Monday, September 3, 2012

An olympian ignored

The man stood up from his stool and stared out blankly at the street in front of him.  His mind wandered in and out of itself as the leaves on the trees flickered back and forth between themselves.  The wind picked up that time of day and the sun was shining just enough for the leaves to dance their shadows onto the pavement.  His daughter shook him from his gaze as she shouted a food order into his ear.  He nodded, sat back down on the stool, reached under the glass case, and pulled out 15 metal sticks loaded with lamb meat.  He hoisted them over the fire, dusting them with the spice and salt of the region, and life went on.

Students walk by the sizzling meat, and through the door for lunch.  Noodles cooked fat, thin, long, and in pieces.  Everyone orders them differently, but generally, it's all the same.  They live off of flour and water and spice.  Over the last few years the noodles have doubled in price, making things difficult for everyone, as they are these days.  You could add some meat to them, or a boiled egg if you could afford it.

The man on the stool disappears in a sea of the noon-hour rush.  Down the steps, towards the street, the crowd thins out.  Near the alley stand a row of trees, all painted red and white for whichever reason you might think that they would be.  To prevent the bugs from eating them?  To prevent the drunks from crashing into them?  Some sort of hidden message or political statement?  Painting trees is a job for people?  They stand tall in the autumn air.  Their leaves will be gone soon, but for a short time anyways, they are proud and beautiful.

Below a tree, in it's well, squat two small children.  They are no more than 2 years old, yet young enough to waddle around in their split pants.  The boy scrapes at the dirt in the well with a stick.  This is his playground.  The girl picks up a littered piece of used toilet paper and mimics (as her mother had taught her) how to wipe herself in the opening of her pants.  When she had finished, and being polite, she offers it to the boy, who repeats the action.  Both are very proud that they can wipe themselves with this piece of dirty paper.  "So grown up", they think.

On the road, the students continue to flood the area.  Groups of girls clunk by on their high heals.  Groups of boys pass by the other way with wavy hair and skinny jeans.  Their hairless chests poke out of the top of their unbuttoned shirts.  They are Justin Beiber.  They are Justin Beiber.

At the bus stop, The People wait in their blue uniforms for the #28 so they can go with their heavy tools to the end of the line and beyond; to the place where they work doing whatever they do that pays them money to buy things to eat.  An old lady holds two bags full of vegetables in her hands.  The cloth stretches and pinches over her arthritic fingers.  She spent 3 hours getting the food for the evening's dinner, though the market is only a block away.

The #28 is close to arriving, but stops at the red light just before the bus stop.  The people cross the street as the bus waits.  They cross as motorcycles ignore the light.  They cross as a police car drives through the red, driven by some police officer's friend.  The car is full of some more friends smoking their cigarettes inside the tinted window of the back seat.  An old man curses at the police car under his breath.  A foreigner kicks the car with his left foot, and the pain makes him quickly regret this foolishness.  Yet, the car drives through.

The main gate of the school is serving fast food.  They lady stands at her cart while the students eagerly line up for a box of cold rice, some potato strips and perhaps a piece or two of beef.  The lady must be making a killing.  No rent, no electric bills.  She must have strong legs to peddle that bike, with the gas stove, glass case, and food on it, all the way from the market.  An Olympian ignored.

Other students stream by the cart, up the broken sidewalk back towards the noodle shop, where the man has just put the finishing touches on the lamb kabobs.  His daughter takes them from him and places them on a metal plate to serve to a cuddly couple sitting by the window.  She is in love.  He's not so sure about it.

The man gets another order for kabobs and starts the routine off all over again.  He glances up to see his grand daughter digging in the dirty tree well with her cousin.  He takes a moment, within the noise that is there, to smile and think about what a beautiful young woman she will soon grow up to be.

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