East on North

My neighbors are the cogs of an odd clock. Morning sets them going, and each leaps into a ballet already out of sync but appropriate to the day. Our regularly random stirrings mark more time elapsing, and we clock parts inch the sun higher.

On the way to work I pass the same woman walking the opposite direction. Depending on the moment we pass, her presence tells me I’m late, or that she is early, or that neither knows the true minute. We don’t speak, and it’s the same for all these faces moving like planets in idiosyncratic orbits. We pretend daily not to know one another, pretend our habits don’t overlap and that every morning is familiar. We live in déjà vu.

Beside the Walgreens, a man sits at the entrance to a parking lot, smokes, and yammers into the passing traffic. I never walk on that side and can’t hear what he says, but gyrations send cigarette smoke swirling into the morning sun.

Runners glide by, sliding like beads along a string toward the park and lake, as if they were moved and not moving.

On the steps of a fountain across from work, an elderly man dances shirt open to the music of a CD player he palms like a discus. He travels up and down levels, pausing to deliver lines and improvise choreography. When he gestures to heaven, a tennis ball-sized tumor shows under his right arm. Though every day he seems more emaciated, he never tires, his performance never slows. One morning a runner paused to talk to him, and he dipped in deep bow, sweeping his arm to gesture her on. Last Thursday, he wore just one shoe.

This time of year, the morning sun is low, and, traveling east, every figure ahead of me is a light-smudged shadow. I can’t open my eyes more than slits. We march into glare as if we were stepping into the mouth of a bright mine.

In the afternoon, I will walk west, into the sun again, eyes-lidded, tracing another circle, never exactly the same.

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Filed under Chicago, Essays, Experiments, Home Life, life, Meditations, Modern Life, Place, Prose Poems, Thoughts, Urban Life, Work

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