the city called you, they want their angst back

Submitted into Contest #85 in response to: Start your story with the line, “That’s the thing about this city…”... view prompt

83 comments

Drama Creative Nonfiction Coming of Age

That’s the thing about this city. It gets inside your head, makes you think that for once in your life, you’re gonna do something great. It makes you think that every time you walk by a stranger on the street, that they could mean something to you, so every time you leave the house you dress up and you look nice and you run those streets as though you own them, and they don’t own you. In the city, you don’t think anything owns you till it’s too late, and you’re lying in your room and looking up at a ceiling that doubles as the floor for the people in the apartment above you. Those people, you think, were they once like you? Did they once think that moving to the city- this city in particular- would make them into something they were not?

You know better now. You know better than to wake up and throw open the windows. The birds aren’t singing for you, they’re singing for food. They’re hungry for things people don’t want to give them, just like you are. They want what they can’t have and so they, like you, stay up too late and when the morning comes they do everything they can to stay in bed just a minute longer. That’s the thing about this city. It sells you dreams and then expects you to pay it back penny by painful penny. Those coins you give up don’t taste like blood because they’re made of copper, no, those coins taste like blood because they are evidence enough that the city will choke you out if you don’t move fast.

You’ve gotta move fast. Faster than the people on the streets, who don’t care about you. Faster than all the buses and trains and cars, because they’ll drive right through you if it means getting to where they’re going. Yeah, see, that’s the thing about this city. If you don’t keep up with it, it’s gonna leave you where you belong. There’s all these signs, no matter where you look, and it’s all the same. People, pets, things… They’re all missing because one way or another, they disappeared. You can’t help but wonder if it’s the city’s fault you’re failing, or your own, or someone else’s entirely.

Your friends blame the government for the economy and your other problems but the truth is, you know the city would still be rife with heartbreak even if the president was the best person alive. This city broke your heart, and it’s all the more sad because you came here thinking these sky kissing buildings would patch you back up inside, make up for a lifetime of never thinking you’d be an adequate member of the human race. That’s one thing you were right about, though. You belong in this city with all the roaches, the ones that skitter across the sidewalk with their janky legs trespassing in the mortal realm.

Yeah, you think, I may be a cockroach and I may belong with the rest of the rats in this city but at least nothing gets to me anymore. How much further can you fall if you’re already eating ramen noodles from the same tub you washed your hair in, sitting on the carpet of a place you don’t recognize even though you spent so much time finding it. Your parents have been telling you to come back home, but you can’t go back to a place that was never yours. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? To find your space on a map, to make a thick black Sharpie slash across the universe, to stand at the top of your apartment complex and look down at the itty bitty ant people and scream that you are here? Isn’t that what you moved here for? Isn’t that why the city called you?

You’ve gotta make up your mind. Maybe it’s not what you wanted but it’s what you asked for and you worked to get here, work to find the color in this sea of gray/red/blue/gray/red/blue lights. Wake up and smell the coffee, splash your hands in the cool waters of reality, stop being such a cliche and start getting back to the reasons you left all you knew behind. You may die and you may worse than die, but there’s a chance you’ll be okay and if it was up to me I’d shake you till your shoulders bruised if it got the point across. No, I don’t mean I’d hurt you in order to get your head back on track but at the same time, I don’t want the city to be the reason that script never leaves your desk. It’s not an excuse anymore.

That’s the thing about this city, right? People come here with big dreams only to find those dreams getting absolutely smashed.

So. What do you do? You remember what you are. You put on your cockroach armor, and you crawl the heck out of the gutter. You, like the pigeons squealing in the parks outside your window, learn to fly through the smog and the jeering people. You, like the boys who sell bagels from their grandfather’s hot dog cart, make yourself heard even if you know for a fact it doesn’t matter who remembers you when you’re gone.

Don’t let the city break your heart. Do not let the city tear you in two. You know what you’re doing. Stop staring at the ceiling and go do it already. Get up, get out. There’s a clock, it’s moving fast, and it’s no different than the buses and cars and trains. It will drive through you, imbed its pointy hands in the spaces between your ribs and claw out your beating, bleeding vital organs, stomp on them and eat them whole, with a bit of pepper and even more salt. That’s the thing about this city. You moved here, but don’t let it move you. 


March 12, 2021 22:23

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83 comments

06:07 Mar 13, 2021

Have you read this? Forget that you wrote it, Rhonda, but have you read this? It's beautiful. One, because it's filled with reality and the way we feel when we get depressed or feel subdued by things bigger than us. Two, because you give us hope within the lines. Speaking for myself, you gave me hope and that's a beautiful thing. This was impressive, that's for sure.

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:42 Mar 13, 2021

Aw, i'm so glad you appreciated it! I have read it, and I will say it's pretty different from what I usually write and yet, I really do like it! I'm not even from the city but this was what I think of it when I hear about people moving there. I'm glad I pulled it off this time. <3

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Zilla Babbitt
22:46 Mar 12, 2021

Wow, this was incredibly well-written. If this doesn't deserve a shortlist I don't know what does.

