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I slept in an alley last night. A wallet was hidden between my chest and my jacket, and my backpack served as a pillow. All purely mine, nothing she had bought me. This morning I woke up with only the wallet.
That’s all right; it’ll be more of an adventure this way.
Who needs food?…or a toothbrush…or soap. I’ll manage.
Though my backpack was missing, rage from the day before still gnawed at my stomach, and its cousin, hunger, only exacerbated my temper and the knot of rebellion that writhed in my abdomen. I groped for the wall, and then flinched in disgust as my fingers slid across some greasy, protuberant spot on the wall. Wiping my hands on the bottom of my equally grimy shoes, I made my way out of the alley.
Slate smoke, rising from the chimneys of factories swirled above, mingling with charcoal smog; the clouds of an industrial city. Certainly not the cerulean skies of home. Nothing went untouched by rust and sludge, not the manufactories, the manholes, even the bent homeless men wandering the streets.
Probably looking for breakfast, too.
One stopped and caught my eye. I stared back for a moment, lost in the memoirs of wrinkles upon his face. Such dead grey eyes, polluted like the sky above. He began to walk toward me. I ran. Down the street and around the block, I ran. Flattened against a wall, I peeked over my shoulder, but no one had followed. I grinned sheepishly.
This is your home now, you can’t live in paranoia.
I could not go home after yesterday’s events. Not after bellowing in front of her fellow housewives that I saw her as nothing more than a failure, a dreamless, stagnant puppet. It felt so good to see and hear her yell, to lose her benevolent composure before a crowd of witnesses. Profanities darted from her lips, her eyebrows wormed into one thick angry arrow, and heat poured from the wrath of her gaze. Finally, I had evoked some feeling in her, other than the usual faÃ§ade of happiness. Pity it had to be done this way. Pity it couldn’t have been a catalyst emotion, ardor or anger, but rather it was stagnant, grudging hate. At least it was something. I ran, and she let me go. She stayed, I ran. Away from stagnancy and toward poignancy, as far as my money could take me from that inevitable misery of the undereducated, obsequious servant role of the sacrificing spouse. Yesterday, my $150 led me to the Greyhound bus station, landing me on a bus to Manhattan. Wrath drove me, did not allow me to falter or look back in fear of the unknown, or of leaving familiarity. It took me with its horned tail and pinned me into that bus seat. Sickly florescent lights flickered around me, the green faces of strangers blinking in and out of my consciousness. Without more money to take me home, I was stuck here, in Manhattan, alone and completely independent.
My grin faded as I spied yet another pair of eyes staring my way. Not the vacant grey of the old man, but a deep set of copper watching from a face not much older than mine. Leather pants gripped his thighs, studs and gauges weighted his lobes, chains wrapped around his body, contradicting the philosophy of his people, the very mindset of the urban tribe I had come in search for: pure, unadulterated autonomy. Anarchy, nihilism; liberation from the danger of stagnancy. A fin of scarlet hair protruded from his shaved head. I looked down at my own garb, only a day on the streets and my only clothes were soiled with muck. From the look of my hands, I could only imagine the state the rest of my appearance was in. Touching my face, my hands became even more soiled. Yet, this drifter was nodding his head, his fin bobbing, calling me forward. My heart leapt, though not in fear as it did when I encountered the uncouth elder. This time it trembled excitedly, sensing adventure.
I blinked and the red anemone disappeared behind a shop. In fear of losing the opportunity to experience what I had run away in order to seek, I padded down the sidewalk.
“Wait!” I cried, my voice hoarse from disuse.
He did not turn, but merely continued to clank and jingle at a steady pace.
As we approached the destination, music swelled, pinging and scraping, reverberating from the brick to the sidewalk. The sound caused the pebbles on the ground in front of me to quiver; a cat ran from the source. But this was not music; it was noise, horrible, abhorrent clamor, the explosion of drums, the shattering of snares, and the magnified popping of the strings of a guitar. Then I heard it, the screaming, no, the roaring of a great and vile beast, the sound of a demon forcing its voice through the vocal chords of a human. The red fin halted at the entrance of the alleyway that the racket was flooding from. I slowed and corked my ears with my palms. Emerging around the corner, I stood at the alleyway entrance, by the side of the auburn-topped stranger. I smelt the putrid scent of booze and weed; I saw not freedom, but chaos. People my age slumped one on top the other like driftwood piled up on the shore, some half-lucid and stoned, others passed out at what I could guess to be only twelve o’clock in the afternoon. Vicious gazes twisted my way, and I felt as though every conscious punk was staring at my grimy visage, judging and contorting the face of this new comer. All were looking; all were staring at me with the same scornful uniformity.
Then it dawned on me. This miserable existence was day after day for them, freedom a euphemism for poverty and reckless rebellion, a different type of monotony and conformity.
What am I doing here?
I spun around to run, but a filthy hand gripped mine. I gazed into the eyes of the auburn-one and no longer saw metallic copper energy, but dull grey. I blinked a silent goodbye and yanking my hand away I sprinted out of the alleyway.
Yet again, I ran from stagnancy.