Nonfiction Observations


Few people are walking the streets at 5am. Some are rolling old suitcases or holding overstuffed bags as they wander away from the shelter. Their eyes are often downcast. Sometimes they shout obscenities at no one and everyone; no one responds.

People who drive the produce trucks haul crates of fruits and vegetables into cafes. There’s a heap of oranges in the middle of the sidewalk. The driver will pick up all the oranges when he gets back.

The fragrance of organic, fair trade coffee mingles with aromas of pastries made with genetically modified flour, eggs from caged chickens, and sugar from saccharine grasses sprayed with pesticide.

The guys waiting to start their construction work are loitering by the loading dock. A man in a yellow reflective vest inhales and the end of his cigarette glows orange. His hair is the same color as the plume wafting from his lips.

She’s not wearing any shoes and the soles of her feet are nearly black. Her heather grey sweatshirt is covered with stains and there is a tear in the left shoulder. She’s not wearing a bra. Her torn jeans stop above her ankles and the button is missing from the fly. There are tangles in her light brown hair.

She walks on her toes towards the man in the reflective vest, then turns away. She shrugs her slender shoulders, the sweater falling further down her arm. She walks back towards him, this time on her heels, while making waves out of her arms. After stopping, she tilts her head from side to side, then stands on one leg.

He watches her. His eyes show interest, his face shows boredom.

He pulls the cigarette from his lips.

“You want this?” he asks, holding the cigarette out.

She nods. She stands on her other leg.

“Take it,” he responds. The breeze pushes wisps of nicotine smoke towards her.

He doesn’t move. After gazing at the cigarette for a few moments, she hops forward and plucks it from his fingers. In one smooth motion, she takes a drag from the cigarette and then flicks the ashes away.

She walks away, quickly, quietly, her left arm extended. He watches her until she disappears around the corner.