A Trip Into the City

He always thought he was meant for the country, for the clean air and the smell of animals and the feel of sand and dirt under his feet. If not that, then suburbia, neat little houses and a trimmed, prickly lawn. He was sure he was meant for stars overhead, and dead silence of night occasionally broken by neighbor returning home late or the bark of a frightened hound at some stray cat or bird. That was until he set foot on city pavement.

While the sun was up and the sky was clear, he strolled down the sidewalk and peered into each store he passed, most of them tiny, cramped little things with their doors flung wide open and welcoming in each passerby, jazz music and classic rock and all other types of music pouring out. Others passed him; smiling, laughing, eating hotdogs vended from the Lucky Dog carts on every street corner. Some waved and said hello when they noticed the wide-eyed boy, obviously not accustomed to the city, watching at them. Every restaurant and café was full of people, some in groups, sharing loud conversations over heavy lunches, some alone, sipping coffee and reading books and papers. A group of teenagers on a field trip was taking a picture in front of the St. Lois cathedral and then another in front of the statue of Andrew Jackson and his horse in Jackson square. He caught his first ever ride on one of the old street cars and rode it everywhere it went.

The pavement itself exuded life and living like no soil he’d ever felt could. And that was only the day. When the darkness fell, the sky was filled with neon. If there were crickets and cicadas out, he never heard them. The air burned with music seeping out of bars and strip clubs and rising from the throats and fingers of street musicians. The streets were crowded with cars and people, drunk and sober and carriages drawn by horses and mules. Fortune tellers lined up in front of the famed cathedral and artists covered the fence around Jackson square with their creations, hiding the VIP only party inside from the view of the common folk on the sidewalk. A wedding procession flowed out the cathedral and walked down to Pato’s on the river, cheering and waving cloth napkins painted with fleur-de-lis and removed high-heeled shoes. Everything smelled of gasoline and horse sweat and the heavy spices used for the famous food. Somewhere nearby, sirens screamed over the music and laughter.

Ever since that experience he found his way back to the city every chance he got. The silence of his homes in the country and suburbia drove him mad. He counted down days until he could find himself in some wide city, far away from the sheep dogs and the flower beds. He craved the sound and the life and the people. It was in his blood and it always would be and he knew, no matter what happened he could never again belong to the sand and soil that had sprouted him up and raised him.





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