Quiet day. Nothing out of the ordinary. I'm on a street corner downtown. The sun fucked off weeks ago, fired for incompetence and dereliction of duty. It's seasonal work, so there's nothing you can do.
Shoppers stroll, babies wail, mothers lug bags and corral kids in and out of department stores.
Out on the street, big screens advertise cough drops and undergarments for bosomed girls under twenty, and there are pedestrians and short trees strapped to wooden poles.
Ahead of me on the pavement a wreck of a man sells magazines. A user, a 12-year veteran. He shakes all over, but his right hand - his work hand - is steady. Five years ago he sucker-punched his dad for the family China which he pawned for a few grams. He has since found gainful employment and has never missed a day's work. His dog Charlie has seen two continents and eight months on a freight barge bound for the Philippines. Mange, conjunctivitis and a limp, but otherwise a happy mutt with a good wag in his tail.
The sun makes a fifteen second cameo appearance. A glorious goddamn burst of light. The street stops in its tracks and everyone looks up as though visited by an apparition from above. Men gape and women drop their children's hand.
Soon the clouds return. And all is peaceful again.
I enter a cafe. My usual. I flail my hand for a Grande. The 37-year-old who takes my order speaks fluent English, but if you listen close you'll hear an accent, something Balkan. And if you get to know her, if you spend months getting her to open up, if you never judge, never pry, never get "curious", if you just keep your piehole shut and listen, she might tell you about the three year siege she endured in her home country, age fifteen, and the men with "visitation rights". She might tell you. Or she might tell you to fuck off just the same.
"Black or white today, Lui?"
Me, I wait for you.