The queue at the foodbank is even longer than usual. Recent events have hit people hard; so many lost jobs and reduced incomes taking their toll on local families. According to Twitter, the number of people needing to use this particular foodbank has more than quadrupled in the past three months and the size of the queue would seem to bear that out. They put out a tweet this afternoon – we are running out of food, please come down and donate what you can.
It’s not the hottest summer of their red-nosed lives, but it is a close call. The Verona apartment complex becomes a desert oasis, wavering at the edges. The pavement burns and bubbles as cats mew irritably from their windowsill perches. Clotheslines criss-cross taut between balconies; the garments hanging from them–once colorful, patched flags–are now bleached bone.
“This isn’t a normal drought,” neighbors whisper to one another between balconies, licking the desiccated insides of their mouths.
The first doctor was disappointed. He found only furniture – a broken mirror in the cecum, a rotten egg on the rectum’s wall, and a chair, one leg missing. A bit slovenly, the doctor said, but not cancerous. I put my left shoe on my right ear and danced east, not west out of the recovery room.
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Question: What is the Participant Comfort Mandate you mentioned in the event description?
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In the middle of nowhere, a room bursts into existence. Four walls, a ceiling, and a floor. A perfect square in a void. The room is bursting with noise. The sound of feet on wood. Of jazz singing from a speaker. The room moves to the noise. Around and around.
Inside the four walls, there are people and they are dancing. Arm in arm with a partner, they swing each other around. Almost colliding with the people around them but never quite touching. Their feet doing quick exchanges of balance. One hand balled in a fist, the other waving as they sweep. The partners stare at each other as they dance. Their faces vacant, like they are somewhere else.
The air is frigid and still, unable to absorb the bluish grey swirls of smoke floating outwards, and forced to let them slowly fade into nothingness at their own pace. There is no edge to the darkness, just vast blackness interrupted by the intrusive orange flames of street lights. The silence is undercut by the low, constant hum of energy flowing around the structure behind him.
The thin, black hoodie does nothing to counteract the chill, and he idly wonders if the jagged frost-covered wall he is leaning against will stitch itself to him and claimed him as part of the building. The nurse who unlocked the door had warned him not to stay outside for long, but three cigarettes later he was contemplating how long he could extend his escape before someone came to drag him back inside to the real darkness. He pushed his free hand further into his pocket and shuffled his weight from one numb foot to the other.
I turned into the entrance of the Charlotte Metro Nature Preserve and followed the twisting gravel road toward Copperhead Cove. The wedding I would conduct on the banks of Lake Wylie was two hours off, so I had plenty of time to prepare. Maybe take a quick nap. Maybe even forget my anger.
At a sharp bend in the road, I passed a man and woman nestled in cheap folding chairs, both illuminated in a shaft of silver-white sunlight that pierced the oak canopy. Homeless, judging by the looks of them, with their possessions piled nearby in black plastic bags. The man lay twisted on his side, his head in the woman’s lap. Ragged flannel hung from the woman’s thin arms, which were wrapped around the man. Despite the warmth of early September, both wore long-sleeved shirts and blue jeans.
The virus invades dreams.
I’m in a labyrinth. She’s laughing, attired in mucus green, chasing me through sterile halls.
I turn off the news. Try to hit the sack earlier.
I even walk at sunset. Soothe myself in tangerine, pale blue, and lavender shadows.
The allotments are a sociable place, especially for me because my plot is right next to the entrance. So I get to greet, and chat to, everyone coming through the gates. The conversations are kindly and cheerful, except when the subject is pigeons or cabbage root fly. So, when I greeted Billy Epps on his return from his holidays (Morecombe – two weeks), I was utterly unprepared for his bitter response:
‘Eh? How am I? How am I?? I’ll tell you how I am: I haven’t had a crap for four days!’