Across a narrow alley from my school...
The front of this neighborhood cancer is a peeling façade of dime store display windows and a diseased Chinese restaurant. Above, the boarded windows and crumbling brick of street side apartments sag towards the ends, like the twin corners of giant mortar frown. The windows on the fifth floor and below on the city side (East) of my dorm have a lovely view of the back of this decrepit slum, which is even more sorry looking than the front. In addition to being boarded, alley windows are draped in mildewing cloth and sport jagged glass teeth. Every once in a while the depressing portals are eerily backlit, proof of life in a place one otherwise might expect (and hope) was deserted. Above the fifth floor, dorm occupants can inspect the slime-covered roof, matted in tarpaper that weather and wear have scrunched into tiny black mountains, in the sagging valleys of which roam brown and empty forties and stained, torn cloth (former shirts, blankets?). From the roof a rusting fire escape serves no purpose other than to aid the building's inevitable and merciful journey towards condemnation by pulling out bits of brick...in the event of a fire, the fleeing occupants would burn alive or fall to a tangled wrought-iron death.
I've never actually scene another human being enter or exit the building, although there are stories
, and the occassional flung bottle or muffled cry
. One unforgettable afternoon, however, I was awoken from a nap in my girlfriend's room by closing police siren
s and drunken screaming
. I sat up straight and was greeted by the site of a man balanced precariously on the aforementioned fire escape yelling threats of self-destruction
and curse at a couple of police officer
s below, trying to talk him down. He was no more than 15 feet from where I sat. Suddenly, he looked in my direction and I saw his eyes briefly before he fell backwards through the window he had just climbed out of. They were rimmed with grime and pale with hatred.