Dressed In Black

The first time Diane saw him was when she was walking home from work on a Friday night. She was passing through an alleyway which led away from a large terrace with a view over the whole city. She saw him entering the alleyway and coming toward her. He was a tall man, in his mid-thirties, dressed all in black. Black coat, black sweater underneath, black pants and black boot-like shoes that ended just above his ankles. The street lamp standing at the entrance to the alleyway cast a shadow of the man on the ground before him. He had a gloomy air about him which made Diane shiver. He looked like ghost, walking among the masses, concentrating on not drawing any attention. When Diane passed him, he looked up straight into her eyes. She instinctively tried to take a step to her left, scared that he might attack her. But she couldn’t move. She locked her eyes on his face. She noticed his short, dark brown hair, his well shaved beard, his big nose and full lips. But what struck her the most were his eyes. They were of an ice cold blue and seemed to stare directly into her soul, discovering her deepest fears. Diane felt like time stood still. She forgot everything around her. Deaf to every sound and blind to everything beside him she stood there, tense and frightened. But the moment passed. The man turned his eyes from her and fixed them on the ground again. While he passed, Diane imagined to feel a cold breeze surrounding her. She wanted to turn around and watch him but she still couldn’t move. She just stood there, dumbfounded and shaking like a leaf in the wind. After a couple of seconds that felt like minutes, she woke up from her day dream. With shaky hands she reached into the pocket of her jacket, took out a pack of cigarettes and lit one. Then she started walking again. When she arrived at home she thought about the man dressed in black. Everything about him was terrifying and mysterious. Like a phantom that had passed right through her, taking every warmth from her body. But there was something else about him. Something intriguing. Some part of Diane wanted to see him again and talk to him. To find out what kind of man he really was.
When she went to bed, Diane instantly fell asleep. The following week, whenever she walked home from work, she wondered if the man would pass through that alleyway again. But he didn’t. Until Friday night. She turned the corner into the alleyway and at that exact moment, he appeared on the opposite side. Everything was just like it had been the week before; black coat, black sweater, black pants, black shoes, dark brown hair, well shaved beard and ice cold, blue eyes. Again he looked up at her when they passed each other. Only this time he smiled. Well, it wasn’t really a smile but Diane definitely saw the corners of his mouth twitching. She wasn’t frightened, at least she thought that she wasn’t, but his sheer appearance still struck her. When he had passed her, she turned around. There he went with his hands in the pockets of his black coat. He walked totally straight, which made him look determined and confident. The part in Diane that had wanted to see him again wanted to go talk to him now. But she didn’t dare to. The man still looked creepy and shifty. So she just kept walking, again lighting a cigarette, when she noticed that her hands were shaky. He definitely scared her. He scared the living shit out of her but still there was something mesmerizing about this man. The mystery with which he was surrounded had her thinking about him all the way home again. After that day, she kept seeing him every Friday night when she was passing through the alleyway. He was always wearing his black clothes and always had his hands in his pockets. The twitching of the corners of his mouth had now turned into an honest smile whenever he saw her. His ice cold eyes had turned into beautiful, warm, ocean blue emeralds. Those eyes, those goddamn eyes. They haunted Diane in her dreams.
Two months after their first encounter, she was determined to go after him. So when she reached the terrace to which the alleyway led, she hid behind a tree and waited. And sure enough, not ten seconds later he emerged from the alleyway. She wondered if he was confused about not seeing her. She watched him walking toward the front of the terrace, where there was a small wall. He stopped, reached into the inner left breast pocket of his coat and took out a cigarette which he put in his mouth. Then, with his right hand, he produced a zippo with which he lit the cigarette. He blew out the smoke from his mouth, reached into the inner right breast pocket of his coat and produced a hipflask. The man took a sip, pulled on his cigarette, blew out the smoke and watched the city. What a strange man, she thought. She watched him standing there for a while and then she left. She still didn’t feel like talking to him. But she continued to stand behind the tree every Friday night and watch him repeat his ritual. Then, about six months after their first encounter, she finally worked up the courage to go talk to him. She approached him with a determined pace. He turned around and, upon seeing her, smiled the same old smile she had seen so many times now. But the man was silent. He didn’t greet her, he just looked at her, smiling like an idiot. So Diane decided to start. “Hi,” she said
“Good evening,” he answered
“Do you have a lighter?” she asked, taking out a cigarette
“Sure,” he handed her his zippo. It was silver and it had the grim reaper engraved in both sides. The man took a pull from his own cigarette, tilted his head back and blew the smoke straight upwards. A polite gesture, even though unnecessary since Diane barely reached his chin.
“Thank you,” she said while handing him back his zippo. The she added “This may sound weird but I’ve seen you pass through this alleyway for half a year now and I was wondering why you spent every Friday night standing on this terrace, smoking and drinking from a hipflask.” He looked at her for some time, trying to think of an answer. Then he said “That’s a good question. But I’ve got no good answer. I guess I come here to think.”
“About what? I’m aware that you don’t know me but I’m honestly interested in hearing about it,” she said
“Well, that’s hard to answer. I guess I think about everything. About my whole life. About the mistakes I’ve made and about what a miserable piece of shit I am. About the people I’ve hurt and about the people who have hurt me. I think about the past and sometimes about the future. And I come here because these thoughts keep me up at night. They’re like voices in my head. Voices of angels and of devils, I can’t tell which are which, they all sound the same. And so I come here, where I can dwell on memories, look at the city lights and drink my pain away.”
“Wow,” Diane couldn’t answer more than that. She was overwhelmed by how open this man was about all this since it seemed to cause him a lot of pain. She looked into his blue eyes and she saw sadness and suffering. But also warmth. The ghost didn’t make her shiver anymore, he made her feel warm.
“So what about you?” he suddenly asked
“What does a young lady like you care about the feelings of a stranger?”
“I honestly don’t know. I just felt drawn to you in a way.”
“What’s your name, lady?”
“Listen, Diane, I have known a lot of women and if I gave you a list of their phone numbers and you called them all to ask about me, they would all give you the same answer. That when they started to know me, they felt drawn to me. That they enjoyed the beginning of our relationships but that in the end, I managed to fuck everything up. That I’m an asshole with a drinking problem that is swallowed by self-loathing. So let me just say this: stay away from me. You’re a beautiful woman who surely has a lot of love to give so don’t even for a second consider to waste it on me. I will only hurt you.”
“Oh. I see,” she answered, not sure what else to say. This man opened up to her in such a candid and charming way but at the same time he was so emotionally unavailable and distant, not even considering to make a new acquaintance.
“I’m sorry. Please don’t mind me. I’m merely another idiot who thinks he’s the world’s saddest being. Goodbye, Diane, I wish you all the love that life can give you,” the man said. Then he flicked his cigarette over the wall and walked away.
“Wait,” she exclaimed after having stood there for a couple of seconds “at least tell me your name!” But the man was gone. Vanished. Diane walked home, confused and depressed. She didn’t see him the following Friday. Or the one following that one. She never saw him again. He had disappeared the same way he had appeared in that alleyway over a half a year ago; in the blink of an eye. It seemed as though he had never existed. Like he had been nothing more than an imagination of Diane. He had vanished from her world in an instant, without ever looking back. Like a ghost. A ghost dressed in black.