Well, it’s very modern, you know – to build buildings such as these, skyscrapers they’re called…gratte-ciel…grattacieli…cloud-gorers, even. I’ve heard it said that the skyscraper began here – what an honor! William Le Baron Jenney! I once read « Le luxe des ‘skyscrapers’, c’est de permettre à l’être humain de monter au-dessus de lui-même. » – oh! and « Tout gratte-ciel est une utopie. » Lovely, no? Of course the same writer said something to the effect that skyscrapers – gratte-ciel – mostly scratch the ground…anyway, they’re a marvel to behold, no? These smooth ones, these jagged ones – almost rotten-looking. They all seem so clean at the top. Take a look – carefully! – we don’t want to look like foreigners, tourists, des étrangers…just look to the tops of those far off in the distance. Few things are as pathetic or look as silly as a person standing before a cloudtickler and looking straight up. Now someone looking down, perhaps?…straight down?
But just look at the ground here: filthy! No, we’ll look up…up, up, and awa – oh! – that reminds me: once – many jobs ago – I was staring from a window. A window of a building…a building such as these around us…on P. Street. Or is it Pea Street? Anyway, that morning there was such a stench, oh it permeated the whole city; it was making its way into the buildings, climbing the stairs, riding the elevators…we all smelled it – I assume, although no one mentioned it. We merely said ‘good morning’ and went along – all of us. To look at us all, one would think we smelled nothing at all. It didn’t seem – to the eye, at least – that something surrounded and oppressed us, but I’m sure – yes, quite sure – that on some wavelength – you know, gamma, radio, micro, etc. – such a spectre would be visible.
Emanating it was. Emanating from the cracks of the streets and buildings, as if the city had just awoken from a long slumber and was letting to escape an immense, long, warm yawn. But from the looks of us, one wouldn’t’ve guessed it. Wouldn’t’ve guessed we held each breath as long as we could or that we daren’t open our mouths at all: parted lips let the stench to enter and it required two or three good spits to feel that the putrid phantom had only licked your lips and breathed on ya’, ‘nstead of full-on kissin’ ya. But you wouldn’t know it. The ladies with their sunglasses appeared flat as ever, marching, marching, marching…. Some folks held and even carried conversations…the tired meandered…the blind tapped. The hurried hurried, the beggars begged, the whores whored, and all of us now rendered spitters, spit. But you wouldn’t’ve guessed it: wouldn’t’ve guessed that there was a stench present; not just by looking at us: we all look like spitters any day. That doesn’t mean we looked like a perfumery, though: we looked like a city…much as we look now…
Whoa! – careful, don’t step in that…looks like a dog had the trots. Look, it goes on and – Jesus! – one almost has to dance to avoid it! And these puddles and wet spots: so hard to know which ones are safe…and which ones are urine. You know, once right by here atop a post – you know, one of those cement posts like this, about this high, to keep cars from like entering certain areas? – someone had left a small hamburger patty on top of which sat a piece of cheese – cheddar or yellow American, I would guess. It sat there for days…it was horrible…the edges of the cheese had become more orange than the rest and of an obviously harder, crispier texture. It melted at noon and solidified at midnight…for days this repeated. I hadn’t the stomach to inspect the meat as closely. Every time I walked past it, I had to try to remember not to look at it…and every time I walked past it I looked right at it because I thought that I had already passed that particular post and so to make sure that indeed I had, I had to look at the closest post, and it was always that one. One day it disappeared…I hope no one ate it.
Anyway, there I stood at the window about 8 floors up lookin’ down on Pee Street (p-e-e – get it? – that’s the name I’ve bestowed upon this little alleyway just off Pea Street on account of the urinators). Some people walked through the alley, some people smoked cigarettes, many spit on the ground in puddles or on masses of cigarette butts. I was drinking peppermint tea and really allowing each sip, each gulp, each mouthful ample time to explore my mouth: I swirled it around my tongue, squeezed it into my cheeks, squirted it between my teeth…after I swallowed each mouthful – of course, right after a gentle gargle – I would let the air flow into my mouth to feel that coolness that comes after an assault of mint on the tongue and gums. I repeated this until the cup ran dry then looked out of the window. There were only a couple of people in Pee Street now: one man leaning against the building opposite me with one foot against the wall, his head tilted down looking at his phone. About 100 feet to his left – my right – a man was sleeping on the ground by a few dumpsters. It didn’t look like it smelled bad down there.
