A Nest of Urban Vignettes
Machines break down and stop. People break down and somehow keep going. Machines are all about function and efficiency. People are for creativity, making messes, and love.
Chaos was silent. No blaring horns from cars around me. No one reads beyond the edges of their digital screens any more. Finally stopped wondering how people sitting in cars behind me might respond or react to my bumper stickers. Nope. They’re too busy merging with their, ahem, “mobile devices” as they herd themselves into the Internet of Things. At every stop during the last few days all across the City of Seattle I’d see heads bow down and fones rise up in the postmodern autonomic digital prayers of the unconscious. Can’t even get a HONK! Not even one faint li’l bitty ol’ frickin’ honk. Then, BOOM BOOM CHOP! I had to put my 16-year old blue car in the repair shop up north on the Greenwood side of Aurora Avenue, and I met real people out on the streets in the everyday circus of madness and bliss.
She sat hunched over in the woodchips alongside the sidewalk in the shade of Gold’s Gym under a row of leafy trees with her face kinked between folded arms and knees. Her body was so scrawny the spinous processes of her lumbar and thoracic vertebrae poked out like those strange fins on a stegosaurus’s back called scutes or dinosaur dermal plates. They arched over with her spine in such a way I could almost feel the connection to her reptilian brain, but, hey, she’s a mammal, a hominin like me. We’re hominins in America. Hominins in America! The United States was and is still a quasi-fascist, pseudo-democratic oligarchy masquerading as a constitutional capitalist killer clown republic, Barack Obama was POTUS, and the Dem-Rep Duopoly self-gridlocked. Global Climate Disruption worsened, and the Great Global Depression wasn’t over at all for millions and millions of unemployed and underemployed lost people like us. She sat. I walked. She smoked. I judged. She despaired, and so did I.
A red suitcase lay loosely shut with clothes hanging out next to her. She smoked a cigarette somewhere down there under crossed arms, I could smell its acrid, stale heat, but I couldn’t see her face. I could see the crack of her ass between her shirt and her shorts. She was a young White woman with brownish, straw blond hair and all skinny and boney and all alone. I felt huge sadness and empathy. Oh, she was so alone in this world! I felt her energy as I strode around her towards the Gym. Without even trying, I could feel into her dark pool of synaptic fog just by walking by her. She felt sad, hung over, frustrated, desperate, and zonked out depressed. I could feel the ice-cold glitter of pain screwing thru her veins as the yearning for the next fix built up hot under her long sleeves.
I was in a hurry, however, as my car was in the shop, I had errands to do, and I was walking everywhere without any wheels. I wouldn’t take the bus. Nope, no bus today. Gonna walk for exercise. I stopped myself from going over to her, however, and reminded myself I have an old, bad habit of rescuing people. I am not going to rescue anyone anymore, no more drama triangles in life, and so must hold tight to my boundaries. Yes?
Hurried off into the Gym and trained hard with the weights. Slowly regaining my health after a prolonged and strange illness. Came back out after my workout with a long walk ahead of me. There she sat, more sad and desperate then ever, without looking up. She didn’t need to look up. She was primal enough to sense what was happening around her, even if her senses were warped and fragmented by too many of the wrong kind of drugs. I felt her coil without coiling and sensed the dead pulse of mutant killer kundalini. She cranked taunt as locked gears forced apart and popped as automatically defensive as a robot sentinel left behind to guard some long-abandoned ancient fortress. I stopped. She bristled and the image of her lunging at me with a dirty syringe in hand burst into my mind as real as a wild ass grizzly bear rearing up on her hind legs. I shuddered and recalled being homeless myself not all that long ago…and scared.