• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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Bonfire of the Properties

Someone had dragged a thin fridge-- could've been the last one on the whole block-- onto the lawn. Ran an extension cord through a basement window and offered freshments. A collection tin fashioned from a coffee can filled with change as we drank cold beer with the squatters. This was the last night they'd spend as neighbors. This was a simultaneous, combination goodbye, going-out-of-business, protest. Both a welcome and a swan song for everyone that had marched unsuccessfully for housing equality that morning. Anyone who walked through the neighborhood, their neighborhood, this place slated to become the amorphous "future." Who saw the spraypainted bedsheets hung from balconies, asking, "who belongs?" Anyone who witnessed the erosion of life, sidewalks, front gardens giving way to storefronts, coffee shops, electric scooter hubs. Through the rain, we had wound our way along that stretch of consecutive blocks that would be a high-rent district as soon as the paint dried.

We took ourselves on a tour of their buildings. Dated, cement, reminiscent of previous decades. Particleboard, radiators, linoleum tiles. Empty stairwells led to empty apartments. Echoing spaces that wouldn't exist tomorrow. Demolition was scheduled. Diggers and dump trucks were parked adjacent. Half hidden by the pines, their yellow necks careened over the carports, bike shelters. Inside, the shutters had been closed. For what? The homes were cleared of furniture, pictures, personal touches. Except where graffitists took bedroom walls, the accordion doors of linen closets as one last canvas. Portraits. Wet, two-meter faces that met you eye-to-eye when you entered.


Bonfire of the Properties

Did those people live here, leave some piece of themselves, or just come to see this dying breed? To walk around this prospective flagship. The land having been bought by the bank. The people pushed, treated like dust that had settled. But they would say something, take something. Take everything. The washers, dryers, stoves had been gingerly prived from their cutaways. Pearly sinks were uprooted, removed like perfectly good teeth. The only true abandonment had been the window boxes. Now dry, skeletal flowers. The attics were scattered with tinsel, crushed ornaments, eyeless children's toys. Unclaimed remanents. Untraceable evidence that entire lives had passed here.

Last names were still stickered above buzzers. Locks, doorknobs, housekeys, all the mechanisms of in, out, closed, open were dropped. Clinked underfoot when kicked by the small crowd moving through the kitchen. Curiously peeking in cabinets, undoing latches to medicine cabinets, switch boxes. Trying to find what could be, would be left in a situation like this. Nothing. Doors were torn off hinges to form benches, picnic tables for one final dinner.

The anthill had been inverted, turned inside out. Its remaining contents vomited onto the grass. As the sun set, someone started burning stray wood in the sandbox. An impromptu firepit. The courtyard glowed orange as pizza boxes, disassembled palates, leftovers from our gathering were added. Fed, the fire reached stories high, its reflection climbing the windows. The smoke tunneled towards the moon above us. What will come from the ashes?