The Alien Plaza


Finding oneself in a plaza at a strange time of night in a strange part of downtown is one of the most tenuous things. It is hard to know what is “actual” and what is “not.” The buildings shoot up from the concrete and stand with their lights burning up the dark. They leave nothing of the natural world except what men have painstakingly installed: flowers in the “right” colors and bushes of the “right” height. Tourists walk by on the way back to their hotels. Businessmen stumble home from happy hour. It is an alien place, and it is an alien time.

The only thing I had to accomplish that night was to go to the grocery store and buy something to soak up the coffee. That is all there was.

We arrived at the same time, but did not know it. The dusk was rolling on towards night, and black quickly filled in the gray spaces as I approached the door. My bag kept falling off my shoulders, and the blisters on my feet shrieked more loudly with each step. I was sorry, but only a little bit. You were walking towards the door from the other direction, and I happened to look up, something I rarely do. You were wearing a hat, and your eyes looked kind, but sort of afraid, which is how I feel most of the time. We did not know each other but for some reason we both stopped.

Are you getting something to eat?

I was going to.

Me too.

I was just going to put together something small. I’ve had a lot of coffee.

I just got out of work.

Ok, let’s go.

We picked out a container of sushi that they would have thrown away because it was the end of the night and took it outside with some miso soup that we drank from Styrofoam cups and a bag of assorted fruit. We didn’t know what to look at while we were eating because there weren’t any stars, and we both agreed we had seen the skyline enough times. We said a few words to get to know each other and felt pretty good afterwards, around the time the sky had accepted its new shape.

If only we knew that something was alive and moving inside the bag!