Zephyr 98 Archive

MOTSM

Posted on: September 2, 2009

Man On The Street Moments

Statistics would show that, like a long string of heads or tails-only coin flips, there’s nothing special about encountering a series of off kilter or even seemingly sinister moments after a dry spell of mundane normality. Closer observation would probably show that we swim in all manner of circumstances constantly and swap our observational and perceptual filters like flips of the coin.

These events took place during a recent sunny day along a 5 block span of Portland’s Pearl district. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only common thread. I jotted them here in first person because it worked for me during the writing.

* * *

Outside Powell’s NW entrance, a 40ish man in worn jeans, t-shirt, sneakers, and puffy leather cap stands gripping the handle of his shopping cart and staring at a young tree growing from a hole in the pavement. As I pass, he plucks off his cap and glares at me.

“Do you think it’s funny? Because there’s a breeze? Because it feels good on your skin?”

He shouts, “It’s not, and it NEVER WAS!”

“There are millions of leaves,” he mutters.

He replaces his cap and returns to the tree.

Three blocks down I follow a trail of dried blood for half a block to a brick wall where the trail ends or begins. There’s about a 8 foot overhang here where homeless sometimes shelter from the sun or rain. The space is empty today.

Outside the door to the office, two girls stand at the parking meter, one fishing for coins and narrating in rough language while the other is texting and nodding like she’s taking dictation. “I told that girl, bitch, I said, bitch, don’t tell me that *you* *don’t* *know* what I mean, you going to fucking die, bitch. Haha, she don’t fucking believe me.”

Inside the office, there’s a human-sized wooden crate open and standing on end, with the name “Natalie” taped to the front. I don’t think that Natalie knows the girl outside, but I head upstairs just to make sure.

Notes:

An alternate explanation is that Natalie, a prodigious and often brilliant worker, simply wore out and was sent to the factory for maintenance and upgrades.

Above, I intentionally did not describe the physical appearance of the two girls at the parking meter, but will say that neither was African-American.

There’s a good exercise here for me to review these minimalist scenes and figure out descriptive bits that would help readers visualize them better. Then I wouldn’t need notes like “BTW, they weren’t African American girls, just in case that’s where your biases led you, and if they did, well shame on you.”

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2 Responses to "MOTSM"

This sounds like the opening scene from Tanya Huff’s “Blood Price”. Only not as dark, and with less screaming.

You mean the blood trail. It was interesting–when I saw and started following it, I filtered out all the sounds around me–a bit like the same effect done in films and tv.

Then I ended up back at the office with the two girls at the meter, one declaiming her ferocity (although I’ve heard similar talk from similar folks more than once while riding the MAX, or Portland’s little mobile melting pot).

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