When you believe your job is so boring it’s bound to kill you, the end of every work day feels like an unexpected gift. A couple of months ago, I got off from one of my temp jobs and I felt, as usual, euphoric and grateful to be alive. When I left my building, it was 8:00 on a Sunday night in downtown Portland, and it had just rained. I started to walk to my bus stop.

I turned left at the end of the block and headed toward the Willamette River. I looked up at the fire escape of Hotel Alder, a low-income residential hotel that sometimes serves up some low-grade drama on my commute home. The fire escape was empty. When I looked back down a man lunged toward me and said, “That’s what he gets.” Simultaneously, I heard what sounded like a gun shot, and I saw… More…