By Thaddeus Lee

There’s a place where all of us go. It’s not far from here. Simply a few steps from the corner store and a block or so from Times Square, and you’ll be there with us. A place to be free. A lush landscape of green hills overlapping each other until they meet the horizon, with a hearty meal at the end. Flowing with traffic, yellow flashes of strangers passing you by, aware of that place, yet don’t need it. Car horns blaring an offensive burst of annoyance and strangers yelling at each other over a hefty bump. The seductive smells of “Joe’s Dogs” pulling you toward the portable yellow box of meat, only to be shooed away by Joe himself. Sounds of boots busting against the ground before you, the metro shaking the ground and claustrophobic to the touch. The concrete canyons of New York look down upon you, the buildings bending over, sneering at you with an evil grin and croaks of laughter. Gaudy department stores across 160th and Lexington shuttering their doors with your presence like rats scurrying into the nearest hideaway, squeaking obscenities at you as they find the nearest hole. Suits pass you by with their faces bunched up in distrust with a hint of disgust, analyzing the stock market as well as your shoes that haven’t been replaced since 2005 as well as your ragged windbreaker that your ex-wife gave you before she kicked you out. You bear it all, wearing your scars like a soldier. You know these streets better than anyone because they don’t live on them and you have since, well, since you could remember.

It’s not far now. In Hell’s Kitchen. A place hotter than deserts sun tanning under the brilliant heat of the Sun. Tourists ducking into café’s, their hands flying into their pockets like a flap of a raven’s wings, safeguarding goods you had no intention of touching. Passing the Hudson River harbor, horns of passing ships breaking past you. Workers loading boxes in the back of storage ships, dressed in sloping blue overalls with a somewhat fishy demeanor. You pass them and find the entrance. Lush green bushes lining the concrete path to a set of dark wooden doors. Covenant House. You walk in, greeted by many others like you, enjoying the freedom of something different. Something more than an alleyway or an underpass. The screams and sounds of the city are gone here and replaced the ear shattering drone of an empty room. The material of the city left at the door and the understanding of life here so miserably misunderstood. Offered a meal and a bunk, you lay upon it, a man stopping to look at you with a familiar, understanding gaze as he gives your shoes a final glance and disappears, dusk breaking outside the safety of the panes of glass.

The next morning you awake to a bursting alarm, the Sun gleaming through the glass as you find your beaten down shoes missing. You panic, only to find a new pair sitting where they were, a deep autumn color with a white trim. Scanning the room for the culprit, you see many different flavors of you, each person here working the broken boots of the past off their feet. The padding shaved down to a mere sliver as they snatch their windbreakers of similar size and color as they start shuffling toward the door. You suddenly stop, focusing on the man from last night. His windbreaker contrasts yours with bright baby blue colors, his eyes a bright shade of green. He nods to you with a cup of coffee and a toothy smile, urging you to come over.

One thought on “Steps Away from Pragmatism

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