Then the brightness of the day started to fade. Something rolled in front of – or under? – the sun. I imagined it was an immense, long, full cloud ready to spit down onto the city, pressing the stench back into the cracks of the streets and buildings and rinsing away the dog diarrhea, human urine, spit, and old cheeseburgers. This pluvial reverie was cut short when for a moment I couldn’t see out of the window: something very large passed in front of it going downward…almost like a bunk or unit of lumber falling down from the roof or something. Natürlich, I looked down into Pee Street.
There was a white rope about the width of the alleyway that went as far as I could see in either direction: right and left – his left and my right. The rope was scraping along the pavement, causing a rusty dust to rise. Then it went up against the building opposite me. The dumpsters shrank and crumbled under the force of the rope that was pushing against them, mangled metal and garbage smearing against the wall. The man with the phone was pushed up against the wall as well. His arms reached over the top of the rope. All I could see of him were his shoulders, arms, and head. His face was blood red and his tongue looked like it was being pulled from his mouth by an invisible thread with tremendous force. The rope tugged to the left – my left, his right – and blood splattered against the wall. It moved to the right – my right, his left – and dragged him with it. The rope did this back and forth, this grinding, dragging, and rubbing left and right a few more times until the man’s shoulders, arms, and head fell over the rope to the ground – obviously detached from his smashed and ground-up body. After this gruesome separation, the rope crossed the alleyway and began to rub and grind against my building. I could feel a slight vibration ‘neath my feet and hear a low-frequency rumble emanating from 8 floors below me. I looked over and saw the mangled metal remains of the dumpsters in the alleyway. I saw the blood-soaked clothing and bits of meat from the man who had his shoulders fall off – along with his head. Where the other man was sleeping was now only a large stain of blood and garbage juice along with the debris of clothing, man, and garbage, the rusty dust settling on top of it all. The bass sound stopped and I leaned forward placing my forehead against the glass before me to look as far down as possible – much like the tourists do at the top of the uh….Whadyacallit Tower…the big one. There was a moment of quiet and I was admittedly quite perturbed and confused. I waited…and then all went black again for a moment…the rope had risen and returned from whence it came – the sky!
I heard another low rumble coming from the floors below and looked again into the alleyway. This time the alley was filled and flooded with water rushing from one end to the other – coursing through with such speed! It was water such as I have never seen…it bubbled and frothed and was the strangest color of blue – almost artificial-like. At this point it became difficult to breath: there was a very intense smell of mint – pepper or spear, perhaps – that ran into my nose like this water was running into the alley. You know when you try to take a deeeep breath of air when it’s like twenty below? Yeah, that’s how it felt. So I had a hard time gettin’ a breath in for a moment but then it went away. I looked down again and the alleyway was just sparkling! Spic. And. Span. Everything gone!
Well I had to go down and see and smell the alley. I walked out onto Pea Street – in the stairwell, the whole way down, I kept a keen ear out for any more rumblings: there were none that I myself could notice. I walked out into Pea Street and oh my god! It was like a dream outside. There was nothing in the streets – nothing! All had been scrubbed up, loosened, and washed away. And the smell! Each breath I inhaled felt it was doing to my lungs and sinuses what the rope and blue water had done to this city. The sky was bluer than I had ever seen it: like a cobalt blue paint in a wet aquarelle, the clouds dabbed out by the artist with a towel…you know, the French have a word – which I think was actually taken from Arabic – for what I felt at that moment: le
What? Oh! Shit, yeah you’re right. Ok, sorry – yeah. No I’ll let ya go. Ok, well hey man, great to meet you…maybe I’ll bump into ya again some time…you usually take this train?