On the daily 8am tram, the usual crowd fills the tube attempting to avoid an emaciated hobo’s urine stains. It’s never on time. They never avoid the stains. One stop on the way into the city fills the car with suburban suits and heels. Monday morning already. It seemed like just last week it was Monday. Harold (he is going by Thaddeus today [it’s on his nametag]) wipes his moist palms against his shaking legs. His shirt reverberates to the motion of his heart. Thaddeus (as I will respect his wishes) did not sleep last night. His face is pale and is without relaxation. His breath is shallow. Thaddeus is going to die today. He will fail in his attempt to find a job. He will not receive his drugs. I know this because I am responsible for his actions today, and putting an end to his actions tomorrow, and the days after. I am an ordinary man. I have never harmed anyone in my life. Surely, you can understand what would drive someone such as me to take someone’s life away from them.

Reader, the only contact I have had with Thaddeus prior to this morning is on the 4th, 12th, and 18th of this month exactly. On those days he boarded the train the same as I. Thaddeus does not know who I am. He does not know what will happen to him at my disposal. His being anxious is merely a coincidence or a side effect of withdrawal. I do not suspect that he has any notion that my obsession with him as grown increasingly as our paths have crossed. It was in fact a Monday morning on the 4th when I first I saw him under the name “Thomas” when he boarded the same car as me and sat three rows up from my usual seat, to the right, on the end of his bench. His nametag hung from the bottom of his shirt to his left side along the aisle (this day and those following up until the 12th Harold [or Thaddeus] was only known as Thomas). He was dressed similarly as he is today. Dumpster brand clothing with holes in all the wrong places. His stench was rather admirable. Who could have an odor so strong that vultures would ignore them, and still be able to live with themselves and what cesspool of filth must one live in to acquire it?

Thaddeus got off at the same stop as I in the city and for a couple blocks our steps mimicked one another. As I unintentionally followed him, I saw as he removed several folded papers from behind him that had been tucked in between his lower back and his pants. He stopped on the sidewalk in front of a fat man in white who was smoking. Thaddeus handed him the paper and was ushered by the man in white to move along. I followed up behind him passing the man holding the paper as he cursed to himself something along the lines of, “goddamn, Marie. Handing out application to fucking junkies”. This made it clear that Thaddeus, unsuccessfully, was attempting to find employment. At the next street we went our separate ways. After all, I already had a job.

Most of my work day was spent thinking of what other restaurants Thaddeus had applied to. What streets he had walked down. Had he been accepted? Where did he live? The invasion of these thoughts allowed me to get little work done, and during lunch I went back to the same spot where I had last seen Thaddeus to inquire on his day. I entered the restaurant that I passed earlier in the morning and asked the man in white (who I learned was the cook and owner) if he was going to hire Thaddeus. He asked, “who the fuck are you?”, and I froze. I began to sweat at the unexpected response as I noticed that I had no answer. Who was I? A simple stranger asking about an average junkie walking the streets looking for a job merits such a response, I supposed. I apologized and exited the restaurant back to the street where it had begun to rain. I whistled for a taxi to take me to my favorite diner for lunch.

I wasn’t feeling hungry, so I ordered a water, coffee, and apple pie. My head began to throb from my eye to my chin, so I asked the waitress for a couple aspirin. I enjoyed the bitter taste, so I chewed them until they dissolved on my tongue and swallowed with water. As my fork hit the plate for the last time, Thaddeus walked into the diner, bringing the storm with him. A puddle formed beneath his feet. In an attempt to find the silver lining, you couldn’t tell he was sweating and had now a legitimate reason to shiver, except now his stench attacked the senses with a newly acquired scent of a wet dog on top of everything else. He was looked at with disgust by everyone, even those who sat at the bar who took the time to swivel around to share their gazes. Quickly, a waitress in a shirt a color different from the others walked to Thaddeus as he attempted to hand a destroyed application. “Do you have any decency? I told you to show up here in clean clothes, you bum. Get the out of my diner before you cause everyone to lose their appetites,” she said to Thaddeus. He walked out back into the rain. “Impossible to find good help,” the waitress remarked as she pushed the door open to the back room. Thaddeus entered the conversation of the people eating in the diner. I was finished and it was time to get back to work, so I picked up my receipt, tipped the waitress, and walked to the counter to pay the bill.

