Shut Out

August 22, 2006

ORESTES: I was born here- and yet I have to ask my way, like any stranger. Knock at that door.

THE TUTOR: What do you expect? That someone will open it? Only look at those houses and tell me how they strike you. You will observe there’s not a window anywhere. They open on closed courtyards, I suppose, and turn their backsides to the street. Very good, sir. I’ll knock- but nothing will come of it.

“The Flies” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Walking down the streets of the city, I go past many people. Old people, young, the “granola munchers,” the skanks, the junkies. Business people are next. Their pace is quick, lattes in hand, clothes pressed to form perfect creases down their pant legs. A sweet sound emits from one shop to my left. A quick glance and I see all that fills it: a mosaic of cultures, of street cultures. They don’t notice me as I move on.

I stand at the corner, eyes going up towards the lights to see when I can cross next. I might as well stand there all day, because I don’t feel like moving even when I’m fully capable of it. Cars breeze past, people looking out from rolled down windows, cigarettes dangling from their fingertips or just off of their lips. Their faces, with shades, turn away to say something to the driver. The car blasts ahead as the lights change. I cross.

I go past a busy intersection full of people. I’m not sure what to call them, honestly, but they are people. I’d like to say they’re a step-up from slum lords, but then I think, “I haven’t met a slum lord yet. That’s a bit unfair.” I settle on “skunks” – annoying, dirty, loud. Seems fitting, and I continue on.

Turning into work, I settle into my position, watching people enter the elevator. For some reason, they have a habit of settling back against the rails and staring out in my direction. Their faces are blank, lips sealed. The door closes slowly wiping me from their memory, and they from mine.

People come down the stairs and through the lobby, quick steps, heading towards the door. Nothing is said in my direction, and my words towards them fall flatly against the door as it swings closed.

Times goes on, the sun sets lower into the sky, and I receive my first opening, so to speak. A young woman struts into the facility. She’s looking good tonight, walking straight (always a bonus), and her hair done up to perfection. Everything is fine until she opens her lips, a tantalizing pair of red ones. “Where’s your bathroom?”

A too common demand. I tell her politely that there is no public washroom.

She turns to a guy who has followed in her footsteps and complains, “Now I’m public?!” and leaves in disgust.

I go back to my job, another day passing. Another uneventful day.

THE TUTOR: We’re out of luck. The only one who doesn’t run away is a half-wit.

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