Verse Exercises

A portfolio for her verses

City Dweller

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Was cleaning up my hard drive when I came across this old writing. Saving a copy here, with minor edits, where only global apocalypse could lead to utter loss. Also thought it would be timely in a retrospective sense to be putting this up as I am relocating away from the metropolis very soon.  This was an undergraduate writing assignment for a creative non-fiction class.

City Dweller

In the metropolis you are a stranger perpetually disoriented. Where is North? It used to be so easy to tell in the city where you grew up, where the mountains were always in view to signify the West and the boulevard by the sea, East. In that city where everything was small, you always knew where you were going. But in this other city, the city which you do not have a geographical concept of you get to places by memorizing the names of jeeps and buses to take. You never know where anything ever is, just how to get there, every street a portal toward the unknown and the potentially strange. Yet you have to act cool about this. Yes, as though nothing is new or shocking. You simply have to nod and take it in stride even when at the first sight of the snaking superhighways and flyovers you had thought yourself chucked inside a science fiction dystopia. The smeared walls of high rise buildings dotting the EDSA skyline, the littered and steep over pass where the destitute sleep so soundly despite the din of honking sirens and rumbling engines, the potentially hazardous effluents of urinals in sidewalks, and the smog—mostly the smog—remind you that you could not have imagined dystopia better than this.

Cars, jeeps and buses that fume and belch out poisonous smoke endlessly ply the rivers of poured concrete and asphalt ferrying deadweight bodies through the heart of the metropolis and on to the edges of its tiniest capillaries. The lights never dim in stores that serve people who have to be constantly on the go, seeking only temporary warmth in a cup of caffeine to inject life into their veins. These very people stuff themselves into trains that ship them from one end of the city to the next. And while you stand among them you cannot believe how distant a person can be from another even when they stand so close, skin to skin, even when they lean on the other for support when the train gets shaky as it speeds up, just two colliding bodies in an accelerating box. Before your very eyes, these people turn into phantoms as they run out into the platform and file into the turnstiles. It is the most mundane thing to them, this moving about briskly, this running to destinations that only they know, unaware of the afterglows of motion that they leave behind. It is the closest thing to a supernatural experience: seeing the residue of motion that trail behind people who move too fast.

Yet three years into the future, you, stranger, now walk briskly as well. You, stranger, now know a handful more jeep routes and how-to-get-to-where’s. You, stranger, now stand huddled inside the city’s commuter trains, whose thoughts are a million light years away, leaning towards and being leaned against, now just a body colliding with other bodies in a cramped train. You, stranger, who no longer has that sad look when you see a child feasted on by flies in the street. You, stranger, for whom the novelty has passed, less awkward with unfamiliar machines, chipper at exploring, striding into places you’ve never been, what is the trigger that will bring back that old identity, that disbelief back?

Look at yourself in the mirror, stranger, the metropolis and you are becoming acquaintances. You are beginning to wear the face of a city dweller.

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Written by thedoe

February 17, 2009 at 1:24 pm

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