The rest of the day passed slowly, as many Mondays do. As the sun slipped behind the horizon and twilight rested on the sky I packed up my things and left the building. Thaddeus did not enter the train that evening, and as I sat down all memory of him had been erased. I slipped into a daydream about nothing peculiar and watched darkness try to conquer the skies as the stars defiantly shed their light. It wasn’t until a week later on the 12th that Thaddeus entered my mind again when he appeared on the train, this time with a new name and with a friend. This day on his nametag was the name “Roger.” (This piqued my interest at the time as I could have sworn his nametag had read Thomas. It wasn’t until this moment that I questioned the use of his nametag. Why did he have it? What was its purpose?) Thaddeus was dressed in cheap clothing and it had looked that some point in recent history he may have had the chance to shower. Sitting beside him on the train was a woman. Not another addict or street dweller the likes that I would have expected to see with Thaddeus. But rather a casually dressed woman who from the distance I was sitting seemed clean enough. They spoke, or rather she spoke, but from where I was sat the conversation, was not audible. At my stop, Thaddeus and the woman both stood up and exited. Again, I found myself behind Thaddeus, and for the first time the woman, on my path to work. Due to my renewed interest I walked closely behind them and overheard a few words. “Listen, Harold. You are going to get a job. I will make sure of that. You just have to stay off the sauce. There’s no life in it, only death. Is this the restaurant ahead?” Harold (simply another alias at the time)? They both entered the building, and as curious and hungry as I was, I decided it would be appropriate to stop in and grab a bite to eat to further uncover the mystery that was Thaddeus. I sat as closely as possible to where Thaddeus, the woman, and the owner stood talking. I do not recall what I had ordered. The woman explained that she was a “dear friend” (her words) and that she would be “forever grateful” (again, her words) if the owner gave Thaddeus (she called him Harold, which I assumed was his real name at this point) a chance to work for him. After resistance from the owner, the conversation was intercepted by Maria. She picked her battle and in one swift advance on his flank said, “What would Jesus do?” The undoubtedly defeated the husband and she gave Thaddeus the job. He would start immediately. The woman said thank you, hugged Thaddeus, and told him good luck. “What time will he be off?” the woman asked Marie. “Seven tonight; he will have a lot of training to go through.” The woman thanked them again and left. I continued to eat, and as I chewed, I decided that I would skip lunch today and come here after lunch for dinner to see how he was doing. At that moment, I remembered that I was supposed to be at work. I tossed a 20 down on the table to cover the food I had ordered (and had not yet received) and walked to work.

All day long, my left leg bounced up and down on my toes. My fingers tapped the desk. I occasionally rubbed the back of my neck and I had chewed off a layer of skin on my bottom lip. It was another day that Thaddeus wouldn’t allow me to be productive. When I was called upon, I answered in a manner that some would ascribe to being irritable. I was asked repeatedly if things were okay. I put all rumors to rest quickly, and by the time noon was settling, I was being avoided completely which was strange. I decided that I would take my lunch break and use the time to go back to the restaurant where Thaddeus got employed. My wife may want to see me tonight and have dinner, so I thought it was best to see how he was doing now. I walked out of the building and crossed the street. The whole time I kept thinking if he had burned himself, what he looked like with a hairnet, or if he had even lasted the few hours that he had been there. When I found myself in front of the door, I had a sudden surge of panic. What if he has noticed me? I have been around him several times already; what if he thinks I am stalking him? How would I explain that? What if the owner recognized me from the week before when I asked if he would employ him? That could start up a conversation between the two of us. What was my reasoning for all this?

