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the Hat in his Hand

The hat, the hat he takes in his hand, stretches it out and turns it over, and then hiked up on his toes leaned up against the woven metal cheek he perches as high as he can that hat atop the giant face. It’s a pink meshback cap, the hat, and the front and bill of it hashed with pink-and-black camouflage, and when he lets go it slides down the massive brow and tumbles from the bulbous metal nose to his feet. “Fine,” he says, and scuffs a kick at it, “fine!” Staggering back from that giant, empty-eyed face. Stadium gates loom behind it, a great sign atop them that says Jeld-Wen Field, and the marquee beneath it, Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy, Saturday April 21, 7:30 kickoff, and then a dim round clockface pinked by streetlight, hands pointed at a quarter of three, or thereabouts. The starless sky above a black gone vaguely brown by those lights of the city still shining.

He snatches up a swollen garbage bag bouncing off his stumbled steps away across the plaza, swinging out as he turns to look back across the street, the great white wall of the building there rounding the corner as if it’s turning its back, dotted with small anonymous windows, some here and there plugged with the boxy grilles of air conditioners, but most of them empty, even the glass gone, and all of them dark, unlit. An orange trash slide depending from a second-storey window, feeding into a hulking brown dumpster, ReBuilding Center, says the sign hung from it, DeConstruction Services. He throws up his hand, middle finger raised and waved at that wall, those windows, that dumpster, “Fuck you!” he roars. “Theodofucker!” The faint buzz of streetlights, a fan running somewhere, or maybe the wash of traffic, blocks away.

Lurching across the intersection, the one street curling away from the stadium, the arc of rails set in the pavement, he trips over the curb into a train stop, and shoves his hand in the garbage bag as it twists about, untwists itself, pulling out a handful of clothing that he lets drop, one by one, a pair of tights, one long sock, a T-shirt, a corduroy skirt. Draping a beige bra over a green junction box. His fingers glitter with silver rings, a snake’s head, an ankh, an eagle in flight, his black jeans ripped at the knees, his black T-shirt that says Decisive Action by Western States, his dark hair dangled from his head hung low. He drops more clothing in his wake to the sidewalk, the rails, the pavement, more socks, more T-shirts, a loose-knit shrug, some complex contraption of ribbons and hooks and panels of satin and lace. Between him and the empty street now an aisle of young trees freshly planted, newly leafed, and he hangs more clothing from branches as he goes, a pink fishnet stocking, a pair of boxers printed with cavorting cats, a crumpled crinoline skirt, a gauzy blouse, until he sticks his hand in the garbage bag and rummages around and comes up with nothing, nothing left at all.

He leaves the empty bag at the corner.

A couple of low steps. Leaning way over bracing a hand he sits him down, wincing. Two stolid wooden doors behind him, signs hung there, No Smoking, No Vaping, No Solicitation. He shivers, folds his arms about himself. Leans against the base of the column there, to one side of the steps. Closes his eyes. The column, slender, rising up and up past a grimy, shadowed lintel to a curled Ionic capital. There are letters carved in the lintel, over the doorway there, but whatever they might say can’t be made out in the darkness.

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