by Lucas Wetzel
When I said something critical about this place, the response was emphatic: GET OUT. Where am I supposed to go? I wanted to ask, but they were all anonymous. I just want us to live in a better place. I want the place we live in to be better. If you don’t want to listen, build bigger fences. Give my name to your concierge and tell him not to let me in. I grew up in a gated community and when I escaped I was amazed to discover it was surrounded by miles of other gated communities. After that I moved to a bedroom community — a seven square mile patchwork of beds, nightstands and duvet covers all pushed together. My friends all lived within one week of each other. On weekends we stood around and smoked and drank and talked about how much better things would be in Coastal Megalopolis. We talked so much we had no choice but to move there. In the middle of my continental relocation I got cold feet and exited the plane mid-flight. When I showed up at my parents’ house dripping water all over the welcome mat, a flotation device stuck around my neck, my mother was kind enough not to ask questions. She just pointed to my old room and told me dinner would be ready in fifteen minutes. Now when I walk around — always in squares, always alone — I wonder if everyone is watching and waiting for my next move. Or maybe they have forgotten. Or never knew I existed. I am confident there is a way forward but I don’t know what it is yet. This doesn’t stop me from drafting plans. I went before the council yesterday with a proposal for a new mixed-use development. I am requesting tax incremental financing for a period of 400 years. What will you be offering? they asked. High-end apartments. Waterslides. A peanut farm. A sanctuary for lemurs, owls, bushbabies, other nocturnal creatures. A polo field. A weekly farmer’s market. Where do you intend to put the thing? Oh, any old place will do. My proposal was turned down in favor of a bulk club. But I still think we need to find alternatives. Alternatives to what? To this. My friend says these brick cities are almost over. It’s not even a question of when. I don’t remember the last time I read a column by someone who didn’t sound afraid. Who wasn’t hedging his/her bets. I, for one, am tired of feeling sorry. When called upon to smile the required muscles all misfire and my mouth turns into a grimace of forced cheer. Let what is crumbling, crumble. Let us eat crumble cake. Let us eat to our hearts’ content.
“These Brick Cities Are Almost Over” is the title of a story by Craig Davis, whose short fiction collection “Ramshackle Wonderlands” is available now on New American Press.
Ah-Ram Park took the above photo of a recently demolished building in Columbus Park.