Reader, I feel that I must add some of my insights into this. I don’t think man can really explain the cause of an obsession until it has climaxed. An obsession is something I believe that one must follow through until the end to rid himself of it, or else it will take you along with it while you’re kicking and screaming. I knew not at the time what had possessed me to learn about Thaddeus, to follow up on him that day, but I have now determined that when a true obsession enters your life, sometimes it forces you to follow it regardless of what you believe and it’s easier to let go and have expose its truths to you along the path, whatever that path may be. I hesitated that afternoon in front of the restaurant, and for better or worse, returned to my office. I wished to do nothing but wait for six o’clock so I could go back to the restaurant and eat dinner. I had forgotten all about the imagined wishes of my wife. Obsession has a way of removing roadblocks that get in its way. And although I may have taken a detour through my resistance that afternoon, I have no doubt that it would have lead to the same conclusion that has yet to be played out.

Once it was time to leave, I walked out of the office to the surprise of my coworkers (as I later learned I hadn’t said a word to any of them before leaving as I usually do in normal circumstances [these circumstance naturally being abnormal {I was not aware, reader, of the possession that had taken place and therefore of any abnormal actions I made except in my attempts of stubbornness}]). When I arrived in front of the restaurant for the third time, my breaths were short and my armpits were damp, which was odd as it was in the middle of October. I then began to feel a slight chill around the border of my hair and forehead and around my ears where I had also began to perspire. I removed my handkerchief and wiped the sweat away and entered the restaurant without a second thought to being panicked. I sat myself in a booth in that was in view of the kitchen should I happen to catch a view of Thaddeus. This time, I figured I would have enough time to order and eat before he was relived at seven o’clock, so I told the waitress a steak (blue rare) with a baked potato and a beer off the tap. While waiting on my meal, waitresses and busboys walking in and out of the kitchen through the swinging door, but there was no view of Thaddeus anywhere. There was only a prep table. At this point, I thought that maybe I was wasting my time. He was a junkie; he probably quit already or got caught shooting up. Maybe he ODed and the owner dragged him out back and threw him in a dumpster. The business became crowded and loud and it only added to my anxiety. I continued to peer at the door in hopes of seeing him walk by and right as a busboy broke through Thaddeus walked behind him in the kitchen. He must have been on break or was taking out the trash. I was calm again, but reluctantly had to remove my handkerchief and wipe away the sweat from my forehead. I could smell the scent of raw onions, but failed to know if it was the restaurants cooking or if it was coming from under my arms. My food came and relieved me of this worry and I began to eat calmly.

I finished with about ten minutes until seven o’clock and I was craving a cigarette, so I paid the bill and walked outside across the street from the restaurant to smoke and keep an eye on the door. Periodically I would raise my wrist to examine the arms on my watch and after about the fifth time, at five past seven, I saw Thaddeus walk out from the alley beside the restaurant in his cook fatigues and begin walking down the street. I followed parallel and slightly behind wondering where he would go. I saw he was looking for a taxi, and like a bloodhound on a fresh trail, I felt panicked when I thought the scent of my prey was beginning to vanish. I quickly ran across the street and up behind Thaddeus as he waved down a cab. “I’m so, sorry, but may we share? I am in a very big hurry.” I have never lied like that before in my entire life, reader. I don’t think I could ever lie like that again. But it was necessary. Thaddeus said he didn’t care, we both got into the back, and he said he needed to go to Queens. I told him that was fine, it was close to my destination (obviously it wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to go). I thanked him for his kindness for sharing a cab and told him I’d be happy to pick up the fair. He had no care in the world whether I decided to be generous or not. This being the closest I had been to him, I was grateful that he smelled like grease instead of whatever pit he lived in. The ride to Queens was quiet. When he told the cabbie to pull over, he exited, I paid his fare and told the cabbie to drive around the corner, that my destination was only a couple blocks over. I decided to get out, tipped the cabbie handsomely, and began walking the opposite way in which I had just came.

