[Pictured: Georgia Park]
Skinny People Shadows by Georgia Park
We needed money to get the hell out of the heat and move on
from Panama City,
the hostel’s communal fabric couches that smelled like feet
where the hippy guests united against the use of deodorant,
lounging in the combined stench of everyone that’s ever visited
listening to the sound of fruit flies buzzing in the kitchen
But there was only one bus out the next morning
cash up front
so we embarked on the scariest ATM walk ever
through Casco Viejo
against the clerk’s wishes
with equal parts desperation and reluctance
The ancient hunks of architecture were technically abandoned,
really filled with squatters
I thought we were hurrying down a lonely street,
until I heard someone beckoning through a broken window
a hoarse, whispered yell
“Vas aca!” followed by cackling laughter
the kind when nothing’s funny except faulty brain structure
The shadow of a misshapen cat suddenly lands before us,
skittering in a demented zig zag pattern,
The park that was so lively that day is empty
save a few scattered skinny people shadows,
who all turn to look in our direction and continue to watch us.
It feels like all conversation on the street stopped once we entered
but we are walking so fast it’s hard to tell
I feel conspicuous,
so obviously scared and outnumbered.
Everyone is watching. Should we slow down to look confident?
No. We are the only outsiders. They see tourists
Vulnerable no matter what.
My companion goes into the ATM booth
telling me to wait outside and guard it.
I do, all the while thinking
I can’t help us.
What will I do if something happens?
I see a hulking figure heading my way from a distance
and keep my eye on it
It turns out to be a woman and I’m relieved momentarily
like I would be in a more familiar part of the city
Until I realize here, that probably means nothing.
I stop breathing,
steel myself for something awful
not knowing what to do, how to prepare
I’m about to freeze and let it happen
She speaks in English as she passes me-
She simply says “Be careful.”
At first I thank god she only passed
now I’m sorry to see her go.
We leave the ATM and everyone understands
we just got money
We rush back toward the hostel
cursing the decision to ever leave it.
I don’t want to die yet, I’m not ready.
On the way back we are silent,
listening to more than one pair of footsteps behind us.
We speed up without speaking. They also speed up.
He tells me to run.
I do, forgetting everything else, forgetting why I even have to-
I had to forget so I could focus on how to run fast,
fast enough to outrun myself.
I don’t have time to look back, so I don’t know what’s chasing us.
I can’t visualize my monster, but I have a realization dawning inside me.
Heavy and nostalgic, aware my life may be slipping,
a sense of goodbye, at least to the life I knew
hoping for death, scared of something sicker.
Somewhere, I realize that I may never see my mom again.
All the while, I keep running.
I go quick in a whirring panic
until suddenly we reach our street
I don’t hear them
but I’m not sure of anything yet.
My ears are aware of my blood pumping through them.
I recognize the hostel door while I’m pushing it and respond with a smile,
I still don’t look back
I don’t want to know my monster.
It doesn’t matter.
We’re home safe, back at the putrid smelling home base-
Happiest above all, to have made it.
Georgia Park (Sudden Denouement Literary Collective)
[We are pleased to have Georgia Park as a member of Sudden Denouement. Please take a moment and more of her work at Private Bad Thoughts.]