Saturday, March 29, 2008

A City Corner

It is a noisy, dirty corner in the heart of a large city. The streets that meet here are both wide, full of heavy traffic and constantly covered in groups of pedestrians walking back and forth from one sidewalk to the other. A large truck is double parked on the southeastern side, three men sit on the edge of the bed and a large mechanical dolly sits on the sidewalk, unused. Two men walk from east to west, drinking from bottles covered in paper bags, loudly discussing the events of the day. An older woman, wearing a large blond wig and a tight mini skirt, smokes by the donut shop on the north western corner. A neon sign of a nude woman blinks in and out from the covered front window of a massage parlor that stands next to a freshly painted liquor store on the northeastern corner. A little boy grabs onto his mother’s hand, dragging a plastic bag behind him, gently sobbing away the remains of a heartfelt tantrum.
On the south western corner there is a one story complex. A small adult shop is embraced on both sides by a single dilapidated house that wraps around it. It has two facades, leading to either street, both with a little forgotten porch covered in trash and solid steel gates.
The adult shop has only four faded porno tapes on its window, the lost glories of never quite beautiful women that have long lost their battle for men’s attention and are now forgotten symbols of wasteful dispersal that fail in their weak attempt at temptation. Inside the shop, behind the counter, is an older bearded man wearing a baseball cap and reading the newspaper. A TV screen behind him shows intense intercourse between a black man and a blond girl, the volume turned down while the radio blares out right wing talk radio and old rock and roll songs. The man groans every once in a while and turns the page. Two Latin men stare at a magazine and make whispered comments. An older single man in a black overcoat carefully runs through the many video sections, scanning every title and every so often grabbing a box and putting it under his arm. A sweaty brown skinned man stands by the dark door that leads to the private booths, anxiously staring at each of the men that walk in and out of the store. Another door, dusty and forgotten between rows of video tapes and plastic dildos, leads to the larger residence that surrounds the place.
The house is shaped like a thick L, with each end crowned by an elegant wooden door that leads to the outside. Inside, the light is low and shaded in red and green. At the corner of the "L" there is a long table, covered in a ripped and stained tablecloth, where two women and two men sit on small metal chairs. One woman prepares a crack pipe, wearing only a slip over a pair of tight shorts, while one of the men, a skinny older Caucasian wearing thick glasses and a sleeveless undershirt, anxiously stares and waits. The other two angrily discuss their current situation, always precarious, always on the brink of a complete catastrophe that has already started but never quite comes to an end. The man is a middle aged Latino, wearing jeans and a buttoned up shirt. The woman is older and hints of sadness and deep resignation recurrently wash over her wrinkled face. She wears a black T-shirt and a ripped red skirt.
Behind the table, there is a broken door that leads to a long bathroom. Inside, behind a ripped plastic curtain, there is a stretched out shower stall with three different shower heads, designed so that three or more bodies can bathe simultaneously. The tiled floor is covered in grime and smells of urine and sperm. A young boy sits on the ground, playing with tiny plastic soldiers, making soft explosive sounds with his mouth each time one the little figures gets shot. The only light that seeps into the bathroom comes from a high little window that also brings with it the constant wave of screams, curses and laughter that wash in from the alleyway outside.
In a small very dark room, the light banished with two layers of curtains and a thick old blanket taped to the window, a young Latin girl lies sleeping on a ripped up mattress. She is covered in cold sweat and wears only a thin summer dress. Her breathing is shallow and labored, her face squeezes painfully every few minutes and her dried tears have left a spider web of discolored makeup all over her cheekbones. Hanging on the wall close to her head there is a little wooden crucifix and taped up underneath it, the photograph of an older smiling woman with gray hair.
In one of the hallways that leads to the street, two shirtless teenage boys smoke marijuana and trade jokes and conspiracies amongst themselves. One of them has a large scar across his chest and a fresh bruise around his right eye. The other one has two fingers missing from his left hand and he uses the stumps to scratch his running nose. Using the joints as pointers, they discuss places and possibilities, people and betrayals, histories and legends. In their words, a trail of bubbling life pierces through the scratched up walls and the pungent smell of vomit that seeps in through the outer gates, along with loud horns, angry threats and a crackling radio playing an ancient song of harvest.

No comments: