Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You pass a fine chocolate shop, a Costa coffee, a garage, a seemingly abandoned building opened for today to reveal the spillover from Seoudi grocery, a rusted sign for a dentist posted on the side of an apartment building, cats and kittens crossing and huddling and scampering and limping away from tires and feet and casting a cold eye, a mostly-dead eye at you if you cluck your tongue or say “kitty-kitty.” They are feral. They are dependent. They are ready to spring. A few of them gather around a styrofoam container filled with water, next to a rotund man in a gallabeya, arms crossed in a chair. You go back and forth from the sidewalk to the road, depending upon the inches between your toes and tires, holes, abandoned piles of brick. There are villas, large and abandoned by everything but vines and small creatures. One old villa is a school, but you can’t see over the yellow wall. There is a bawaab who looks like a gnarled fairy tale tree, and he doesn’t recognize you today, and you don’t think he will ever agree to recognize you.

The men at the green grocer’s are sharing a piece of fruit. The old father figure shows you newly-delivered, enormous radishes, heaves from his chair, stoops, offers them, waits for your nod, then twists off the leaves of one bunch. The rest is tied with palm. Out on the street the first wave of kids is getting out of school, and they buy junk food just like any kids with some change in their pockets, or they buy yams wrapped in newspaper from the guy who pushes his oven around on a cart all day. Little boys dart in front of cars and laugh. Teens kick a soccer ball to each other, back and forth across a street lined with honking cars. The ball smacks against the door of a BMW, once, twice. The driver stares at the car in front of him.

A few minutes later you cross another street, coming out from behind a truck, and nearly get hit by a boy on a bike. He swerves left, then right, whichever way you swerve.



Anonymous said...

How nice it was to picture myself there with you on this outing--and see an accurate picture of everything you described. Wish I could drop by for a weekend visit--
not just for the fun part--I miss you.

amy shearn said...

Interesting that that weird magnetism exists everywhere -- you almost walk into someone, then swerve to avoid them and they swerve the same way. What is that all about?! Once you lock eyes with someone in the street it's all over. You might as well just fall down and get it over with.

Writing Sisu said...

But before I pass the fine chocolate shop, I go inside and buy a monsterous bag of chocolate.

I love this piece in general, but particularly how it ends. I've been talking with my students a lot about writing sentences with intention and creating narrative suspense w/in the sentence. "You swerve" is just the prefect phrase to end on.

(And ou're so right, Amy!)

Bryan said...

This post was very enjoyable, although it would have been funnier if you could have dropped a monkey in there somewhere. Like, it could have been a monkey riding the bike that almost hits you. Think about that next time.

Loved that gnarled fairy tale tree bawaab. Sweet.