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the shelter

Elizabeth Street has winds that whip along its dark corridor long after the city has vacated itself – of the daytime thousands – leaving just the feral, and the beaten down.

This city moans at night, it grumbles a bass profundo of poisoned life – the sour air here lifts and falls back onto the black streets. These icy canyons, these corridors of cold wind and mean shadows.

John has fallen to the ground by the bus shelter, it’s 2 am. He is face down on the pathway and his two bags sit unattended on the shelter seat. Old trousers, newspapers, plastic cups, a cushion, odd shoes, soiled hotel towels – he has packed them in tight – they are permanent there. These bags are his attendees, his confirming witness, his bargain of worth.

He sleeps, this old orphan, sleeps through the bitter cold of another city night – as the pavement sucks away his life’s heat – and he mutters away nightmare words that have never had the comfort of a mothers’s ear.

Somebody will wake him up later, at dawn, and when he has finished the soup he will gather his bags back up and resume his place on the seat in the bus shelter, where he will sit all day. All day. Silent.

A man of great and visible decay, amidst the daytime thousands who come and go around him. He pretends they are his visitors here, in his home.

Until another black night comes down .. tonight.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your description of the city is very arresting; the way you compare it to both a natural landscape (canyons) and the inside of a building (corridors) in the same sentence. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like that before. I also like ‘old orphan’. A very vivid and sad piece of writing.

    July 29, 2011
  2. what arrested me more than anything else was to see a lady of about 70+ sit close beside him as she waited for her bus – I felt that they had a relationship of sorts but the sense of it was beyond me – I could only watch

    July 29, 2011

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