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  • I am not native to this city, but I come here a lot for work. Usually busy, I see only the variations of pavement on the way to and from the insides of offices. I stop walking occasionally to look straight up through the high-rises, and I see enough sky to guess the weather. People on the sidewalks are like traffic. I never note their make and model because there are so many of them driven to pass or push me on their way to their own goals.

    My friend grew up in this city and couldn't wait to leave it. Before my first visit, she warned "Never look down, and don't smell anything!" So, I was hyper-alert to stuff I could step in that might smell bad and follow me around all day. I learned that the sidewalk offers hazards that only the continuous concentration of countless bodies can concoct. Repeated contact with all those feet has worn away the sidewalk's skin and exposed the composite beneath so it glitters like a disregarded prize under the street lamps.

    But I also learned that things grow here, too. Yes, of course the intentional trees survive, but there are tenacious flowers that bloom from impossible cracks, resolute grasses that edge storm sewers and manhole covers, and volunteer weeds that reclaim any lot left vacant for a time. I always wonder if I could thrive in this energy, too, or if I would eventually wear away as well.

    So, here I am in the city again. It's raining. Usually, by the time rain falls into the deep maze between skyscrapers, it has either dispersed into mist or coalesced into blobs. Either way, gutters fill and edges blur making both walking and breathing difficult. From my perch across a 12th floor conference table, I hear thunder from above just a bit louder than the traffic noise below. The rest of the team hears it, too, and we all gather at the window as if moved by the same unseen hand. In unison, we look up to examine the sky and then down to see what has reached the street. And there below us, open umbrellas look like colorful pawns on the game board of the crosswalk.

    "I forgot my umbrella," someone says. "Maybe it'll quit before we have to walk in it," someone else replies. Then we return to our seats and get back to work.
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