It must be so easy for the tenant of this street-side apartment to take in the fruits of his second story window. In such a bustling part of town, these three adjacent windows collaborate for a fine view to all the prosaic that the pavement has to offer. He probably opens them all on the weekends, inhales deeply, exhales emphatically, and then marvels at this wondrous city. What a wondrous city! Full of smiles and good people! Full of good vibes! Hack hack, wheeze wheeze. He begins to cough.
Surely the traffic buildup at that street light makes his lungs burn. Full of emissions! When he stops staring at the sun, rubs his eyes and refocuses them on the street, surely he sees reality. Full of excrement! That man, right there, he just finished defecating in the bushes! Ha! Look how he startled that elderly couple as he exited his makeshift latrine! And that one—look where he’s chosen to take his rest! Is he dying? Or just strung out? Is that one drinking mouthwash? Booze and poppers, uppers, downers. Where is his face? Doesn’t he notice the airplane noise? Here comes one of them, the 4:45 from Memphis.
His counterparts loitering nearby don’t seem notice the noise either—what difference do airborne tubes of metal make to homeless men? They won’t be boarding one anytime soon; and there can’t be any passengers that they know, whether inbound or on the way out. Maybe, in a former life. Regardless, there is still a market without the patronage of the city’s homeless, as evidenced by the constant flow of aircraft descending overhead into the city’s main airfield. Look! They land in such close proximity that a thin layer of soot has accumulated on the windowsills here.
This dummy still keeps the windows open though, probably bargaining that the payoff of fresh air and sunshine is greater than the long-term consequences of exposure to carcinogens. But with the windows open there is no way to avoid the complete aural paralysis created by the sirens—no one walking the city streets can avoid it.
The wanderers down there only seem to take notice of a passing ambulance long enough to curse it for interrupting. What!? Huh!? Grumble grumble, they say, gesturing toward the sky with their half-empty cans. Despite a daily ration of cigarettes and booze, these men hardly acknowledge the fact that soon they might be the ones lying supine in a stretcher. Once, when the ambulance came for a transient who was expiring on the overpass near the liquor store, it wasn’t his drinking buddies that called for him—it was a marginally concerned onlooker whose truck was blocked by the soon-to-be-corpse sprawled out before it.
He had looked around in disbelief.
His delay was an exception; the constant flow of automobiles usually carries on without incident, though infrequently interrupted by an elderly driver headed the wrong way up a one way street. It’s not as entertaining as the drivers who, while attempting to park next to the curb below this flat, demonstrate the fine nuance they achieved when their driving instructor omitted the parallel parking evaluation from their driver’s license test. During especially frustrating attempts, a passenger might direct the flustered driver from a strategic position outside the vehicle, waving one hand and pointing with another, then saying, “stop, STOP! No, turn it the other way!”
They try to ignore the bearded man sitting off to the side, smoking cigarettes and heckling them.
Look at these idiots! Grumble grumble, he says. His beard is like a Brillo Pad. His mustache is discolored from decades of tobacco smoke.
Unlike him, some members of this community—more than meets the eye—are living life just like anyone else. Well, they’re trying to. They don’t ask for a drink; they ask for food. And they don’t ask for money; they ask for work. They’re discouraged, but dissatisfied at being stuck in terrestrial purgatory, at being confined indefinitely to the space between.
Do they ever find love there?
Where do they escape to when they do? Everything else that they do—whether it be drinking, pissing or panhandling—they do publicly and without shame. Where then? In the overgrowth near the underpass?
Two scruffy lovebirds come together right on the sidewalk beneath a blue tarpaulin shelter. It’s the only thing they have to conceal their lovemaking from the eyes of passersby and jealous peers.
Among these onlookers is a regular to the neighborhood’s walkways, a tenured cup-shaker with an aquiline nose and sun-calloused skin. He spends his waking hours at the apex of a freeway off-ramp, just a few blocks away from here, where the steady stream of vehicles provides a prime market for his solicitations.
Once, hours after he had already queried every pedestrian in the neighborhood for coins and tobacco, he cursed energetically at an old man with a hickory cane as he crossed the street. Expletives spewed from his throat to the point of absurdity. It was an exhibition of the disposition common to street urchins that spend their days consuming spirits and nicotine.
Nonetheless, it’s such a great view from this place! There’s so much to see out on those streets! What a wondrous city! Full of smiles and good people! Full of good vibes!
And look at all of the tenant’s nice things!
Literature, a computer and a plastic teddy bear full of spare change! What’s he saving up for? Maybe he’s not as dumb as I thought!
You would think that he keeps place locked when he’s away, though.
Hey you, spare a smoke?