Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Fragment From the Archives: Sick City

I wrote this in 2006, during a period where I was trying to write a short piece each day. I'm not sure where I was going with this, but I quite like it.

He's walking down the street, early in the morning, because he couldn't sleep. Why stay in bed? He'd just be miserable: staring at the ceiling and trying to remember fragments of dreams that even he has to admit were boring. It's annoying to lie in bed and be pestered by the phantoms of your uninspiring dreams. Up off the mattress, into the tracksuit, out to the street.

He tries jogging at first, but his fallen arches scream for mercy after only a few minutes, so he settles into a brisk walk. All is disappointment and making due this day: his dreams, this body, even the city around him. He looks up and from side to side, hoping for some grand architectural gesture or solid material mark of industry to make him feel proud by association, but that moment for the city has long passed. It's all broken windows, sooty brick and the smell of an inadequate sewer system now. Even the trash littering the sidewalk looks ancient, as if people are out of things to discard.

There were such high hopes for this place once. Urban renewal, incentives for new businesses, family friendly areas, parks, culture, one of those shopping districts made out of repartitioned factories that always seem to go down well...none of it worked. None of it could mask how tired the place was. If places have souls, this one has gone through a terrible spiritual crisis, and has emerged from the other side terminally soul sick rather than triumphant. A succession of steely eyed mayors, people of supposedly awesome determination, had tried to act the pastor to the city, ministering to its needs with great compassion, while at the same time haranguing it to strive for its own salvation, but it was all for naught. The men and occasional women who had filled the post in recent decades were pointless functionaries, security guards at a museum nobody wanted to loot, let alone visit.

He felt quite at home here.

No comments: