Allentown Story

My roommate, Nicole, and I drive downtown to meet some other interns at a bar. After a few wrong turns, we find it somewhere in Allentown’s maze of narrow one-way streets. It’s a neighborhood I wouldn’t walk alone in at night. And I’m kind of glad to be with someone else even though it’s still light. (“Is it safe to park this far away?” Nicole had asked, parking two blocks from the bar.) The bar itself looks as though it was abandoned in the 1930s and left to weather the elements. But a sign on the front door says it’s just closed for the week, for vacation. We don’t see the other interns anywhere, so we turn back, confused.

The houses down here mostly have no front yards. Everyone’s porch lives play out for all to see. Weary parents sit limply on their front steps in lawn chairs. Their kids chase each other on the sidewalk. An old man with a long white beard, wearing a white hospital-like gown, sits on a porch railing across the street and stares wide-eyed, vacantly. It’s eerily quiet with few cars driving by, and people move slowly in the heat.

Suddenly I stop. The most beautiful bird I have ever seen is sitting very still on the sidewalk. It’s small and fat, about the size of my fist. Its brilliant turquoise feathers stand out against the gray sidewalk and gray houses. Nicole stops short, too. “It’s someone’s parakeet!” she says. I have to agree. What else could it be? I watch as it breathes in and out, blinking calmly. It sits on its legs, which are at right angles to its body. “Its legs must be broken,” Nicole says. “It must have fallen out of someone’s window.” We don’t know what to do, but we memorize the address anyway.

As we walk back to the car, I wonder if we’re in someone’s disjointed dream. “If this were the Great Gatsby or something, that would be such symbolism,” Nicole says.

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