It took maybe ten minutes to get back to where Thaddeus had exited. He was sitting on a stoop with a few other rough-looking guys who shared the same outfits that Thaddeus was wearing just last week. The house behind them was rundown and looked abandoned. The street was dead and right out in the open I witnessed for the first time someone tie off their arm and inject themselves. Thaddeus was waiting his turn. His partner rolled back and forth on the steps and eventually laid down on the concrete. Thaddeus removed the needle and rubber tube from the guy’s arm and sat back down with the other addict. Thaddeus waited for the man to heat up the bottom of a spoon, then burned the tip of the needle, rubbed it off, placed the tip into the spoon and pulled back on the plunger. He tied off his own arm, put the needle below the joint of his arm (the typical place for heroin addicts), and removed it. He began to curse. He did this several times before hitting the right spot and pushed in the plunger. Immediately, he started to sway, untied the rubber hose, and dropped everything before leaning back and falling to the ground. The third man, and the last one sitting up straight, proceeded with the same process and he also leaned back and laid on the steps. I waited for 30 minutes watching the three sway around one another before they finally walked into the house. I could see no more and decided that it was time to go home. I walked down the street to find a phone booth that was still intact and searched through the phone book for the taxi corp. number. After I called, I lit a cigarette and waited. For now, it seemed the obsession had passed.

The following week on the 18th, I was sitting on the 8am with all of the prior encounters of Thaddeus again gone, temporarily, from memory. Life again returned to normalcy and I was exactly who I had always been (not that at the time I knew I had acted any differently [except in moments of stubbornness]). The train stopped at my usual exit, and as I walked off I saw to my left Thaddeus, again with the woman from before, walk out of a separate car. The woman looked furious and Thaddeus had looked worse than ever. For a third time (and second concerning the woman), I was behind them on the sidewalk. They were moving quickly up the street and I struggled to keep up in the wake of their movements. Together they barged into the door into the restaurant where Thaddeus had been employed. Under the spell I followed without question. I entered and the woman was causing one hell of a commotion. She was screaming at the owners about how they can’t fire him because he is black, that it’s racist, she was going to write to the paper, have them sued, the usual. I stood to the left of the doorway; it was clear that no one here for breakfast was going to notice me with the woman accompanied by a junkie in rags that could hardly be considered proper clothing at the manger and owner of the restaurant. Marie and her husband were able to break through the woman’s screaming to tell what actually happened. The week prior (the night that I watched Thaddeus and his addict friends shoot up in Queens) that he failed to show up the next day to work, or the day after, or any during that week until Friday when he asked for a paycheck.

Thaddeus stared at the woman as her face turned to red. Her fury refocused onto him as she began to slap his face and slam her fists against his chest. She yelled out how embarrassed she was, that she hated him, and that he was never allowed back to her home for anything again. She swore that if he ever tried to contact her again that he would have him thrown in jail. The owner managed to get both of them out, apologized for the disturbance to his customers, took his wife by the arm and dragged her to the backroom. I exited to see Thaddeus walking in one direction and the woman in the other. I thought he was probably headed back to Queens and that would be the last I would see of him. I hoped it would be the last I would see of him. On the walk back to work I grew disgusted at Thaddeus. I thought about the past three weeks for the first time in detail and examining all that I had witnessed saw how despicable he was. For the first time, reader, I felt hatred towards him. But it wasn’t until next Monday (today, reader) that I thought anything would come of it.

I had decided as soon as I saw him board the train that he was my responsibility. I refuse to take my eyes off of Thaddeus. The back of his head is all I see. The train has stopped and I exit behind him and follow him for the fourth time up the same street. He stumbles and scratches his marks on his arms under his long sleeves. He walks towards the restaurant where the fat owner in white again stood. Thaddeus approaches him. The owner sees him, and before Thaddeus can begin to open his mouth, he is awakened by the owner’s shouts. “What the fuck are you doing back here? I told you to stay the fuck away from my restaurant!” The owner grabs Thaddeus and shoves him into the alley wall. He throws his fist into the side of Thaddeus’ jaw a few times, picks him up, and drags him down the alley “Come back here again and I’ll fucking kill you,” the owner shouts for the last time before he violently drops him onto the ground and walks back. Thaddeus stands up and staggers down the alley. The owner slams on the side door until someone comes and lets him in. The door shuts and I walk down the alley towards Thaddeus. It’s a cold day and I have my gloves on. It’s perfect. “Thaddeus,” I call to him. He is turning around and his glassy eyes make momentary contact with mine. “What the fuck do you want?” he says. I walk slowly towards him deeper into the alley. “I just want to try something, Thaddeus.” I’m close enough to grab him by his throat, and I do. He is incredibly weak. I throw him to the ground, I get on top and I squeeze his throat. He’s starting to kick violently. He screams for help, and out of desperation I raise his head by his throat and slam it into the pavement.

