#429: Metronomes

January 23rd, 2015

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She started again.

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I suppose the lady camped at the foot of the State Street bridge house knew what she was doing.

She and I had our routine down — I walked by enough to and from work that she knew I wasn’t going to give her any change to add to her cup, the one she gave a triple shake every seventh beat.

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She always gave a pleasant smile to some eye contact and a “Sorry, I don’t have any” when my pockets would be jangling with quarters. A pleasant smile with one tooth jutting out. Wild eyes where you could see white circling the entire iris.

A truck passed on the bridge causing a massive, tide-like wobble along the length of the trunnion arm. Nausea welled. The woman continued her seven-beat maraca shake of a change cup.

A street or two down, a man in a wheelchair tapped his leg stump in the air. Tap tap. Tap tap.

He was a beggar not begging at the moment. Tap tap. Tap tap. A friend had come to talk shop with him at his perch across from The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist. Tap tap. Tap tap. He absently waved his stump in time as the crowd walked by.

He tapped by a ghost bike signifying where a cyclist had been crushed. Tap tap.

Down a side street, an alley revealed the world falling down a level. Downtown has double-decker streets — triple-decker in one spot over an impound lot. Sometimes alleys and spaces between buildings go down to the real ground, a stomach-churning reminder you weren’t on earth at all.

Above one of these fall-away alleys, a crane sits atop a building. Up past where you can see down to a ground that wasn’t where you stood, it lowered two portable toilets to a construction site. One above another strung along a chain, they looked like charms on a bracelet.

Back past the tap tap stump, down another street where a train rumbles along a curve of the Loop edge. Another turn. Smokers outside a city college. The first car horn blare of pre-rush hour.

A hotel has floor after floor of pillows stacked identically in windows. Faces look out from office buildings. People on cells. Headphone-wearing women just don’t want to be bothered. Beggars ask for change, time, notice, respect, change, change, change.

Crowds push, businessmen in black coats with scarves and white Apple-brand earbuds rush to and from important places. I have a black coat. I have a scarf. I come from business. Am I important or where’s my earbuds?

Change. Time. Bother. Pillows. Earbuds. Push shove mutter and mumble the city sings to me a cacophony. Different agendas, different scope. Cranes dangle shitters the way wrists dangle charms. A bridge half undulates the way a man taps his leg stump. Nausea and noise, the city screams to me.

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What the hell is a trunnion?

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You are currently reading #429: Metronomes by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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