Five Card Story: Life in the City

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a Five Card Flickr story by Cintronian created Oct 10 2014, 01:40:42 am. Create a new one!

flickr photo credits: (1) bionicteaching (2) bionicteaching (3) Serenae (4) bionicteaching (5) bionicteaching

about this story

"The city is full of mystery and wonder." That's what Carlos' grandfather had always told him. He told stories of playing stickball in cramped alleyways and spinning on the carousel outside of St. Mary's Cathedral after stuffing themselves with caramel apples and popcorn from Pets's Penny Arcade. But as Carlos crossed the quiet, early-morning streets on his way to the construction site, he ran, he just couldn't see it. He couldn't find mystery or wonder- just metal and concrete and the harsh reality of homeless vagrants asleep along walls and on benches. Was this really the same city his grandfather had loved? How? Why? What had he seen that made him love it so much?
Later in the day, Carlos looked at the monstrous high rise he was helping construct and felt sick at the thought of contributing to the destruction of the city his grandfather had cherished. Had it only been a year ago today that he had died, squeezing Carlos' hand and using his last breath to pass on one final piece of advice. "Find beauty," he'd croaked, then pulled Carlos closer. "Live your life, and find the beauty...everywhere" he gasped. These were his last words.
With that memory, Carlos felt claustrophobic. His chest was tight with anxiety and desperate urge to do...something. He looked around, as if trying to determine what that something was. He made a lame excuse for leaving and as quickly as his feet would take him, he left the construction site. Almost without thought, he found himself walking in the direction of his grandfather's old neighborhood, in the heart of the working-class neighborhood that Carlos hadn't visited since he was a kid. Turning left from 24th Avenue to Cedar, Carlos stopped, stunned.
It was as if he had stepped back in time- the buildings were older, lower. Rather than reaching up to touch the sky at 146 stories, these old brick behemoths were no more than ten stories, though some were a mere three or four. The streets, though tight and cramped, felt more welcoming and warm than any of the wide ones Carlos walked each day. The smells from delis and little groceries were pungent and inviting. Carlos took a deep breath, inhaling the essence of the city for the first time in years. He was beginning to see what his grandfather saw, hear what he heard, smell what he smelled.
HIs feet kept moving. As he walked deeper into the neighborhood, he knew exactly where he was headed. In no time at all, Carlos stood in front of a neat, six-story brick building. Shakily, he reached for the door. Once he was inside, an entire childhood of memories flooded his brain: Abuela coming down the stairs because, "The elevator is for the lazy people!" she'd exclaim. "Come on, I have goodies for you," she'd whisper as she took his hand and led him away from his parents. Carlos walked over to the old elevator- a luxury in such a building. He stared at the strange buttons that still remained all these years later, "Number two, Discharged," he said to himself as he traced the odd little sign with his fingers. Tears stung his eyes as he contemplated, once again, the strange sign that still puzzled him now, some forty-five years later. While he stood, thinking, remembering, he heard the faint, "Ding!" that signaled the elevator had arrived at the bottom and was about to open. He stepped back as the doors slid open, seeming as tired and old as the building itself. Out came a little boy, about five, eating a huge doughnut. Just then, the doors to the stairs burst open and an exasperated woman came out.
"Fernando! Don't do that ever again!" she scolded the little boy as she simultaneously hugged him in relief. Carlos smiled politely to the woman. She returned his smile, grabbed the little boy's hand, and the two exited the building. Carlos sighed, feeling more relaxed than he had all day. A minute later, Carlos was also exiting the building.
As he made his way out of the neighborhood and back into the city- his city- he stopped and looked around, finally seeing the beauty of it all.

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flickr photo credits: (1) bionicteaching (2) bionicteaching (3) Serenae (4) bionicteaching (5) bionicteaching

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