Oct/08

6

The Neighbors of Vietnam

Figures hovering above, and figures hovering below. The complex is like a jungle tonight. The rain beats the mud even deeper into the pores of cement. Leaves sag like aged breasts. An onion, discarded from someone’s putrid Thriftway shopping bag, grows its own family of others just like it; opal, pungent, sterile.
And in this lush, plunging, fern filled courtyard, reminiscent of Vietnam, voices bounce through the rain, off a puff of smoke, off an angry thump, off a deep moan, off a shrill laugh. The neighbors are doing it again above me. And Maurice screams from down the hall at Lewis outside the gates of Vietnam.
“What the f*ck?”
“I bent my key asshole, or else I coulda got in myself.”

Boys playing men on a chain-link fence, slick and white, sneakers sliding, bending at will. Who will be the first to fall? Crack their head like Bowman did that summer night.
“Yo. Whooo! Oh sh*t, homie.” Skip and slip, bend and pour their tiny boy hearts out. The metal pings in the night air. Blood pops through the torn skull of the last tightrope walker to have fallen. Jorjian knew this is what it means to have a shaved head, to eat “sh*t like you for breakfast,” to die hard, to remember nothing, and always be walking along that chain-link outside Vietnam.

Sirens stop a skateboarder’s rumble on the clay. The man in the halfway house across the street claps over and over. Relentless techno crashes through an open screen door, and a government paycheck blows threw the wind and smudges its inky blot against Jorjian’s window. She laughs. Things seem relatively calm.
“Whoa!” And more clapping from the halfway house. This time for a reason. Another tightrope walker has tumbled. The others burst out laughing.

Over the mountain pass it would be crickets she would hear, thought Jorjian. But for now it was the sounds of the city that would have to lull her. TV’s, intercoms, buzzers, frowns, all things dismal, these were her things divine, she thought, as the neighbors moaned in ecstasy above and below.

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Gina B. Lalonde

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