Friday, February 3, 2017

A Tale of Two Cities

A whiff of marijuana.
A pile of human feces in the park.
A woman yells at a driver who stopped his car with its bumper hanging in the center of the crosswalk.
            “Fuck her good. That’ll warm you up,” a man says to his buddy on the street. He dances side-to-side, blowing warm air into his cupped hands.
A handful of teenagers steal a container of snacks from a street vendor. They run to the center of the square, toss the container into the air, then whoop and holler as it crashes to the ground. They abandon the shattered container and the scattered contents, running from the scene while they laugh and shove one another.

A stranger picks up the ruined, plastic container and returns it to the street vendor.
A teenager who saw the episode, helps the street vendor pick up the mess around his cart.
A father with stroller boards the metro. All seats are occupied, so he grabs a handle and hangs on. At the next stop, a young woman offers him her seat.
A theatrical production. Colorful costumes. Warm music. Dancing.
A photographic story hangs in a tiny art gallery. It’s the story of a woman informing her parents that she’s gay. Tears and laughter in one frame.
A pastry chef creates food as beautiful as it is delicious. Artistic genius goes into each tart, telling a story with every masterful chocolate shaving or frosted flower.
A coffee shop manages to create a sense of family—a rare feat for a monstrous city.

My love for city life began many years ago while I was studying in Guatemala. The reality of dignity and depravity living side-by-side as neighbors was so much more in-your-face in the city.
While there, I once stepped around a dead dog that lay across the sidewalk, stiff and lifeless with tongue hanging out, glued to the hot concrete. Just around the corner, I walked passed the open doors of a chocolate factory. The smell of chocolate was so thick you could taste it.
Beauty and death lived on the same street.
I love the city. The Jekyll and Hyde of it. The layers upon layers of evil and good, swirling together every moment. It’s jarring and redeeming at the same time. There’s such a beauty to the city. And a sense of balancing on the edge.
 I miss it when I’m not there. I love it when I am.


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