ever have someone tell you to stand up straight? look you in the eye when they're talking?

900 block

The beat cop leans down to the driver’s side window of the squad car. The noise coming off of Market Street is making it hard to hear what the two in the black and white are saying.

“What’s that again?” the beat cop asks, putting an elbow on the door and sticking his head in.

Nothing. They’re saying nothing. The one in the passenger seat just has a mouthful of something from a yellow wax wrapper.

The roller is parked the wrong way up the street. Traffic slows to curl around the ass end of the car. Staccato calls come through the radio. The cop in the driver’s seat looks up from his clipboard, turns it down. The passenger nods and sidearms the empty wrapper out the window, into the street.

A wrapper. A gust of wind catches it and it’s gone until it gets caught under the tread of the Number Seven bus headed uptown. A wrapper. Just another piece of garbage on the street. Like the plastic bags, cigarette butts, bus transfers, beer cans that litter the city. All they need is the wind blowing towards the Bay to come alive and get gone. The garbage. A lot like the people down here. People who drift along with the wind from Eddy to Sixth to Market to wherever it dies down or swirls and collects in the urine stained juts of buildings.

And then he comes along.

The beat cop straightens up, puts his hands in his jacket. The left side of his face tingles from the hot air blasting out of the vents in the squad car. He watches a cleaning crew from the peep club halfway up the block dump their mop water into the gutter. The chemical musk of pine cleaner hitches onto the cold breeze and hooks his nose a few seconds later. It’s been forever since he could clean his own toilet without a degenerate scene flashing through his mind: a dark booth, some faceless guy in mid jerk while a glittered ass sways to a beat.

Now they’re saying something.

The beat cop looks down at them through the grimy windshield. They’re pointing. Then he remembers the guy he’d left propped up on the fire hydrant. Just a piece of humanity pooling in the doorway of the art supply store. The three of them watch this guy’s head dip, his body sags like an accordion and just kind of slides off the hydrant in slow motion, folding himself shut neatly on the sidewalk. This guy doesn’t even wake up.

“You gonna cuff him or what?” the cop in the passenger seat asks.

“We ain’t takin’ him nowhere ‘til he is,” the driver says. “Junkie or no.”

The beat cop doesn’t say anything, just feels the wind swirl. What’s the sense in handcuffing him when he’s just going to blow away down the street with the rest of the trash?

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