No More Strange Days

When I write about my early years in the city, I feel like they were less choreographed. I was always stumbling across things I never knew existed. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been through so many moments I’m less easily surprised now.

An orphaned kitten pushes its head against my stomach./We follow the cops through a bumpy field/Tall grass parting/as we lurch along./A homeless couple stares from an abandoned truck-trailer./A skinny man stands on the concrete platform/where passengers once lined up. 

Now, when I go places, I feel like most of what I see has been thought up and approved. Scripted, so that anything unexpected is just someone else’s entertaining plot-twist. There’s less room for a penniless, out-there person to really make their own world. 

Ricky the animal man. Faded orange hair/blue eyes and a rooster tattooed on his bare ankle./He lives in the station waiting room/with a tin stove and a scuffed-up easy boy./Out front, four dogs lie in the sun.

That was one of the things I liked best about working on the ambulance. Moving in and out of scenes where I really didn’t know what was going to happen next.

Sitting on the edge of the platform with the August sun bearing down/and nothing to see but the sky-blue sky/Ricky tells us stories of the others who live here./The gingerbread men. Every morning they emerge from the slots/beneath a parking lot that abuts the field.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to the people that made the city so strange in the eighties. I can’t picture them surviving now, when all the space is filled with stores and buildings and it takes so much money to live. The homeless people I see around look so much more beaten down. Like they fell out of the visible world, and all they want is to get back in.