This City Kills

This city kills/ 2022

Sitting in an unusually quiet corner of the city we grew up in, an old friend and I have come up with a story to explain recent events.

We are feeling sad because feeling sad is normal where we live. Everyone here is sad. The crows are sad so they shit on people, the people are sad because they are being shit on. Even the corner dogs who find new life at night are sad during the day. It permeates everything, this sadness, it drips into our morning coffee like milk, wafts in through our nostrils like cigarette smoke, settles, like dust, on everything and everyone we love.

Not for want of trying, though. To ward away the Sad, capital S, great efforts have been made. Trees have been cut down to manage the problem of crows, but the crows have figured out alternatives. Now they sit like sentries on the wires that crisscross the city looking for their next target. A war has been declared on the dogs with mixed results. Rabid mobs from the Corporation have mauled and mangled many, but every night, the dogs prowl, the howls ring out. The city can’t sleep.

The Sad can be traced back to the crows and the dogs, this much is certain. There can be no other reason.

And so, bigger projects have begun to get rid of the Sad once and for all. A new transportation system is being constructed to connect one end of the city to the other. Plans have been made meticulously: billions of tonnes of concrete is being transformed into a road above the road, a rail above the rail. When complete, it will give shade to the people below, and to many old statues and parks. The crows will not be able to aim from that high up, and the noise of the trains will drown out the dogs.

But the Sad has made people petty, overshadowing potential for great joy. People are complaining about how much the concrete costs, not knowing that you cannot put a price on happiness. Short-sightedness has taken over, and small matters are being made into big matters. Yesterday, for example, in an act of accident, a part of the bridge fell and crushed four people in a car. The part that fell was a viaduct, a few hundred tonnes of concrete, and it did not even fall from the bridge. A crane tipped over. People are pointing out metaphors, but the metaphors are incorrect. The crane is not the Project, and the car is not the people. This is merely a hiccup.

No one in this city is grateful. Perhaps that contributes to the Sad.

Good stories don’t end with apologies, but this is not a good story. I sat down to write a love letter but I can’t find anything to love about this city anymore.

It’s time to head home. Our conversation has stalled, the bill has arrived.

We make plans we won’t keep, because old friendships can survive cancelled plans. We traipse out of our quiet corner and onto the street outside, from dark to light, from silence to noise. We walk on footpaths in disrepair, past the chacha selling Lucky Strike and Marlboro Lights, to the car parked opposite an old restaurant for new lovers. I know these streets like the back of my own hand, but feel strangely like a stranger.

Above us the tall ends of buildings are bathed in twilight blue. I used to love dusk in this city. The streets are awash in yellow. This city kills everyone. A stray dog joins our walk. The dust settles. Above us, a lone crow takes aim.

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