The sun slid down the sky, bright red, a tomato splattered on the panel of the sky, sliding down and dripping sunset juices. The bleeding tomato sun sank and dissolved, became a frothy sauce of orange and yellow. Sunset spices and pollution flavored the flesh and juice of the fruit. The chimneys and spires atop the buildings framed the sky like a great, seething cooking pot, girders and fire escapes, smokestacks belching the furnace and smoking the flavor into the stew, roasting the vegetables and meat that walked the frying pan streets. Tire marks skidding everywhere on the pavement like grill marks burned into the city.
This is where I lived, like a bit of carrot floating in an endless cooking pot, never ending, always simmering, stretching forever and letting of a repugnant aroma that stank up the Earth. The city never ended, or so it was told. I knew it to be bullshit, but the stories might have well been real, as the outer limits were far beyond anywhere I had ever been. That was the curse of modern living: A placated imprisonment.
My teeth were clenched, and I consciously slackened my jaw. I walked through the streets semi-aimlessly, wandering in a general direction with no set path.
In the city you are never alone. Someone is always close by, whether in a window, behind a door, around an alley – they’re always with you. Most mind their own business well enough, not even casting glances at the strangest stranger. They’re used to the proximity, accustomed to the point of oblivious. People are white noise to them, as they carry on with their lives. That was the safest way to live…
The other kind of people, who don’t mind their own business, they stare. Kids do it because they don’t know any better. Everything is wild and interesting to them, so no harm comes of it. No one notices a child’s curious stare, it’s all white noise. But then there are the ones who stare, and you just know they’re not curious and fanciful. They stare with hostility, and an animal like fear and determination. Their hands do not shake, their shoulders do not hunch, and that’s how you know they’ve been mixed up in it: Other people’s business.
That’s a nasty business, other people’s. You’re in it maybe to make a profit by helping or harming, or maybe to make a name, or make some more business of your own for others to get into. Anyway you’re in it, you’re definitely in it when you are. There’s no stopping a dive like that, down into the hustle. Short of growing wings, there was no way out of the business. Just the same as the city.
I unclenched my teeth, rubbed my jaw, ran my tongue over my teeth, feeling the grit. I needed to brush my teeth. My groin had quit it’s throbbing, subsided to a dull ache, but I still hadn’t inspected the damage. Neither had I changed my clothes, for that matter, or showered. Conscious of my appearance, I shuffled along, not caring if anyone minded their business or mine or anyone’s. My jaw was tense again. I slackened it.
The sun had almost set, but the street lights had already hummed to life, casting an eerie yellow glow on an already shady looking ghetto. As far as I’d seen, the whole city was a ghetto. There wasn’t a trash can or front step in it that wasn’t overflowing with the waste. Plastic, paper, tin, aluminum. Stray cats and mean, vacant-eyed mutts. People. In the Bible there was a story of a Great Flood that swept away the evilness of the Earth. Only some survived, those who were worthy, hiding in a Great Boat. Today, God would probably use a Great Broom and sweep the city into the ocean, if it would all fit. There would be no survivors.
Padding along this way, clenching and unclenching my jaw, I arrived at the doctor’s office. The sign over the door informed that the first floor office belonged to the ‘Wizardiz’ Medical Practitioners – Certified Under The Estate.’
Coming all this way was not a waste of time. The doctor was a good friend of mine, which was exactly what I needed right now. I wouldn’t let anyone else check out my balls, no sir. There were about four people I trusted in all my life, in this whole damn city. I was one of them, another was dead, and another was the doctor. With a bit of empty luck I’m sure he’ll be penned up as well…