Again, again, again, and blood is starting to show. The back of his hair is red and his skull has cracked just enough to see an indention on the side that is sunken in. Unheard cries for help are vibrating against my fingers. Captured breath failed to be exhaled is trapped just below my thumbs. His eyes are beginning to water and tears are flowing down his cheeks. “You won’t be in pain much longer,” I tell him. Just a few more times. Again, again, again. The back of his head is completely split. He’s stopped resisting as I have against the obsession. My hands on his throat I clinch tighter and tighter until there is nothing left. I feel his throat collapse under my grip. He’s soon to be dead. I let go. I stand up, look around, and there is no one. The obsession, the hunt, the addiction: it’s all over. It dies with Thaddeus, who is laying there showing his last bit of life through a few twitches of the fingertips, a few flips of his tongue, and the batting of his eyes which tears fall out of and streak against his cheek. He is motionless now. The blood runs out from his head and pools behind his skull.

We are both free.

Reader, it has been a month since I last saw Thaddeus on the pavement in the ally. His murder didn’t even make the news, no one was interviewed, and the woman never cared to claim the body. He was in the paper simple as “Deceased Male,” and was to be cremated, I assume. I’ve had time to think about what I have done, and as I am afraid maybe, while reading, you have made incorrect assumptions. Do not think, reader, that by telling you my story that captures no more than a mere four days out of a single month of the years I have lived, that I wish to inflict some form of morality. I do not. Whether it was moral or amoral what I did to Thaddeus I do not know, I do not care. I do not wish to kill again. I do not feel a thirst for blood. I have in no way been affected by my actions (no nightmares, anxieties, depressions, none of the sort). It was an obsession, a drive, a motivation. It captured me. I am guilty of whatever charges you think should be acquainted with the death of Thaddeus. I suppose I did murder him. I also do not wish to inflict any concern for the philosophical nature of the things I did during those four days. There is no hidden meaning behind my simple story; that there must be junkies in the world, and there must be nice men, and there must be murder, and people must die. Think that if you wish, but I do not hold those ideas true to heart.

But, still, I am aware that the question must remain: what was the purpose of killing Thaddeus? Did I feel the need for retribution? Was I angry for having him take up my time? Did it affect me in any personal sense that because of how he took advantage of the woman’s help and Maria’s kindness (although trumped up to Jesus)? No. None of those are true. I do suppose there might be one motive behind the obsession. Remember, reader, I have only had myself to talk to about all of this that has happened. I think, maybe, in one way or another throughout a man’s (or woman’s) life that they have a desire to kill someone. It can be completely random. Someone who they hadn’t had any interaction with at all, and that some act on this impulse. Maybe some men (or women) are meant to give in or experience an irrefutable obsession to kill someone. I think maybe they want to know what it feels like. Maybe I did, but I now no longer know. It didn’t feel good to kill, it didn’t feel bad to kill, it was just a killing. As I said, I feel no impulse to do it again. I do not want to do it again. But I did kill Thaddeus. Nature has a unique way of running things around here. Maybe some have to kill in order to know not to kill? I don’t know. If it was a lesson to be learned, then I’d like to say I learned it. I just wonder, if I didn’t learn the lesson that if someone out there is being taught it right now and when I get onto that train at 8am tomorrow morning on Monday that someone will be telling another reader that they are responsible for me. I doubt it, reader.

I really do.