The city is tired, the city is alive. The city is moving, the city lies still. A stop motion. A slow motion. When the light turns green I cross anyway, counting down the milliseconds, swiveling my sight in circles.
The city, from far away, sparkles and sprinkles and glitters and glows. Juxtapositions sit at every street corner. The homeless slump by the chatty elite, carry cardboard signs by their fine wine glasses. Angry bright lights glare. Still cold lampposts hang. I play the streets by ear, following the crowd, hoping to god that I’m moving southeast, not north.
The city overwhelms. Screams, honks, turns right because it’s right on red. Showers rain like a garden hose lite, like a childhood treat on summery southern days. Spinning and laughing in a one-piece, now cold and shuddering in jorts, jean shorts.
The city is zha. A mess. Tight cold fear plus high strung steps. I quicken my pace as the alleyways add up and it’s no longer hipster city. I hear there are Cambodian gangs by sixth and that it ain’t pretty up North but in the South it’s just fine. Just fine. Except at home, I whisper–like it’s a curse word and I’m a clean-mouthed spiritual believer–this would be the ghetto.
The city houses nail salon after nail salon. Our nail salon’s next to the gas station. Open doors. First breeze of summer wafts in. A woman with acrylic stuck in her nail drifts in, “you can remove this?” You don’t want new nails? A new coat? “Nah, just get rid of this.” Five minutes later she leaves muttering under her breath because she doesn’t want to soak them-she wants to rip them off.
The city is gritty, the city is loud, the city is terrifying, the city is striking, the city is cold. I skip down the steps to the train, slot in my coins, smile at the receiver who seems unusually patient and friendly. I pace my way back and forth as I wait stonily for the trolley.
The city is a million breaths at once, all breathing, breathing, breathing. And I’m afraid–once in love, but now just afraid.