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The Dank Alleyway

There are places for the less bodacious; cave dwellers are welcome. The dark pub in the damp alleyway makes an all-too-easy comparison to those mysterious, mildewy spaces deep within the forest between rock formations and inside dead trees. Some streets are broad, yes, but others are so narrow it seems as though the buildings that contain them on either side arch over and meet at the top, creating a moist enclosure, a block-long ecosystem.

Are your eyes still closed? Good, look around you, what do you see in this dark, cramped alleyway? Dumpsters, broken glass, and graffiti-covered bricks and mortar, to be sure. There might be fire escapes above you on every side wet with bacterial condensation that drips brown, yellow, and green. The ground you walk upon consists of a wooden, muddy pulp brewed through a combination of dirt, ground water that never got the chance to evaporate, and particleboard that once a year disintegrates into the soupy mixture beneath you and once a year is replaced with kin that is bound to the same fate.

Scurrying along, underneath, and inside trash-water Jacuzzis are a tangled mess of rats, looking for their next meal amongst the discarded scraps of “higher” forms of life. Be careful as you trek through this darkness as red, glowing eyes peer at you from above, to the sides, and from below. At the far end of the alley you see a pile of ragged and tattered clothes atop a soggy piece of cardboard.

There’s a shopping cart with only three wheels next to this pile of clothes and you get the sense that it might be alive. As you pass by you see an overturned hat with some coins in it and a few empty plastic bottles knocked about like a sad, urban game of bowling. The pile, made inhuman by more than an unjust society, made inhuman by the constraints of human life itself, sits underneath a smattering of graffiti. The tags surround him; the bombs explode and announce his presence. He is surrounded by black on all sides with yellow, red, blue, and green punctuating and lighting up the darkness like a video-game rendering of stars in the night sky. You stop and look right, and the barely human lump mumbles something incomprehensible in your direction.

You take in the mental picture, and then pull out your smart phone and take a digital picture.

Leaning up against the red brick and grey mortar, surrounded by a mural made up of individual and warring pieces, each vying for the proper space to shout its owner’s small claim to fame in a city in which he or she is otherwise anonymous, is a human being barely visible through the mass of clothes so ravaged by time, dirt and human juices that not even Goodwill would take them in; you look on in horror as you realize that the difference between you and it in a city of 1.5 million isn’t as great as you might want to think and besides, to passersby you both make about the same mark on their daily routine.




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