Saturday, September 17, 2005

Urban Animal. (Coffee with the Devil, 1.5)

She crouches low, in the shade between two buildings. Bony fingers, scratched hands hastily tearing open greased paper to reveal the lukewarm treasure inside. Dough, though greasy and squashed, encasing a core of vegetables which would probably look too old to sell on the market, but make excellent filling for overspiced, oversalted snack. Dinner for her. She bites into it, although not greedily, not hastily like one would expect, but slowly, taking small bites, trying to make it last.

Shade, food, non-disturbance, and warm late summer air. For now, all is good. Slowly but surely, she munches her way through the risolles. Her only focus-point now, and she is perfectly in the moment, as always, although guard-senses would never be let down. Corners of eyes still function, ears are still attuned to any sound out of the ordinary, ready to pick up anything different from the city's usual flow.

The city. All she ever knew, the different layers, from rich to poor (she considered herself neither of them, or all of them), the veins through which they move. She loves the city, loves the way it provides safe spots (like this one), excitement (like where she gets her food), beauty (nearly everywhere), contrasting ugliness. She knows that, without places where the metropolis is torn open, it's guts revealed, it's innards shown, or where it's building are crumbling, slowly dying to be inevitably replaced by something newer (or not), she could never appreciate the other parts. And, when she thought about it, even the decay itself was a beautiful thing, living (dying?) proof of the city's age and wisdom.

She loves the way the city sometimes provides gifts, for her to stumble on. Like now, as every night, she unwraps a piece of oilcloth from her pocket, carefully, so as not to break the fragile white wires, not to scratch the surface of the small white box, no larger than a pack of cigarettes, even more. She finds the ends of the wires, and holds them close to her ears. Presses the button, and that beautiful sound comes out. To her, it is the city talking, singing to her, all the traffic-noises and mumblings, whispers, shouts and yells of people warped, rearranged and composed into this piece. It tells her of the city's rhythm, that it will go on no matter what, even though that high sound will try to keep interfering, even though the beat sometimes stumbles, falters, and picks itself up again. The music she hears is an alternate take of John Coltrane's "Greensleeves", but the reference would be lost on her. To her, it is simply the sweetest fifteen minutes in a day.

When the piece finishes, she tucks the box away, as carefully as she unwrapped it, stands up, brushing crumbs from her clothing. Licks the crumbs from her fingers, rearranges the blanket-turned-scarf and jumps down. Ledge, ledge, hold on to rainpipe, pavement. A passerby looks up, bewildered at this filthy angel that fell from the sky, then prejudice kicks in and another bum is filtered out. Another one frowns, as he sees a girl that is, in his eyes, no older than sixteen, light a cigarette. He gets a feral stare in return, and the girl disappears in the comforting folds of uncharted inner-city back alleys, trailing smoke and a tiny orange glow.

She steers clear of people, knowing that they want to decide for her. All she needs is the city. The city doesn't judge, the city doesn't care, and the city cares more than all of them. Yet she knows that without those same people, the city is nothing.

Occasionally, somebody catches her interest, and she follows them for some time, taking care to remain unseen (which, by now, has become not so much second as first nature to her, making it harder for her to be noticed than not to), their lives becoming her stories, until she loses interest and moves on. Like now, there is this boy who is touched by that lady, the one that looks like a girl, but houses so much more. She recognizes a lot of herself in the lady, which is probably why she dislikes her. The lady seems to be noticed only by the people she chooses to be noticed by. Like herself, only she chooses to be seen by no-one. And, even though she is unseen by the city's life and blood, she knows this lady knows she is there. The lady knows, and she knows, and that is enough.

But this boy (or man, she isn't sure, he hovers in between) is now touched by the lady, and tomorrow, they shall meet.

She finds her spot for the night, in the street where he lives, and waits for stories to unfold.


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