Description of a City

There is no center, nor are there any outskirts. There is no focus, nor does the city dwindle into the distance. It’s not expanding and it doesn’t go away. It just gets shoveled around like a heap of coal. People get pushed aside. Some have left and others have come. A few stay forever, clambering over this coal heap, playing house, playing mommy and daddy. We sift through the dirt and dust, browse through thrift stores – junkyard junkies junking it up. Everywhere I go I see the same people, the beatnik rabble crowding around someone else’s lame contribution to their culture – a culture of laughing cynicism and the insecure fawning of those who are incapable of anything better.

Neighborhoods butt up against one another like houses in a row – offended or oppressed by the proximity. One area buckles under the weight of its heavy, ethnocentric features. Another is defined solely by its geographic enclosure, wherein nothing is enclosed. The city’s crenulate geography has become a map of human differences; the color of our skin and collars, the age of our bodies, the utility of our minds, the cash in our accounts, the intent of our habitation.

There is a house held up on either side by houses just like it, the fourth house from the left in a row of six on Neville Street just south of Fifth Avenue. A house removed from its place between the others, the others removed from their place on Neville Street, Neville Street removed from its perpendicularity to Fifth Avenue, itself fading in a narrowing compass arc, a spiraling line falling back on a center, a fixed point, a place removed yet fixed in my mind. A house both real and imagined, the reality and image both remembered and created, the memory and creation both real and imagined. A house on a spiraling line that crosses perpendiculars and falls back on a center.

There’s no way to deny that I knew what was going on, that I understood what was going on. I understood, as far as one is able, the impetus and consequence of what was going on. I understood, guessed at, saw, wrapped my mind around, figured out and acted upon the storyline from beginning to end as it was happening. I can’t deny that. Which is to say I was there.

SM

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