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He leaned up against the cement wall, allowing the bricks to fully support his weight. The city and him merged together in that moment, body and soul. One week ago he would have grimaced at the stains on the concrete and the dirty smell of the streets, discarded food and rats. But now he felt a sense of comradery with them. The rodents and him were two species in the same ecosystem, both wondering where they would get their next meal. 

In his near memory, he replayed the night before his departure. Once his suitcase was packed, he labeled the rest of his belongings in a total of five big boxes, just enough to exist and begin again. That last night in town he thought would be more grandiose. He envisioned a gathering of friends and new memories to be made that he could keep in a photo album in his mind. He wanted still images to mentally page through whenever he felt himself lost in the infinite concrete squares and glass buildings. Instead, he was mostly alone that last night, going over last minute details and packing lists so as not to forget essentials and squander his remaining resources. 

The decision to relocate felt instinctual, like a migratory bird sensing the coming of winter, feeling threatened in its stagnant state. The changing weather hinted at the passing of time, and the urgent need to fight or flee. It was strange to be able to decide on his own geographical location, in contrast to the quiet suburban home he inherited at birth.  His stomach lurched with the terrifying thought that he had made a decision, not necessarily permanent, but that he had taken a plan into action and now he had to see it out. Beyond survival, he was driven by a sense of opportunity. His plane ticket would be exchanged for a blank score card. After a year or two of opting out of, and refusing to participate due to fear of failure, he purchased his ticket. He’d rather be playing with high stakes than be a spectator of his own life.

He noticed a woman walk by in front of him. She seemed complex and independent, walking with a purposeful stride and intently absorbed in what she was listening to through her headphones. He yearned for an opportunity to form an intimate connection. His wandering nomadic spirit needed a home or constant something to settle into at night, even if it was just a warm familiar body. Thinking about how many possible lovers were in the city alone, caused him great anxiety. This new place presented endless possibilities of happiness, success, love, but also depression, failure and isolation.

He pushed off from the wall, standing upright again and relying now on gravity to support him as he began his familiar nightly trudge down the few blocks he finally learned to memorize after a week. 

Walking past him was a middle aged man with a gray quilted jacket and glasses, followed by a mother bundled in a red scarf and black boots holding her small daughter’s hand. He smiled at the child as their inattentive glance met his for a second. Every person was a stranger, and he wondered how long before he’d recognize a friendly or familiar face on his own block, perhaps, a favorite dog out for a walk with his owner at the same time every day. He yearned for a routine again, and the ongoing chaos of the last week left him unsure of his footing. He hesitated with each step, still lacking a conviction in his direction or route. That aimless feeling was so familiar, like wandering through aisles at a grocery store without a recipe to reference. The night time didn’t help either, with only the blinking stop lights and theatre marquee to light the sidewalks. His senses were heightened, attempting to take in all the stimulation of the passersby, traffic, lit apartment windows, smells of food from all cultures as he walked by. He felt overwhelmed again at the thought of where and what to eat for his dinner. Rather than feeling adventurous, he cowered to the same pizza shop he had now eaten at three times. 

As he entered, no one behind the counter acknowledged him a meaningful way, just a glance and then as he approached, the man with the greasy dirty apron asked, “What can I get ya?”

“Ehh,” he stopped to clear his throat and continued with “Two pepperoni slices, please,” realizing these were possibly the first words he had spoken aloud to another individual all day.

“For here or takeaway?” the man impatiently followed up with.

“To go, please,” he responded.

“That’s seven,” he insisted holding out his hand, waiting for payment.

He gave him his credit card, still adjusting to the increased expense of his new life.

The man handed him a paper plate folded around the two greasy slices. As he put his card back into his wallet, he juggled the plate with his dinner and slid the leather billfold into the back pocket of his jeans. He made a swift exit through the door of the store and took an immediate left onto the street, almost running into a group of three teenage boys.

“Sorry,” he stammered and ducked his head, making a quick path for his apartment around the corner. When he got to the building entrance, he fumbled for his keys with his left hand, holding the plate in his right, now getting soggy with grease. Fortunately, another tenant was leaving and he was able to catch the door and duck inside. He approached his mailbox and scanned the columns and rows for his name. S-…his eyes skimmed to Samson, Joe. A brief feeling of disappointment passed through him, as he gazed at the empty slot. Distracted by his hunger, he walked up the stairs to the fifth floor where his apartment was, a little out of breath. He placed his key into the lock and only struggled for a few seconds, as he finally realized the correct manipulation of jiggling it to the left and right to budge the door open. Scanning the small apartment, he chose the only option for a place to sit, a convertible futon bed, and laid his plate on a small end table he also recently purchased second hand online. Grabbing a single paper towel from the roll on the counter, he ripped it in half and consumed his two slices, savoring the melted cheese around the edges.

After he finished and threw his plate away, he sat in silent thought. He still didn’t have any means for entertainment besides his phone. He walked over to the window, and looked down at the street below. Across from his block was a small park, maybe less than 1,000 square feet with a small fountain and short knee high iron fencing. Picking up his phone from his other back pocket, he glanced at the screen and saw a text from his mother. Hope you are settling in. We miss you. Love, mom, with a string of heart emojis on the end. His finger hovered over the contact at the top, and he tapped it once. He hesitated before tapping the phone icon. With a sigh, he locked the screen and placed the phone on the windows pane. He looked out at the street below, mesmerized by the rhythm of the changing stop lights, illuminating his new home.

December 21, 2019 00:51

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15:11 Jan 03, 2020

I think you portray the anonymity that comes from moving to a new place really well. It definitely reminded me of some times in my own life!

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