Market Street will never smell so fresh as it does at 5:30 in the morning. It's full dark out, my feet slapping pavement and shopkeepers hosing down the sidewalks. On the second floor of the building at 3rd street a woman is running on a treadmill, under bright lights. I'm a block down the street, two blocks, and the woman in the headphones is running in place.
A man stands partway in the street, his eyes focused high on the building with the abandoned deli, his hat to his heart like he's pledging allegiance.
"I thank you," he says. "I thank you..."
My breath comes hard and I think I can't keep running, I'm sure I can't and I almost stop but then feel the spring inside winding up again, it's only at the very bottom that it winds through and I'm running and it's okay.
It's easy to feel virtuous, running early in the morning when most of the city is still asleep. It's easy to find the division between Them and Us, Them and mighty, virtuous Me, but I don't run to for virtue. I do it to be pretty, I do it to not be sick anymore, I do it for all the selfish reasons.
And the dividing line is not so clear. I live here. I'm one of the people in my neighborhood. I've sat in the strip club, watching the woman's eyes grow bored when the big tipper leaves his spot at the front of the stage. She shakes and steps high because it's her job and the act is dropped, but enough of the customers don't see or don't care. Her skin is smooth and I think it must be very soft. When I was younger, I thought I wanted her job. I wanted to be seen.
We all have our drugs.
There are thieves and con-men and assholes here, just like anywhere, the thug in a good suit is still just a thug. The thieves here aren't so successful, or they'd be somewhere else. They're broken down, like the rest of us.
Ginsberg wrote about human seraphim: The security guard who closes his eyes at me like a blessing. The cluster of early shifters waiting for the bus, a man nodding into sleep on his feet, jerking himself awake. The fireman in his gear at the bottom of the stairs, smiling slightly into the rolling light from the truck. The woman leaning in the Ross entryway with her paper cup of coffee. She squints through the glass at temp workers moving slowly, near the end of inventory, reassembling the store one blouse, one dress, one jacket at a time.
I'm almost back to my building, the awning in sight. I want to stop now and walk the rest of the way, but I find the spring again, winding up and pulling me the last few feet to my door.