The lamplight.. it plays with your mind, dances from it's
post as it were some god, some shade or creature..
the whir of flies buzz in their dense swarm at the top
like a cloud, or plague, or fog. The insects dance with the
light; and the light casts scornful glances at the dark street,
painting billboards in the distance and benches, the ones
that might bear "wet paint" signs in humble scribble on
some piece of lost cardboard that would be slightly drenched
with rain that might hold that unholy acid, on the side of the
street. The lamplight, street lights, they play tricks with your
mind. You stand here, for hours on the street corner, your
overly made-up lips tugging on a cheap cigarette; your arms
wrapped tightly about you as you shiver in the cold. There
might be a moon, there might not.. you can never tell with the
glow of the light above you.. Light pollution, they call it.
But all the same, you can't see the stars from right here,
even without the light, the smog of this city would block them.
Sometimes I sit here, hugging the post as if it will hold me
back. Sometimes, I just hold the post, feeling the cold
distance of the metal as it rests against my body. Sometimes
it is comforting, the post is there: it is always cold and always
rough to the touch; but it is constant. Sometimes it is
terrifying.. as if I am afraid that it will become something that
it is not.. that one day it will change and become warm and
close, that it might hold me back. And that scares me.
But the light plays tricks on your eyes. You think you might
see a vagrant on the horizon, swaggering forward. Perhaps he
holds a bottle in his hand, you might be fairly sure that he is
drunk and know in the same moment that he will make his way
upward as if he were swimming and try to talk to you. You
aren't particularly afraid, but annoyed. Another lost drunk to deal
with. But then you blink, and he vanishes. And you realize he
was merely a wraith in the darkness, nothing real. And then you'll
turn your eyes downward, sometimes after it has just rained, and
there, in the street, will be a puddle where several drops of oil have
fallen. And a thousand different colors of red and blue and green in
distorted swirls that speak of people's lives stretched out and twisted
and yet strangely beautiful. They wrap about each other as you shift
your stance, almost writhing on the street. You can see fear and pain
and love and death in the people's eyes; you can see them looking
back at you. Staring up at you. They watch you. But you are not
paranoid, for they cannot harm you. And again you blink and they are
gone, except for a vague memory still resting like a single page atop
a desk of cluttered papers, where you can sometimes distinguish it
from the rest, but just barely. And then it is gone, and you've lost it.
But the light plays tricks. Sometimes they are beautiful.. other times
not. But it is still magic. At least to those who see it.
But we stand here, at least I do. Waiting. Watching. Staring
into the darkness, never saying much to each other. It would be
wrong to speak in these moments, with our thoughts to ourselves
we can be someplace else, perhaps with children and a house,
in a place where we can respect ourselves and not wake up feeling
dirty and shameful. Empty. These moments where we are each saints.
These are moments of hope. And the streetlight bears witness to
them all. And, like us, says nothing.
Then a car pulls up, the window rolls down and a bit of face
protrudes from inside. "How much?" a scruffy voice asks.
"Fifty dollars," I say.
He looks at me for a moment and says, "Get in."
And I take one last glance at the streetlight, close my eyes,
hold my breath, and step inside his car.