Die Writing

The alley

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on June 23, 2016

At the mouth of the alley, he broke stride to pause and light a cigarette. That always casts a bubble around you – lighting a cigarette – for a moment you can curl into a tiny world within your hand shielding the fragile flame from the wind. The people flow around you, and you can feel a bit of aloneness.

Entering the alleyway was like bursting through the tight water surface, drawing the breath to save yourself from drowning. The busy street left behind, the alley was empty, dark, and a little musty. No one here but the ghosts. Patches of varied lighting revealed the alley. Bulbs in various colors and stages of decay didn’t exactly light the way, but maybe suggested that one might be found.

In a mirror image of the postcard-perfect street facades – the way hell mirrors heaven – backs of the houses formed an irregular, chaotic fjord of porches, claustrophobic yards, and kitchen windows. Gliding along, he could see someone absent-mindedly making dinner. A young wiry man on the phone; on hold forever – or maybe at the receiving end of a run-on monologue. Indistinct TV images flickering on  curtains and ceilings. A middle-aged woman in a  soiled white tanktop smoking by an open window; he raised his cigarette in an invisible, fraternal salute.

The alley twisted sharply, curled up like a hand cradling him. It was quiet and warm, a gentle darkness that relaxed the eyes. He inhaled the tobacco, the damp back alley air, the faint detergent drifting from the clotheslines, the distant fragrance of curry, the alley cats and the alley rats.

Another impossible twist, and the street, bright and peopled, was in view. Dive again, with lungs renewed.

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On the streets 9

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on June 21, 2016

The elderly gentleman sat in the fishbowl window of a bar. He wore the look of distant melancholy. There were strings of bright lights and loud, animated people behind him. The man sat perfectly still, folded hands propped up in front of him, with his gaze resting well beyond Adams Morgan.

His only companions were a crumpled paper bag and the space across the table that distinctly felt like it should be occupied by a person.

***

Two Asian girlfriends half-staggered, half-strutted down a  gently sloping street. The one on the right was overcome by the hilariousness of a story she was relating to her friend, word swallowed in suffocating laughter. Hanging off her friend’s arm, she was responsible for the staggering.

The silent one marched with her head held up high, she was armed with a confident smirk, eye like jet black coal, and two paintings clutched in her free hand.

***

The woman walked into the near-empty, weekday-evening train and dropped onto an empty seat. She placed her elbow against the rubber edge of the window, propped up her chin on her hand, and stared into the rushing darkness of the tunnel. She had unruly, coarse, copper-red hair that looked tired.

Whatever she saw in that void, it lifted her. When she exited the train a few stations later, all the exhaustion was gone, and her eyes were bright again.

On the streets 8

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on June 19, 2016

The Pride Parade wound through the streets like a river of exuberant joy. Dance formations were followed by floats blasting music out of oversized speakers. The gaps in between were filled out by groups of people dancing, strutting, marching along, waiving signs, arms, and hips. The river banks were made of people, too, radiant and smiling people. Some were dancing, too, or high-fiving and hugging those in the parade. Some, with tears in their eyes, were thanking everyone that’s gone by. Everything was soaked in the sun, the heat, and the music.

The young woman stood still, pressed into the human embankment. The emotions of the moment washed over her without leaving a trace. As her mind wandered off to a foggy distance, she stood completely still, a single-serving packet of chip held up near her face.

***

The man held up a cucumber slice like a damning piece of evidence. He wore a dad’s uniform – a burgundy polo shirt with a crumpled collar and close-cropped, badly combed hair. He seemed to preside over a table filled with children of various ages at a semi-fashionable cafe diner. He fixed his accusatory gaze on the oldest of children, a young woman with long blond hair. There were no words. No scene. Just the well-rehearsed manner of a detective who’s nailed the criminal, perfectly honed by years of being a parent.

***

Just after bar closing on a Friday night. Adams Morgan was choking on traffic. In a knotty intersection of several small streets, a cab driver pulled over to the curb, then got out to yell at the traffic behind him. He was a tall, lean man wearing linen pants and a grey t-shirt. His anger seemed indiscriminant – though slowly, the traffic was moving through the intersection, but he did not stop.

