I walk through these streets with twenty names, and I see sad cats with sticky fur tonguing rusting gutters for bits of lost kebabs. I walk and I walk in the city. Yes it is a foreign city, but that is somehow subsequent in the order. This is a city. In cities, suffering happens. Or, it happens in a way that country folk find abhorrent and unexpectedly cruel. I am of country folk. In the country, you sometimes lose a finger on the farm. In the city, you get eaten in a sideways manner, as if attacked by sorcerors, and you must wear special masks to stave off cancers and viruses, and your children are eyed by molesting mutants, and you know that you're on the short list of places to be nuked, and you don't know why your neighbors scream (somewhere not quite locatable, two floors up or one floor down or in the next building), and dogs scamper from contraband firecrackers or more serious minor explosives, and Nationalists rally in anger on your street, and the rain won't stop, and the rain streaks gray on your cheeks even though you aren't wearing any makeup. But it's not so bad, if you live here, remember. It just seems so to country folks.
The city asks you to just walk it, like it's a puzzle with a solution. The city asks you to walk it, as if there is an end to the story. See, that's the trap, the monkey-hand trap, you can't let go, you've got to keep walking because there, yes, is a conclusion to every story; but there is no finite number of stories. So you must walk. You must see the disappointed smiles on the faces of waiters, the happy and burnt hands of the noodle vendor, the betel stains that spell sacred words in a language not yet spoken on Earth. And all that. All that happens, and these people, city people, feel like heroes and villains in their attempts to cope. They create whole-body masks, and they become "a butcher who hates her job" or a "tired columnist" or a "teacher who has hope in the children of the future because Hod is the Home of the Holy" or a "meek scooter mechanic mack- daddy" or some shit, any shit, just any shit to get by. Because you need a story to survive the city. You need several. So we get locked together, french-kissing with braces too complex, so sharp we do not at first notice our cuts, or understand: the way you fix my car, the way I shelve your books, the way you can my coffee, the way I iron your collars. We are tangled in machine favors and machine dreams, and in the city everything you do is a kiss of some kind. Face it.
So it's a religion, it's a way of life, it's a pastime, it's a joke. It's a killing joke and a tourist trap. And some say "you motherfuckers just don't know" because it's too easy to breeze in, breeze in, breeze out, breeze out, and suddenly "you think you know India. Or shit like this. But you do not know India. You do not know our ways. You don't know shit."
City says: listen: there is syncretism in what it means to make souse near Mize and in what it means to make boil pig blood into bricks near Taipei. You may be lost, far from the root of the earth, far from your first language, your ga-ga gizmo glossolalia, lost in a winter imagined by dead great-uncles, on this greased asphalt, or over that cauldron behind your double-wide. You are lost, but you can be found.
It's a joke. And that's how you get back.
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