftly away and to the office. Everyone there looked at me weird, like I just grew a beard overnight or something. When I looked at everyone else, they looked like I needed glasses. Just a little blurry. Odd, I have perfect vision.
When I went to the bathroom to see if I could figure it out, I looked the same, but... different. It was like my face was half-distorted or something. A bit out of focus. I closed my left eye and I looked fine. I closed my right eye and... have you ever seen yourself naked? I mean, truly naked?
Oh my god... the things I have seen with my left eye.