by Maroula Blades
It wasn’t much; but it was home. For days, we, the tenants, and members of our community like Mrs. Wrench, a primary teacher, Mr. Lowry, the street baker, Mr. Hall, the preacher and others, stood silent with linked arms. We thought this was an impenetrable formation around our crumbling three- story home of sixteen leaking moldy apartments. The enormous crane with its pear-shaped wrecking ball and steel chain, threatened at a short distance away. Rednecked city developers urged, menaced and called the police that made on-the-spot arrests. At the time two single women held their illegitimate toddlers in their arms. Tardy welfare workers came in, took the kids, and packed them like suitcases in the back of a rusty gray Volvo. They were just doing their job, but aren’t carers meant to care, to feel and empathize with the poor circumstances the deprived experienced? Instead, irritation crumpled their faces, as the mothers struggled in vain to hold tight to their babes.
Our protest fizzed out to the sound of gushing water from hoses that sprayed our bodies with the ripping power of talons. Tenants took to flight, running to their cold-water flats to take as many belongings as possible. Elderly Mr. Lenox’s strapped a tired-looking mattress on his hunched back. He set off to hobble the length of the street to the corner where his childhood friend Mrs. Blake waited. Mrs. Blake, a widow and now homeless had set up camp with a pitcher of lemonade. The childhood friends grew up here and wanted to live out their last days in the area even if that meant living on the street amid the waste and rats.
From my flat, I came out tearful and lost a shoe down the stairwell that fumbled the concrete on its descent. Out on the curb, mean-machines with stony faces wore shiny badges, uniforms, and holstered pistols. Into the city-gray the new homeless walked, along the streets where pimps and prostitutes called out from flashy convertibles, trying to entice the young to pay a coin for a ride to an unknown destination. Corrupt taxi men and fossil-like oldies were also on the move, or should I write prowl, in souped-up automobiles. They acted like treacle wouldn’t ooze from their lips, while asking,
“Are you lost? Need a lift home? Looks like I’m going in your direction.”
Libby, a young mother who loved to party arrived home to find no home. Dressed in club-clothes, she sat in her red leather mini on a patch of dry earth. Her mother left earlier in the morning with her grandson to the other side of town. Tear-stained, Libby stretched out, looked skyward and mouthed words lighter than whispers. I took Libby’s hand and hauled her to her feet. As we walked, fancy cars and taxis tooted horns and randy old men tried to disguise their intentions with polite renditions of 1950s talk.
We dragged our feet; they pained while walking the hill. Atop the hillock, we witnessed the final swing of the crane’s steel ball, and the handshakes between city developers, police, and wealthy city folk. Above them in a cab, hundreds of feet above the worksite, the crane’s cab-operator did a thumb’s up sign. He was ablaze with the satisfaction of wreaking havoc.
For adoption, we are too old, but not old for the filth and swank of the city’s keen-eyed sex-predators. These low-life hustlers saw an expanding capitalbefore their red-streaked eyes. Vigilant, we trekked, ignoring the low calls from lanky shadows in dingy corners.
On the following scorching day, we continued to walk, huddled together down a never-ending road.