Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Terrence and Lisa, arrived in Berkeley two days before his job interview with the school's personnel director. The interview was more of a formality than anything else; Terrence had been assured that the job was his. He and his wife had already been given moving expenses and had been encouraged to transfer as soon as possible.

It was after dark when their taxi pulled up to the hotel. Terrence and Lisa had only the opportunity to see the city under cover of darkness - a lamplit, twinkling negative of itself. Even in the darkness Terrence could see the city's vibrance, "or is that just my own nervous energy," he thought to himself.

The hotel was posh. The doorman, opening the taxi door seemed to know Terrence and his 'situation'. Without needing to check in, Terrence and Lisa were whisked up to their room - a trail of servants dealing with luggage and other trivialities.

Terrence and Lisa were too tired and excited

*** all wrong, start over ***


Terrence woke at daybreak, having slept only a couple of hours at the overcrowded urban campsite. He tried not to shuffle around and wake up his wife, Lisa.

Terrence and Lisa were at their final pause, only a few miles from their destination. Terrence had finally been given the opportunity to work in his chosen field - at UC Berkeley - making real money. He had already been promised the job, but as a formality he was to meet with the school's artistic director at today at 10AM. Lisa planned to spend the morning checking out the campus life and their new apartment.

Lisa sat partially up and out of the shared sleeping bag, yawned and gave Terrence a sleepy "hi".

"You can't sleep either?" Terrence asked.

"Too excited," Lisa said groggily, "lets go check it out."

Terrence and Lisa had the tent dismantled and in the back of the dilapidated hatchback within minutes. They had been given plenty of practice camping over the last few meager years, and had been given a not-so-pleasant refresher course during the rain-soaked trip down from Washington State.


Because it was 6:30 in the morning, finding a parking space near the school was less of a challenge than they had anticipated. Neither spoke walking the few blocks from the car to the university campus.

As they walked down Telegraph Street, Terrence had an unpleasant sensation. Terrence felt something was wrong. The sensation grew stronger as they approached the campus. Terrence had the ability to 'sense' when something is wrong, often before others began to notice. This 'gift' had often helped him in his work.

Preoccupied with his feeling of dread, Terrence nearly walked straight into a short, old man. The old man, reeking of wine, was himself breaking camp for the morning, shaking the sidewalk filth off his single blanket. Terrence, in the confusion, over-apologized to the old man which confused the swaggering drunk more than anything else.

The commotion drew the attention of another apparent street dweller, a very tall man, in his early thirties, wearing a large black t-shirt. Had the man not been tall and broad the black t-shirt would not have been able to contain the over-sized, white, Ariel font words printed on the front, 'F*** THE POLICE'. The tall man eyed Terrence and Lisa suspiciously then spat a wad of discolored phlegm onto the pavement.

Terrence and Lisa walked on, looking for something cheap to stave off the morning's hunger.

Terrence's apprehension grew - he had learned to trust this sense of doom - he knew that it was often triggered by some minute detail which others seemed to overlook. -- "It is a sound," he said to himself.

Terrence nearly collided with another person. This time, a young student heading in the opposite direction - texting with one hand, a bagel in the other. Part of the bagel's delicious looking contents fell to the ground as the girl lurched to one side without losing her pace, cursing at Terrence, or the bagel, or the phone, or all three at once.

"Or perhaps the absence of a sound," thought Terrence. -- "Yes, that's it," he said to himself:

Beneath the street people, mumbling at the encroaching day, beneath the street vendors and shop owners, clattering and unfurling their wares, a sound was missing. Terrence realized that he could not hear the sound his shoes should be making against the hard cement sidewalk. The sound of his walking was as muffled as if he were walking on wet grass.

Terrence gave attention to the sidewalk to see why: The cement was worn and discolored as he expected, but instead of it being pocked and uneven, all the holes and unevenness had been filled in. The surface of the sidewalk had been smoothed and softened by years of filth and grime. The congealed filth had been smoothed and compressed by an endless number of people, leaving countless footprints, until this thick layer of phlegm, discarded food, flesh and excrement had become the surface upon which these people now existed.

Terrence slowed down and stopped. Lisa followed suit.

As Terrence looked once again at the ground, Lisa took his arm into her own and held him closer.

"What do you want to do?" Lisa asked.

"I want to go home," replied Terrence.

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