Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Little Town

A few streets crossing each other, a few of them scattering off tangentially away from the center, a tiny web in the midst of the forest. There is no sense of planning. Instead it seems that the streets were just added to each other as the need arose, some of them covered in asphalt, some of them still dirt roads. There are little signs on the corners to indicate the names. They are painted in black letters over white metal, each one with little flourishes to indicate a sense of history, of a time that has passed.
There are many small houses. Each is adorned with tiny mementos, little statues, tinkling chimes, a clay gnome permanently smiling at the passers-by. Dogs are barking unseen from some backyard, their sound seeming to mix in with the faded paint of the old houses resonating with each other and lulling you into sleepiness. A cat runs underneath the parked cars, then emerges back onto the street a few cars up the road. The sidewalk is tall, about the height of three steps above the street. There are little cement stairways every once in a while, each one leading to a lonely porch. Most of the doors have metal screens and most of the screens are broken. Behind the doors, there is furniture covered in white sheets and an air of forgetfulness. The only sounds here are the dog in the distance and the dusty wind moving the blinds back and forth.
The longest street that runs through the center of the town is called "Main Street". The one that crosses it is called "Park". There is a cluster of little stores near the center. They sell trinkets from other times, new handicrafts and some art reproductions. There is a coffee shop in a corner. An old hippie sits outside, drinking coffee and striking up conversations with anyone that passes by. Little groups of teenagers walk around, no more than 5 of them at a time. They are all dressed in jeans and tshirts, they make jokes every once in a while but they are mostly quiet. They stare at the stores and the houses, hoping something will happen. But nothing really does. Here and there a lonely adult walks calmly from one place or another, saying hello warmly to whoever walks by them, then dissappearing again.
The streets that lead off, away from the town center, get more and more sparse. There are trees and bushes that flank the road, and sometimes hide the constructions behind them. The houses become larger but less well taken care of. There are broken cars sitting outside, the hoods up, the wheels long gone, a large brick in their place. A car tire swings from a tree, a large black dog on a chain barks constantly and angrily. Someone is banging a hammer on a piece of metal. A woman is calling out a man’s name. Metal tools are spread out on the driveway, next to a deep stain of grease. Loud laughter and angry calls, scattered bits of conversation and the sound of a indignant radio jock, all vibrating together, all flowing into each other through the dry bushes. There is a sense of trapped desperation, of lost hopes and slowly decomposing dreams.
There is a gated community down one the roads, a few miles away from the town center, guarded by people in uniforms. Inside, the houses are all shiny and very well kept. They are crowded into small cul-de-sacs… with 3 or 4 houses to each one. There are at least 3 cars per house, parked outside in the gently curving driveway. The cars are also new and shiny, and they smell of luxury. There are a few chimes here and there, but mostly the houses here are very streamlined, it would be easy to confuse one of them with any other. Dark wood and bright white paint, metal yard furniture and the silence that comes with the absence of dogs.
It is afternoon. The sun is high in the sky and the whole place smells of sweat and dust. In the air itself you can almost see the transparent thick waves of heat as they slide around the town, caressing the wooden walls like forgotten lovers coming back to find their lost object of desire, finding loneliness instead. A car rolls up or down every once in a while, but very rarely. When they do, they drive slowly and carefully. The heat, the dust and the absence of wind gives the whole place an air of stillness, of stagnation, of things that have been like this forever and will remain so, drenched in heavy sunlight and loud silence.

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