Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Memorable Moment #236

My apartment in Pittsburgh circa 1998 was a dump. Two streets over was a dirty, run down neighborhood. The route to the store went through an abandoned park where the homeless relieved themselves behind trees and they would often follow you back to your apartment building, hoping to get in. Nothing felt safe. The city was open, unguarded and full of possibilities that included the negatives such as early morning muggings or even stabbings, as we would later find out. Everything felt cluttered. Outside my apartment door you could choke on the smell of pot being smoked down the hall. The elevator doors opened and closed with a creaking so loud that I would often opt for the stairs - even if it was over five flights. In the lobby there were students coming and going, security guards keeping their eyes on monitors, people using the pay phone, on their way out to party - on their way in to party... On my way to school and work the streets were filled - even if not a soul could be found on them. The twenty minute walk was clogged with thoughts of "what am I doing here?", "where do I belong?", "who am I?" and "what is my purpose?"... Those were the good mornings. Worse were mornings filled with silent pictures. Pictures of grown men with no food, dirty clothes and rotting teeth. Pictures of women with bruised faces, darkened eyes and visible tremors. Those were the bad mornings. Everything felt a little too close for comfort. On my last day, we stole food from the cafe we worked in. We filled our backpacks with bottles of apple juice and bags of chips. It didn't matter, I wasn't coming back anyway. We ate pizza in a small pizzeria I'll never find again. Then, we drove up a winding road and pulled off to the side. I stood on the side of a mountain. I looked down and I saw glittering lights. Small lights moving in pairs. A beautiful show of red, blue and twinkling white. Even more beautiful was the backdrop. A mountain covered in blue light. And it was just me. Standing there while everything else faded away, the chaos and the clutter and the darkness and the sadness and the rest of it all. It all seemed so different from far away. It all looked a little better - with a little perspective. There was no turning back then. I couldn't change my mind. I would have, if it hadn't been too late. I realized how much easier the bad could be - with just a little step back for the sake of good. "Thank you for this." I said to my driver, less than 24 hours before coming home. "For what?" He asked. "You, me...and a better view."

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