The Streetlight Across Town | Johan Alexander

Gije Cho via Pexels

Sitting tall in front of those short trees, we gaze at the opposite side of rush hour. The dome of our head blazes red one moment, green the next as memories of previous rush hours rise steaming from your skull. We fold ourselves into a striped suit with saggy threads, and we take pleasure in polishing our brown shoes whenever we can. Next to our wooden stool, our cart is stacked with lollipops, bags of potato chips, cigarettes. Pigeons clamor around the wheels. We speak to them. Just those pigeons are near, no people, but we don’t care. Those rush hour memories nudge a chuckle from within and we flash juicy bits of gossip at the birds, but they ignore us and peck the cement. We continue chuckling and swiping at our shoes. Eventually, a young man stops to deposit a few coins for a single cigarette. He is our very first customer. We had parked this cart on this corner just last night, but it was too late. We had missed the rush hour. Just last night, years ago. It’s so far to push our cart, but people on this side of town have always been nicer. Plus, this streetlight’s cycle had enticed, instead of the ordinary red-yellow-green in front of our house, way on the opposite side of town. This one’s red-green, red-green. It’s different. Smooth, yet chatty. The only one in town. It chides the shiny cars under sundown: pollution will laminate the sky in a few short years. In fact, the sunset is passing into pink right now. Salmons and corals ripple above the red-green bounce. Offended by their ignorance, we tell the pigeons to get lost, go take a bath. Go drown in the ocean above the streetlight. The birds take off in a huff, flinging themselves far into the evening. We look up, nod and laugh, congratulate the young man on being the first customer. We are smooth, yet chatty. He glances around. The cigarette seethes. He straightens his back, flicks his smoke, walks away. Our voice trails off and our eyes widen as flecks of ash ride through the wind and settle down, softly smudging our newly polished shoes.

Johan Alexander was born in Medellin, Colombia. A musician and community organizer, he lives in Portland, Maine. His writing can be found in LatineLit Journal and elsewhere. Twitter @Johaxander1

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