Shuffling Upstairs (Echo Chamber excerpt)

There are no doors street level. Three story hovels and miscellaneous hostels spew derelicts into the streets at the base at a minimum safe distance of 200 meters.

Polly narrows her eyes at a stack of coffee shaded conapts.

Her legs lift over the soggy bottom of the threshold. Splintered and rat eaten cardboard splatters the tile floor of the apartment building’s entryway. Thirty pairs of shoes are scattered in clumps, brown, black, sneakers, guest slippers, dress shoes, loafers, house shoes, geta, crocs, and the wires of long rotted disposable footwear. Each discarded foot covering emanates a sorrowful aura the climbs through the dead roaches, stained moulding, and attempts to breach the antiseptic barrier of Polly’s Death’s Head boots. Her neon shadow falls through the door and darkens the tile. Flashing sprays of green, red, and cathode blue pour in the space between the woman and the door frame from the Pollo Campero across the street as the chicken struts along the marvellous marquee.

Green Fleur de lis wallpaper crawls in wrinkly ribbons down the back wall as Polly shuffles in. The process of unbuckling the deaths head boots reminds her to pop another stick of gum into her mouth to help cover the greasy smell of this apartment building. She also thinks about her sister, the last shower she had, the note she left, the men, women, and erotic others that who’s hearts she’s left bleeding and twisted in the crossfaded days of her younger self. The woman five years her elder, with the experimental music hobby, the range of middle-aged men, the boys, each of her firsts, and, as the left boot is removed, her days rooting in the garbage for stale loaves and ketchup packages, the extra clothes, her first encounter with Old Merve. This last flashback threatens to swamp her brain and she summons her tranquil place. “The beach. The beach. Think of the beach.”

The sky is a simulated blue. No birds foul the air. Waves and the subtle wind are the sounds that help drive the dirty memory from recall.

She lifts her boots and begins heading up the squealing stairs. As she pins the boots under her armpit she fiddles with a piece of gum. She squints while peeling the foil wrapping from the wilting green stick. Her feet on the stairs wobble without her eyes to keep balance.

The gum really likes the foil. It does not want to be separated and fairly communicates this nonverbally to Polly by adhering staunchly to the uncoated foil underside. She tries but is unsuccessful. Several stripes of foil cling yet to the gum before she loses patience and pops the piece into her mouth.

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