A local man with a great name fashions some marvelous creative writing on his Facebook page. I love these vignettes by Geronimo Tagatac, a really interesting guy. This is the Salem I want to live in.
And the great thing is, I already am. It just takes eyes like Tagatac's to see it. Here's his most recent "Salem." offerings.
Salem. A woman made of wet leaves rustles into the espresso house, turning and flashing orange, yellow, red, lemon, and pale green. She carries the smell of tropical rain and visions of soundless animal silhouettes sliding through damp spaces between trees. She whispers to the barista in the language of ancient reptile. The barista stares into the woman's blurred eyes and says, "We have a selection of herbal teas."
Salem. The rain's singing to the swelling creek that forms the park's east edge. In the coffee house, a woman with a tiny, shivering dog puts the end of her thick braid of hair into her mouth and hums. The man at the next table stares at her and remembers a sister with whom he hasn't spoken to in twenty three years. She had a voice like falling rain.
Salem. The shrinking group of retirees at the coffee house table lean in toward each other. Above them, a ghostly octopus drifts, its tentacles weaving a cephalopodic signal that draws tiny phosphorescent creatures that paint a glow on the aging men's faces. "What's this about the war on coal?" one of them asks.
Salem. The cool air pulses into the espresso smell each time someone pushes through the coffee house door. A dark-faced old man with mahogany colored hands sits at an outdoor table, remembering the sudden sound of gunfire in his family's village, 75 years ago. And the gun powder and burning thatch smell as his father lifted him and ran.
Salem. The sidewalk's decided to have a cup of espresso after the morning rush. It pulls itself through the coffee house door and smiles at the barista, who gives him the once-over and smiles, because his expansion lines and stains remind her of her ex-boyfriend who played in a band called The Resilients. She remembers the basement rehearsals and the mattress-on-the-floor nights where she felt adrift with him on a gritty sea.
Salem. In the espresso house, the laptops have shut themselves down. Their keyboards and USB ports emit a pink goo smelling of smoked apricots. A gray, monitor lizard raises itself on its hind legs, puts its front paws on the counter, and hisses, "What have you got for conversation." The barista stares at him for a moment and says, "How about a triple shot with dexedrine?"
Salem. The coffee house floor is singing about its long-ago days as a tree. The light remembers its journey from the sun and stars. The woman at her laptop recalls her father raking leaves on a fall day, a month before he died. Her laptop stares back at her and can't recall anything but a switch going on, and a sudden storm of algorithms.
Salem. Flaming hail and asbestos-clad frogs bedevil people on their ways to work. The paint on parked cars blisters and runs, leaving the smell of over-done sympathy. At the retirees' table, phrases bubble up. "Then guns." "Sixty-four year old." "I thought automatic weapons were illegal." A woman walks past the window trying to beat out the flames consuming her umbrella.
Salem. In the park, the sound of rain falling on the grass and trees is the anthem of salamanders taking back the land. In the early morning light, they worship the gray skies of their ancestors with bowed heads and creekside tracks in the mud. Downtown, in the coffeehouse, customers stop to listen to the voice of a homeless man in damp clothes, who tells them that the day of the salamander is at hand.
Salem. The morning breeze is mood music commemorating the passing of an old woman's hazy memory, of warm waters and quiet afternoons, in a far-off place. In those days, she shed her name and wore brighter colors. She hid her moods behind dark glasses, and forgot about the people she'd left behind. Sometimes, she walked along a beach of no regrets, drank five-shot reggae cocktails, and her singing voice was the envy of everyone.
Salem. In a tree along High St., the smaller birds are getting up their nerve to mob a lone crow on a tree branch. They're all egging each other on, screeching tribal chants, while the crow curses them, hoping for friends to show up in a flurry of black wings.
Salem. A man made of vegetables and smoke hesitates outside the coffee house door. He looks down at the dog tethered to the parking meter and leaves him his last summer squash. He walks across to the counter, trailing the aroma of burnt copper and marzipan. "Aah, espresso," he says in a voice of dark mist. The barista stares at him and says, "Are you on TV or something?"
Salem. Under a pregnant sky, a gray-haired woman walks with her head down. Perhaps she's counting the sidewalk meridians, on the way to a far-off coast where the air smells of coffee and kelp. Around her, the trees sway softly in an unseen current. A man in full scuba gear swims past her, up toward the distant surface of memory. When he gets there, he'll wonder at the woman he saw, walking along the bottom.
Salem. A vertical line appears above the sidewalk outside the coffee house. It wavers, widens, gathers substance, and becomes a slight, Asian man with an expensive looking leather bag hanging from his shoulder. Glances both ways and steps out of the haze surrounding him, on shiny black loafers. He glances at the large green beetle on the shoulder of his black blazer and walks into the coffee house. "കോഫി," he says. "Oh, hey, where I can get one of those?" asks the barista nodding at the beetle.
Salem. The man made of rain sips his coffee in the espresso cafe's far corner. No one will look at him for very long. His clothes smell of damp vegetation, and his eyes are muddy gray. His vine-covered boots are impatient with the floor, and his dark hands are veined with small streams. When he sighs, the light grows dim and everyone in the place has the same vision of salamanders on a forest floor.