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  • NE 3rd Ave and E Burnside St, Portland, OR


    Along an empty street just below eye level on a white door there is a small square of black text punctuated in the bottom right corner with the red outline of perfect lips. The door opens into a three-story building, abandoned and partially swallowed by a highway underpass. There were no lights and so no shadows. The adjacent lot is black bare ground fenced with chain link. White papers gathered along the sidewalk, caught in the fence and sodden. I stood hunched against the rain, looking at the words. They burned against the white door.

    I was lost, trying half-heartedly to meet some friends at a burlesque show, standing instead at the center of a strange silent transect through old brick, broken glass, and barren pavement. No cars traversed its length and none lay at its margins. No walkers hurried through the night and even the traffic on the overpass was muted and dim. Two prone forms lay under on the concrete below the underpass swaddled in blankets and trashbags, an overburdened shopping cart their lone sentry. It was a place forgotten, existing only, it seemed, because decay is slow.


    I wanted badly to remember the message, to be the audience it demanded. I had a pen but no paper, and the words, a fragmentary collection of years and barely connected pronouns and verbs, slipped like their writer unknown into the night. The black square they formed on the door was tidy, the lipstick a beautiful brutal coda.
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