Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Philadelphia Freedom

By Hesta

I decided to celebrate my unemployment today by treating myself to a movie and grocery shopping. When I embarked on my journey, Philadelphia had just emerged from a baptism of acid rain. I put on my galoshes and headed straight for the nearest SEPTA stop. In order to reach the only arthouse theater in this city of 5 million, I had to change lines at 30th street. However, at 33rd Street, the trolley broke down. The trolley master instructed the man in front of me to relinquish his seat for the sake of the trolley; when the man stirred, causing the smell of dried feces to enter my nostrils, I gathered my belongings and disembarked.

A half-inch of fetid water bathed the interior of the 30th Street Station, and the ceiling leaked every 12-18 inches. As I removed my SEPTA card from my wallet, a droplet of taupe liquid splashed on it from above. The train arrived, and when its doors opened, the scent of old dried turd wafted out.

The showtime for 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days was 12:20pm, and as it was a Monday afternoon, I prophesied that the theater would be deserted. To the contrary, I found myself asea in an ocean of senior citizens. The film’s termination was inevitably open-ended, much to the dismay of the seniors, who cried out from various locations in the theater—“It’s over?!” “That’s it?!” “That’s the end!?!”—and similar exclamations of consternation.

I exited the theater and moved westward, toward Reading Terminal Market, where I needed to pick up a few sundries for the evening repast. I was in luck: the Amish were selling raw honeycomb and dried figs, and the fishmonger had sea bass. My arms were full of goodies as I descended into the SEPTA terminal at City Hall. The scene was dark and dank; the aroma was that of hot, baked urine. As I neared the bottom of the stairwell, a man rounded the corner from behind. Scabs covered his face, and he mumbled nonsense. I accelerated my pace, fearing contamination of the food items. After several seconds, I heard a loud bang, as of a body hitting a sheet of metal. I turned around, just in time to see the man, leaning against the metal wall, pants around his ankles, pry his exposed buttocks apart in order to facilitate a dump. The activation of my gag reflex signaled danger. I needed to break the surface while I could still save the cargo, before it was befouled. When I reached daylight again, I hailed the nearest cab.

Below: Artist’s rendition.

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