There are an impossible numbers of fat matt-brown butterflies twisting and twirling through the streets like breeze-blown litter. Tired and dust heavy – they look a little lost.
Walking home from work, I swerve step so as not step on one and watch a little boy take a mad plunge into the honking traffic to grab another. He holds it triumphantly above his head, then catching my sad look, lets it fly up into my hands like a gift released to me, a compliment in kind.
His broad grin speaks volumes without words, wondering why I would feel such sympathy for a half-beautiful bug on its’ inevitable fall.
I throw up the flit-flutter of flight and walk off before its’ wings have chance to weaken again. I just don’t want to see.
I don’t. I like to get a little lost finding more of everything that could be hidden. I feel safer when I know I can learn my way through at least the smaller unknowns.
Without street lights to dim down the dark, the city appears as strings of islands, tableau caught in headlights, lamp glows, bulb flickers.
I sidestep the pools of deep dark. I’m not that foolish.
Even the streets I know look a little strange, surreal. Firefly worlds caught in the tangles of drooping wires that frame the scenes.
Traffic blares by. I pause, poised to hop forward, but then hesitate, miss my moment to cross the road, so have to stop, and scoop up the courage to do it all over again, feeling more than a little sheepish.
The streets are crowded, always, like life lived in shifts. Men sit round, flick flies, drink chai and watch the world go by. The intimacy of circled light makes this outside feel somehow private. My eyes are an intrusion but their stares give my glances permission. After all, I am the lesser voyeur.
A boy of five or six stops me, selling things I don’t want. He says he’s hungry and he’s so stork-scrawny I know it’s the truth.
The city spirals relentless around me. It will not stop.
I buy the boy a bag of food, settle for his smile and try not to think about how soon he will be hungry again.
I wander back to my own familiar puddle of brightening light, wondering how I can find my way to feel at ease with myself.