Lacey Jones sat at the wooden kitchen table eating from a wood grain locked white porcelain bowl of cereal. An African Gray Parrot shifted sidled on its perch, a wooden dowel middled center point in, the geometry cube metal cage across from her. The bird turned its head sideways as Lacey ate, and then shifted again on its perch, eternally uncomfortable in a world without flight. Lacey had felt it ever since childhood. It was a feeling of limitation and inability to spread into the world, of being human, and of being trapped in her own body. The bird croaked lonely and plaintive, as she hadn’t tought it to mimic her. The lack of conversation was a reminder of her lone nature, and livings ghosts of persons she knew beckoned to her thoughts, so that the outside world pulled at her.

            After finishing breakfast, she stood and moved to the stainless steel sink, settling the bowl in a nest of its companions. She returned to the table, gently pulling the cage from the smooth wood and carefully balancing the parrot inside of it, she walked through the wide apartment living room arch doorway and placed the shiny steel wire cage on a barstool that was its home. She pulled rumpled quilt from the floor and hooded the cage, boxing it in, so that the bird quieted. She walked through a second smaller arch with a wooden crossbeam above, stepping into the bedroom and pulling a brush from a wooden dresser miror. She started to drag the grooming utensil through her short blond hair. She jammed a wallet into the back pocket of her jeans, that she sometimes chose to carry instead of her purse, and made for the front door of the apartment, escaping the center point in geometry cube features of only existence. What combinations of others in crowds and groups would she find? What could she gain from them?

            She shut the door behind her, which fit into a whitewashed brick fire wall, blank as thoughts, and made for the apartment entrance. Flipping open a glass door she stepped into the outdoors open and whiteboard airs in the meditation overcast day. The gray skies complicated as she descended a set of concrete blocks stairs and turned on to an empty sidewalk. Walking in a canyon of motel style apartments, she soon reached a busier cross street. Cars passed in lanes, red, blue or grey and white, emotional movements to be ignored. She tread the sidewalk, part of a morning ritual, as simple monks might tread stone, wearing their foot marks in the rock from innumerable passages. She had not met others, but felt the morning building. After several uncounted blocks, she found herself in front of the neighborhood barrista, thoughts having come clear with the travel, centered for the day.

            Looking through the large portait window of the coffee shop, she watched the patrons, shifting her eyes to avoid staring. She gazed the shapes and shadows of hands and imagined the whispers and run of conversation, babbling like water. She stepped toward the glass door that further featured frames bent over coffee, and heard the conversations as guessed. The mix pulled her in like a drug and for a moment the world was filled with electric dark pulse. She stepped to the chest high counter shingled in flyers for music and political action. She smiled at a thin college age man with black hair and a vein work of tattoos who carefully manipulated a pressure tank to let out a gasp of steam. Without looking up he recognized the customer,

            “Hi Lacey!” He said.

            “Hi Jeff.” She replied

“What’ll it be?” He said. Lacey concentrated on the blackboard behind him seeing through the figures and grinds chalked in chart boxes, eyes sharpened by the schooling of the whiteboard blank skies that had carried her to the moment.

“I’ll take the Guatemalan Fair Trade Organic,” she said.

“It’ll be up in a minute,” he said. Lacey moved down the counter to the cash register. She pulled the wallet from her back pocket, checking the wasting cash within the leather hide. Jeff came to the register with a cardboard jacketed paper cup of espresso and rung her out. She pulled a five from the dwindling supply of money, and then dropped an extra dollar in the tip jar.

“Thanks, Jeff,” she said. Jeff in return smiled the words,

“Have a good day!”

            Lacey turned and doubled through the small coffee shop, barely avoiding the small babbling talk and circular tables set in a twisting stream like path. She sat at a wooden bench booth lined against one wall, at a table with a chessboard carefully painted on it. She sipped at the coffee, letting the sharp and bitter chocolate taste claw at her tongue, waking her before the caffeine hit. She glanced at the counter to see a flyer with pooling blue print letters announcing a protest to defund the police. The stream path she had tread became tributary to a larger river and the thought of treading with others lead to greater depths of water. Then she felt confused, a little lost and out of touch with the political goings on. She thought for long moments of returning home.

            Forsaking the crowded and impersonal café, the brief exchange with Jeff had sharpened her tastes for a more complete experience with others. A thought twisted above the river, a branch of a willow tree that promised escape. Instead She decided to go to a heavily liberal food kitchen and volunteer and catch up on all the political jargon. Standing, she made her way through the crowded restaurant once more and tossed the paper cup in a trash can that sided the glass door, that opened the river of travel to the gray light of the sea.

            Half an hour and one city bus ticket later, she found herself standing in front of a large old house with a square columns front porch, that had been modified to be a kitchen, and had a sign over the entrance saying ‘Lazarus House.’ A group of men in trench coats and stained clothing that smelled of hard alcohol and cigarettes, stood in a group of harsh laughter conversation on the wide platform outside the solid front door. She bypassed them and opened the thick wooden door. Inside the living room, that smelled of soup and vegetables, strong wooden picnic tables, like in thickness to the front door stood in rows throughout the expansive and high ceilinged space. She made her way to a doorway that clattered with metal kitchen utensils and the sounds of voices and the thunk of dicing knives on cutting boards. She stepped into the room, catching the eyes of several workers. “Lacey!” and “Hi Lacey!” came from several corners of the room at once.

            “Hi Josh! Hi Mary! She said, looking over at a young man with an anarchy ‘A’ screened in white on a black T shirt. An older woman in a ragged sweater and jeans, who wore a silver cross necklace walked over and took Lacey by the arm,

            ‘We need somebody to dice the Zuchini for the stew.” Mary said, so that Lacey smiled a nod and made for open counter space in the kitchen. She pulled a wide kitchen knife from a block on the counter and Mary came over with half a dozen of the dark green squash in the fold of her apron, dumping them, a green exclamation, on the counter top. “How are you doing today, Lacey?”

“Pretty good. I was just at Jeff’s coffee shop, and I noticed a flyer for a protest against the police, demonstrating for defunding them. What is that all about?” A black woman who stood at the counter next to Lacey, Doloris opened up.

            “I guess they came down too hard and used batons and threw some punches before they arrested a couple of brothers who were charged with drugs. Marijuana,” she snorted derisively.

            “Ooops! Shouldn’t have done that!” Lacey said with angry sarcasm, throwing several political hot peppers into the swirling dark currents of the social stew that floated in the center of the room.

“They are asking for the city to defund the police department and replace it with community safety organizations,” Doloris said. Slicing a celery stalk with a snap precision, the click sound adding to the angry atmosphere in the room. “They should be.” The words spurred another round of comments circled the space for the next twenty minutes. She took the cutting board over to the steel kettle on the iron stove and stove top that stood in heavy blocks like the lettering she had seen on the poster at the coffee shop. She ushered the chopped Zuchini into the kettle. Lacey went for the coffee pot in the living room opening the spout stream to a thick plastic mug. Most of the others had gathered at a picnic table and she was pulled toward the voices, as the conversation ran in rivulets though the room. She sat at the wooden table and talked with the others and shared day old bagels from a plate at its center. Having communed with the others and taken her sacrament, she said her goodbyes and left for the front door, sated with the experience.

Lacey smiled to herself. She didn’t know why, but at the same moment, she was trapped in her own body! Prisoned.  

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