9th and Downing (August 2017)
The northeast corner of 9th and Downing, Denver. A whirligig of mixed senses splattering asphalt and concrete canvas. August’s breath, tepid and leafy green, exhales on scaly fleshed stucco, brick, and glass. Sitting on a metal chair in front of Dazbog coffee shop, seat of black faux wood slats. I look up. The scene tumbles east along 9th Avenue; cars on each side form a mosaic-dotted line ending four blocks away at the westernmost border of Cheesman Park. A single blink of emerald framed by gathered trees resembles a closed eyelid beneath a monocle.
A middle-aged man sits opposite me. Face wrinkled and right hand propped against his forehead, a neighborhood Bedouin wandering pages of a black-covered paperback. Prussian blue heat from his fixed gaze rises in dense though
t balloons. The black knit polo shirt and wrinkled khaki shorts darken amidst soot streaked canvas umbrella shadows. The fabric’s raven, white, and tomato-red colors mirror the Dazbog sign affixed to the wall above the door to my left. For an instant, I’m back sitting outside a coffeehouse in Budapest six years previous; slate, dusty, and crimson laden with communism’s scar tissue.
Russian phrases stencil the store and outer edges of the outdoor umbrellas. The large front windows reverse the clouded scene of me typing to the disdain of rust-bricked Victorian homes observing from across the street. Behind and to my right, the wounded moan of a bus’s engine approaches. It crawls to a stop, sighing exhaust. A bent, gangly older man in threadbare blue jeans and stained sky blue t-shirt jerks back as the jaws of the bus doors yawn open. He ascends, each step labored. Toothless gums slap shut. Sated, the whale-like vehicle exhales a deep groan and rejoins the waves and ambient sounds of other vehicles.
A hint of roasted coffee overcomes my distractions. Intoxication is abruptly replaced by acrid scents of urine and body perspiration. The first from an onyx-colored Great Dane peeing on the black metal fence post 3 feet away. The second from his tattoo-laden male owner. In his twenties, wearing an askew black cap, black weathered jeans pulled down low enough to reveal a rim of greying boxer shorts. Jet black tattoos spread up from bony arms, to neck right below his chin. The artwork’s mystery hidden beneath his concrete-colored goth t-shirt draws attention to pierced lip, nose, and silver ear ornaments. Noticing I’ve noticed his dog watering the post, lemon raindrops splashing off the pavement in my direction, he shrugs his shoulders and offers a half smile as if commenting, “What can I say?”
Relieved, the two continue down the sidewalk.
Looking up from my keyboard, I see the man at the next table is reading D.H. Lawrence. Unable to discern the title covered by his right hand on the bottom half of the black cover, and having finished my cup of black coffee, I decide it’s time to move on.