by Dash Owens
Kai shuffled towards the red and yellow lights. It was a dark and cold late November evening. Kai had forgotten his heavier jacket on his bed in the rush to leave the house. There was an uncanny crowd of people moving towards the same lights. The numbers warmed Kai; crowds meant hope.
The lights rose in the dark air; two men on ladders fastened the lights to gaslight poles. The lights surrounded a tall tree, which shaded an ice rink and a recently swept promenade. The numbers swarmed the tree and the podium beside it. A couple men in long coats stood on the podium, their faces beaming at the people before them. The sea of eager white faces in North Face jackets and “D” braised beanies beheld the dark tree.
“How was your drive?” Kai overheard a woman nearby, speaking to someone whose face was bundled in a thick scarf.
“Only 35 minutes from Novi. Not too bad.”
The cold clawed inside his skin, and he twisted his fingers so he could feel them. The ceremony continued behind him with loud proclamations and cheering. The street was dimly lit and the roads were packed with parked cars. Kai looked up at the tan bricks addled with spray paint. He paused for a moment in front of a wall. Someone had sprayed in black: “Get ready for your fucking LIFE!” But someone had made an addendum, in blue paint, which altered the phrase to say “Get ready for your fucking (dull) LIFE!.” Kai kept moving, but then soon turned around. He pulled out his phone, snapped a picture (more like 3), and then moved down the street.
Further on, Kai heard the ripping and laughing of someone in the near distance. He didn’t know if he should cross the street. He saw the outline of someone bent over a car. Kai no longer could tell if they were laughing. The noise was more like a hiss, and the person was wearing several layers of clothing. As he approached, he thought they were young because they were small and slight. In the person’s hands was an envelope. The hissing continued, interrupted by haggard coughs. The display became almost ritualistic, with the hands twirling the envelope and body pulling two steps away, and then promptly stepping two steps back towards the vehicle. Kai thought to turn around, but he was lured by the anthropological intrigue. So he continued. Soon he saw that the hands were not too young at all and they belonged to a woman.
She saw him and offered a slanted smile. Kai thought she was missing at least 3 teeth. She tore up the envelope, threw the pieces in the road, and approached. She held out her hand.
“Any change?” she asked.
Kai turned his eyes and faced further down the street, and the periphery faded into one long, homogenous walkway. He continued on, forward.