Just about everyday, I navigate my bike through the alleyway where I live, carefully aiming around the potholes, ruts, loose gravel, broken bottles, and it’s strange inhabitants. It’s another city alleyway, conjoining a few row houses, businesses, and walks of life.
Sometimes, I’ll wander past domestic disputes, drug deals, drunk people, or middle aged women getting their furniture re-upholstered at the fabric shop, usually in relative harmony, with the litter, uneven pavement, bad graffiti and offshoot dwellings.
Sometimes people are sleeping in the cut, and others, people are strung out on bad decisions, amidst the overflowing trash, and discarded furniture from the seemingly never-ending turnover of tenants.
Over the weekend someone was shot in a drive-by on the corner. Aside from a few scuffles, shouts and a drunk guy getting hit with a shoe, the strange mix in the alleyway is typically not dangerous, usually just unusual. It was the second shooting in as many weeks, the sounds of gunfire often confused with the revelry of unsolicited fireworks, carried a different edge to it, and the heavy summer heat weighed on the vibe behind my apartment.
Pedaling home last night, passing news crews, ambulances, police cars, and yellow tape, I left the chaos of the world behind as I entered the familiar welcome of the alley way, picking up for the one usual pothole, worn smooth into a tiny valley, wheelie-ing over the next roller, made out of gravel and debris. The evenings are usually alive, and almost social, but tonight was different, the kids that often congregate behind their Grandma’s house, directly across from me were wild, shouting, making threats, acting out, trying to make sense of the heaviness that crept into their space. The older brother had just ended a foot chase with the police a couple blocks over. A police man was shot, and the kid was killed.
What was happening in the alley was more than a simmer, a reaction to another tragedy, kids trying to figure out how to feel, parents trying figure out how to cope, drunks trying to figure out how to stand up straight, and brown bag passersby trying to figure out if its safe to pass though the crowd, on the way from the sunny mart to the other side of the block.
Nightfall set, shouts and cries were only silenced by the not so distant sound of more gunshots, sirens, and even a helicopter. This morning the alleyway was quiet, aside from a few puddles and scattered empty trash cans, and my own uncertainty as to what would happen today, the alleyway was empty.
The emptiness was bit more vast than that however…