Without turning around, he took several steps across the street, onto the sidewalk opposite his car. From behind, a gleaming black Cadillac zoomed up. Its breaks squealed, the headlights jumped – the lights always appear extra bright in moments like this – and seemed to swerve toward the cab driver. It slid to the edge of the street. The rim of the front tire scraped the curb as it stopped a couple feet short of the man. Who never flinched, and did not even turn around.

On the streets 7

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on December 2, 2015

Aside

Autumn has been quite beautiful in DC, as it has been, unfailingly, every year.

Mist

In the late evening of a gray and rainy day, a luxurious emerald green convertible is pulled up at the light. It’s slick, its chrome is spotless, and its leather interior a privileged tan. The driver – a woman in her fifties, with a powerful bearing, with a royal mane of voluminous blond hair, and clad in a leopard-print fur coat – is standing next to the car, with the door ajar.

From the car, growling, unrepentant horns are blaring.

And they say that jazz is dead.

***

It’s late, the people on the metro are sparse, but she chooses to stand by the door. She stands with the perfect casual ease of a ballet dancer or an English dressage rider. Her back is straight, shoulders square, chin up – yet there appears absolutely no strain in her figure. Her appearance is so effortless in its formality, it makes the observer feel like a wicked slouch.

Short, copper-red hair is sculpted and precise, framing a pale and determined face.

Nothing less than a time-traveling Wildesian dandy.

***

The older gentleman rushed through the morning foot traffic. He was dressed in a tweed three-piece suit, complete with an impeccable matching bow-tie. A bowler topped his head. His age appeared no impediment, neither to his brisk, nor smart focus of his eyes, nor impish smile.

A pair of white headphones snaked up from inside his jacket.

Perhaps this dandy time-traveled the usual way.

On the streets 6

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on April 27, 2015

The vast convention center is filled with people in suits, either walking fast and with a purpose, or congregating in small groups, busy with intense conversations. The midday sun floods through the enormous glass walls. A middle-aged Asian man stands off to a side, alone. The coat of his sharply tailored black suit is unbuttoned, and it flares open. He stands straight, calm and resolute in his bearing, eyes clear and focused in a distance. He feels strong, lithe, alert. With one hand in a pocket, his casual figure has the danger and aloofness of Hong Kong action shooter.

Instead of a gun, the man is holding a muffin.

***

It’s one of the first warm days of the year. The sun, unobstructed by clouds, is beating down on the dancers filling Dupont Circle. While the DJ is pushing out swing over the speakers, the dancers twirl and jump on the hot pavement. Musicians are setting up their equipment, lugging heavy amplifiers. A man approaches them to speak with them, though his words are concealed by the distance and the noise.

He is wearing a black leather jacket over a black tshirt. His sweat-soaked jet-black hair streaks across the pale forehead. A pair of curved mirrored aviators covers his eyes. The man stands with his hands on his hips, head cocked back, baked with the heat. He goes on for a short while – with the musicians not paying him much attention – then disappears.

On the streets 5

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on January 22, 2015

An interstate diner

The old guy’s clothes and shoes seemed all a size or two too big, giving him a shambling appearance even though he was sitting down. I couldn’t see his companion, but their presence was betrayed by his animated part of the conversation. He attacked his food with zeal, taking large bites – chomps – out of the sandwich. Wispy, thinned out white hair, reddened skin, the oversize flannel shirt and sneakers – it is all but certain that the the umptieth retelling of a great fishing story was taking place.

On the streets 4

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on December 7, 2014

Aside

The rainy day edition.

Drip

She was walking in fast, wide strides. The night was cold and wet, yet her black leather jacket was not even buttoned up, revealing a tight black tank top. Her frame was slight and angular, filled with a visible, palpable heat and fuel that drove her through the autumnal darkness. I could not see her face because she lowered her umbrella, bracing it against the gusts of wind and rain. A brief moment, and she disappeared down the street.

