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Tough Times

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The Highrise

You see a building right next to yours. Go a little closer. On the door half of the nicknames are "Smokey". Go inside. The hallways are deathly silent and the misery is a palpable living thing in the air. The walls are littered with graffiti and out of the occasional doors you can hear the muffled curses and slams of flesh on flesh and flesh on walls. This is not love. This is violence, frustration, and hatred made physical. Keep going. The elevator is constantly out of order; nobody has ever tried to fix it. Go up the stairs.

On the stairs faint bloodstains are visible and their origin unknown, but there are only three choices to what caused them. Choice 1: a lover's quarrel gone horribly wrong. Choice 2: a gang fight that began at the top of the stairs. Choice 3: suicide or attempted suicide. Nothing here is an accident. Keep going up the stairs. Onto the next floor.

Even on this floor the windows are broken, gated, and barred. Holes in the walls are hastily and sloppily patched up. Junkies are shooting up in the hallways. Ignore them. Finally get to the (room) apartment you're looking for. Go inside.

You're here at last. Only to have your friend's mom tell you he died yesterday. "What, you didn't hear? Well now you know. I've got some weed, want a hit?" To you that hit sounds lovely. Take that hit and a few more. Wipe the tears from your eyes and walk out of the apartment (cell). Go back down the hall and consider joining the junkies in their perverted version of innocence. Decide not to. Track lines don't work for you. Walk (slowly now, don't look down, don't jump) down the stairs. Wonder if one of the bloodstains are his.

Go down the first hallway. Don't listen to the (lovers, fighters, people who are dealing better than you are) slams of flesh on flesh. Keep going. Walk to the door. See the old men drinking and (don't they know he's dead?) laughing on the stoop. Walk into your building (hellhole). Go into your apartment (jail). Manage to drag yourself into your room (own private hell). Sleep off the hits of weed you took before. Get up. Check the news to see if the sun exploded, the moon crumbled, and the earth stopped.

They didn't. Crawl back into your room. Remember the forbidden kisses you stole, the dark unknown languages you whispered into each others' ears -- his in the only one language he knew, yours in many. The sun still hasn't exploded.

The funeral was today. Don't go, remember him as he was. Take a hit and go outside. The glare from the sun seems like it's directly in your eyes. Take a new lover that doesn't mind your silent tears in the middle of the night. Remember that he always hated to see you cry. The sun still hasn't exploded nor did the moon ever crumble, and his tenement (tomb) is still right next to yours.

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