The residency hotel stinks like all of them do: stale piss, malt liquor, and promise. Throw in some unwashed body and a healthy dose of curry and crack smoke, and it’s all there for you: a perfect potpourri of parolee and poor.
The carpets are so steeped in human misery they cling to the soles of my boots, eating at them.
There’s a metaphor there, I think.
If so, I fucking hate it.
My partner insisted there was someone he wants to talk to in here, leads the way up three flights of steps to this little slice of hell. If reality were any reflection of my take on it, it would have been stairs down, into a hole in the ground that just can’t be closed over or filled, and just keeps weeping pus.
He runs up the stairs. Fucker is always running, everywhere. Some shit about training for a biathlon or other.
I don’t like to run. If I have to, someone’s getting a beating at the end of it.
Anyway: he’s knocking on the door to number 13, which I am trying not to take as an omen of shit to come, just as I am trying not to breathe the shit-laden air.
A woman answers the door, sees my partner, and quickly ushers us into her room. I glance about, desperate for something to look at other than the meth-head’s tight-drawn face or the big rubber dildo lying on the unmade bed. Porn is playing on the TV. Hardcore. Not very good. Someone’s blown the closet door off with black plastic garbage bag after bag of clothes. They don’t look to be the meth-head’s as she’s a size one if she’s bigger than zero. Cracks craze the plaster of the walls, continue into the glass of the room’s sole window. It looks out, that window, on the neighboring rooftop. There’s a couple of sky-rats doing the peck-and-waddle out there, bathing in the occasional rays of sunlight that decided to make today hotter than I wanted.
My partner sits down next to the dildo and starts gabbing with meth-head like they’re long-lost buddies (he and the meth head, not the dildo, mind you), asking her for word on what’s going down. “You know, on the streets.”
I tune out. There are enough lies in my head, in the world, and I don’t want a meth-head’s need to please laying out more for me to feast on. It’s become routine: the lies, the bullshit, the patter, the running pointlessly in place. Instead I look out the window and continue my attempts to stop breathing. It’s not working, though. The stink is in me with each breath, gets worse with every exhalation.
Misery. Waste. Grinding on me, that waste, that misery, the need to feel clean, to get away.
Then, something majestic and entirely unexpected happens:
One of the pigeons, minding it’s own fucking business on its mindless rounds of peck and pick, that endless search for the perfect kernel of I-don’t-fucking-know-what, explodes in a pillow-fight-worthy cloud of dirty gray-white feathers.
I gasp, turn to ask if my partner saw that shit, but clomp my mouth closed.
Meth-head keeps talking. ‘Cause that’s what they fucking do.
My partner’s sharper, and twitches toward the window. But he gets distracted by something shiny the meth-head has to say.
I return my attention to the window and the roof beyond: standing there, talons-deep in the bloody red ruin of the pigeon, is a hawk. As I watch, the predator calmly steps sideways, bringing one foot down on the pigeon’s neck, breaking it. The pigeons stops fighting with a final twitch and the hawk leans down and delicately, oh so delicately, tears flesh from the pigeon’s breast. The meat disappears as the bird looks my way, eyes boring through crazed glass, beak open, bloody to the nares.
I know what it means to say.