I wandered out of the house late on a Sunday afternoon, the kind that seems like it’s made of the wasted scraps of the week pressed together, a rich compost of boredom. The city I was born into had become a town again, bleeding rust and broken dreams. Strangely noble in defeat, the people on the streets are the steadfast in their denial of depression. Old Detroit steel parades on hard scrabble roads, and the pale yellow lines are now sun blasted suggestions.

Somebody should write a book about this place.

But who would read it?

Down the curb, across the street, up the alley, across the tracks. Creosote smells like burning industry, but the weeds tell the truth. The signal doesn't stop traffic more than once a night, usually for the cross-country express. We used to be the destination.

Buildings never lose their original tenants. The medical center spews 50s aluminum promise. The office tower glowers in deep 70s orange. Smoky spirals of blue green terracotta tiles pepper the library beside the church, imperial and ancient, fresh from 1883. Florescent humming and big schoolhouse moonfaced clocks watch the book piles. Mildew smells like education.

I wander to the aestheticly ill-fitting computer desks. They clash like a UFO sticker on a Van Gogh.

He sat hunched over his computer screen, in much the same way a prison inmate hunches over his tray in the cafeteria. I was afraid to ask what he was writing. But, it was that or sort through the dusty shelves to learn why the Soviets would kill us all, or keep up with the latest advances in cake decoration.

I took the desk next to him.

He stopped his frantic typing. Frozen like a prey animal inches away from snapping jaws.

Turning his white crested head, he pinned me, bug-like, with his steely glare, cresting his half-crescent glasses. The hazy blue of a cataracting eye made me shift in my seat.

You know that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the crates in the warehouse? Where they stash the Ark of the Covenant in a plain wood box and tuck it away from world? This face was like that room. Grandfatherly. Possessing of forbidden knowledge. As imperial as the church squatting down the street. I felt the blood being pulled to my cheeks. I did what I had to do: I asked.

"Excuse me, but I was wondering..."

"You want to know what this is, don't you?” he asked, poking his cardigan draped arm toward the screen. I hadn't noticed he was missing a hand.

"Actually, yes." I offered up a sheepish grin.

He frowned.

"Everyone wants to know until they find out".

And he was right.

inspired by a catbox topic

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