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Rhondalise Mitza
00:45 Mar 13, 2021

Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it! How have you been, Zilla?

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Zilla Babbitt
01:34 Mar 14, 2021

I've been doing okay, actually. Long tiring day today but tomorrow is Sunday so that's nice.

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Rhondalise Mitza
21:31 Mar 14, 2021

Yes, I hope your weekend went well, even with the tiring events of Saturday!

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Zilla Babbitt
21:23 Mar 26, 2021

YES I TOLD YOU.

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Rhondalise Mitza
22:27 Mar 26, 2021

YES YOU SURE DID!!

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YAASSSSSS I KNOW I’M LATE TO THE PARTY BUT WOOOOO YOU GOT A SHORTLIST GO YOUUUUUUUUUU *mini celebration commences* YOU DESERVE IIIIIIT

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Rhondalise Mitza
18:25 Mar 26, 2021

aw thank you Aerin, I've been keeping you in my thoughts and prayers lately!

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Aww ty <3

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Scout Tahoe
14:54 Mar 26, 2021

Congrats, Rhonda! This story was so well written. I... love it.

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:32 Mar 26, 2021

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it! How have you been?

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Scout Tahoe
15:53 Mar 26, 2021

I’ve been good! Busy. How are you?

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Heyy...

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13:00 Mar 24, 2021

This is chaotic, confusing, feels like a thunderstorm made out of words, and... incredibly fun to read. I mean, really. It makes you feel like you’re the cockroach king of New York in a surprisingly pleasant way. If I had any critiques, I would say that the large paragraphs make it a little difficult to take in every line in full significance. But otherwise, neat work! Keep on writing! (yes, I do live)

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Rhondalise Mitza
13:27 Mar 25, 2021

Have to say, wasn't expecting you back! But welcome, welcome, and thanks for reading, I'm thrilled you enjoyed it and, considering your choosy tastes, I'd say bonus points to me. :) But really. Glad to have you back.

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16:34 Mar 25, 2021

I’m back in a very limited fashion for some critique fun. 😉 Already done one or two of Zilla’s, so I felt I should come see how you’re doing.

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Niveeidha Palani
11:28 Mar 19, 2021

I'm honestly astonished you haven't won yet.

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:36 Mar 26, 2021

Same for you!

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Niveeidha Palani
03:25 Mar 27, 2021

Aww. Now, that is just one downright lie. Still, improving within the years, but you? Dang.

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19:01 Mar 29, 2021

A wonderful story. ,,,to make a thick black Sharpie slash across the universe...Loved this line...you truly deserved the shortlist!

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Niveeidha Palani
08:11 Mar 29, 2021

God, your first shortlist. I have a feeling there will be more of this down along the road. Stay tuned.

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Dunno if I was late to say this but... CONGRATS ON THE SHORTLISTED!!!

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Rhondalise Mitza
22:47 Mar 26, 2021

ahh thank you so much!

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No problemooo :D

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Michael Boquet
14:58 Mar 26, 2021

There's power in truth and you capture that force wonderfully in this piece. I liked how you continued to use the phrase from the prompt. It gives the story a nice rhythm. I particularly like the line: "to make a thick black Sharpie slash across the universe." Congratulations on getting shortlisted!

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:31 Mar 26, 2021

yay! I'm so glad you liked it!

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Amany Sayed
14:45 Mar 26, 2021

Rhonda I'm so prouddd! You got a shortlist!

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:33 Mar 26, 2021

Yaaaay! Thank you so much, Amany! How are you?

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Amany Sayed
15:21 Mar 17, 2021

Dang. I feel like it's a wake-up call. I've been feeling bored and more than a little purposeless these past few weeks, and this is a nice little jolt that it's up to me to change my life for the better. Thanks for writing.

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:37 Mar 26, 2021

Glad to be somewhat of an alarm clock! Thanks for reading!

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Jen Park
07:29 Mar 13, 2021

Beginning was sad, but I like the hopeful ending. :) There were so many beautiful metaphors that I couldn't even name them. This is more like a poem than a story though, that "I" can be anyone and this is everyone's story and everyone here can relate to it. Wonderful story as usual😊

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:31 Mar 26, 2021

Thanks so much!

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Kat Sencen
04:07 Jun 03, 2021

I am just wondering why did the shortlist label get taken away?

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Kenley Ellis
15:21 May 23, 2021

Oh my God, this is so beautiful!!! It makes my head spin and I am VERY much late to the party but wow. This is really a work of art. Congratulations!!

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Niveeidha Palani
04:27 May 22, 2021

Hi there, it's been a long time. Was going through your stories. Wasn't this shortlisted?

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J. Storbakken
22:12 Apr 14, 2021

Blasted great.

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Luke Buckett
03:11 Apr 12, 2021

I love this so much! It gives me chills every time I read it! I will read this everyday for inspiration and whenever I feel discouraged.

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