It took my mind a few minutes, but I realized I have seen her before. Of course, I could not have recognized her face. But her bursting way of walking and the feverishly energetic, unbending figure cutting through he nighttime darkness were unmistakable.

Maybe I just remember people better at night.

***

It’s a century-old colonial brick house, fresh and clean from the slow rain. The sparse street lamps give it a suggestion of color, but mostly it’s just shapes, outlines, and a wet glisten. The front door is wide open, casting a soft glow into the night. The house is filled with brilliant white light, warming like the sight of a distant hearth.

A woman appears in front of the doorway. She stands tall, with shoulders square and feet set wide and firm. Her smart peacoat adds to the air of alertness and confidence. Her silhouette is sharp and dramatic. If an edgy TV cop show wanted to send a daring and brilliant young detective to a delicate scene concealing a potentially grizzly crime, they could hardly paint a more perfect scene.

On the streets 3

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 15, 2014

She climbed the bar, stood on all fours, and whipped her hair. A petite woman in worn jeans and with faded eyes. The bartender, a giant, muscular man, carefully poured some water over her long, jet-black locks. Her friend pulled out a small camera and started taking pictures while she blew kisses and arched her back. The bartender leaned back and laughed gently to himself. Through the whole proceeding, she was quite reserved and polite. There was no hooting and no hollering. The woman was relaxed, languid even, as if well accustomed to this act. She climbed down cautiously.

The bar half-empty, with just a few older regulars nursing their drinks at the end of a workday.

***

DC transforms when the sun sets. It is as if one city is yanked away, and another materialized in its place. The streets and the buildings appear the same, but their essence changes dramatically. The shaded alleys pulse indiscernibly, as if a heart was beating beneath the skin of the old rowhouses. This city’s breath is both sinister and intriguing. Spirits and demons, unseen, hop along the broken rooflines. Stray lines of poetry slink along the warped sidewalks. Tragic characters live out the conflagrations of their lives behind the glowing, shaded windows. Legion romantics fill the darkness with their dreams.

The night is brief, always too brief. Soon, the sun returns, and dreams and demons evaporate.

On the streets 2

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on June 14, 2014

Aside

This time, in San Francisco

Step

She was ahead of my by a block and a half. Slight and wiry, she burst through the crowd of hobos and end-of-business office workers like firework. A purple dressed hugged tight to her shoulders, but left her back revealed. A blue tattoo snakes across her shoulder blades, but from the distance, I could not quite make it out. The dress closed at the waist, but then flared out. A long slit freed the fabric. The dress whipped and beat in the wind like mad wings.

She carried some large and heavy – I could not see what – the strain and the bright sun drew her muscles into a sharp relief. She walked with fierce confidence. I kept catching glances of her through the wake she’d left in the crowd. Eventually she turned a corner, but when I caught up, she disappeared.

***

His movements were languid and fluid, and sly and deliberate. In particular, his left wrist was practically limp, but in a way that suggested acute awareness of its relaxed state. He moved his tall, skinny body in a smooth, continuous, graceful way. Perhaps he was matching some mellow groove playing back, unheard, in his head. He walked on, in his gliding way, as the tree shadows around him stretched out toward the evening.

On the streets 1

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on May 16, 2014

Aside

Moved into the city, so now I have a lot more opportunities to walk around and look at things and people.

Meander

It was misty and late. My favorite look for the city.

The old car cruised through the intersection. The driver, on the far side, was an invisible, shapeless shadow form. He blended in with the rest of the car, as if he wasn’t even there. She lounged on the passenger side, the seat moved back and reclined. Eyes closed, hair tossed by the blowing air, skin glowing and luxuriant under the orange streetlights. She smiled, carefree, and I imagined she were a poet.

They were riding a tandem bike with some sort of determination. She was dressed as Princess Leia. Beginning of Star Wars – not Jabba’s slave – white flowing dress and the trademark hair buns. She leaned into the bike, working her way along the block. He wasn’t dressed as anything. Just cargo shorts and a black tshirt. His pedaling was similarly lackluster.