Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hot Concrete

The city’s got a feeling summer. Hot concrete. Horizon’s obscured, by buildings or distance or mist. It’s key to choose a city with some green. It gives you that feeling of wet that will permeate your skin -- get under your skin -- get into your clothes. So you’re never quite dry. That’s how you know it’s summer. You’re never dry. Not entirely.

The smell is sweet; sour; sickly; death and birth at once. Baby birds dead on the sidewalk, gray bodies bordered in lines of pink and blue, eyes bulbous and closed, open beaks. Grown birds too, in the same positions -- heads back, stomachs distended, flies and gnats scattering as you walk past. People on porches watch you walk past, they say the neighborhood is changing, not for the better; they say nothing at all and wish you would notice them; they don’t even notice you pass. Stone stairs up to wooden porches, vines and leaves creeping in. You have to push past them. Lines of ants along one step. Occasionally they get inside. They find pop cans. They find cat food.

Inside you hear voices even clearer than out. Kids playing in a pool you can’t see. A woman walking up one side of the street, then the other, then on a block you can’t see but can still hear -- “Britt! Britt! Britt! Britt!” After ten minutes someone yells in response -- not Britt -- and the first woman calls back, “Fuck you, she can hear me!” Hellos, laughs, drunk on booze or the lateness of the hour. It’s always a holiday weekend, especially in the middle of the week.

During the day. Dog walkers, people on cell phones speaking quietly, people who will cross the street whether you’re dangerous or look dangerous or they are. People crane their necks to see in cars or other houses. It’s suspicious, or it looks natural. Radios from cars, from back porches, from roof porches. You can see people who can’t see you back. Somewhere, someone can see you you can’t see back. Around five the bar puts out its patio tables. There is no rush for seats. That comes later, and inside. Things happen there every night. It’s not on a calendar. You just have to go.

At night, blue light from TVs. From your window the street looks orange. It’s the light from the streetlights. There are so many because of the churches and the school. It’s a price you pay. The trade off is that there are also green things, a lawn that is mowed, and lots of street parking.

You worry that no one here knows you. It doesn’t take very long to be known. That’s been a problem in the past. Be more careful this time. Be more patient. Be humble and self-aware. You don’t have to take this advice, just know that it’s good. Remember what you told yourself a long time ago, when you felt very similar: It matters what you do when no one is looking.