Prose from Kahlil Crawford

It’s always midnight beneath the viaducts…

The metropolis is divided by viaducts – a disparate world where aerosol art is eroded by automobile exhaust and industrial rain puddles littered with man-made debris. Much happens beneath these viaducts – from the holy to the ungodly…

Apparitions haunt passersby whose footsteps echo tales of life, death, and all else. Rumbling trains accelerate black eroded raindrops, sending soot-coated pigeons into a frenzy – protecting their dark nests tucked deep in the crevices of this elevated underworld, their crimson eyes cry forbidden songs.

Al frequently passes through the viaduct – his preferred route from the 4th-floor room he inhabits at the Y to the Blue line train that takes him to his seemingly endless stream of appointments. Today he’s going to see his therapist who seems to derive pleasure from changing his meds after nearly every visit. Al’s short on change again, so he checks for cops then hops the turnstile, feeling a rush of triumph over the pricey fare required for the two-mile ride to Six Corners.

Photo: @chicagogeek

The only thing wobblier than the swerving train car is his trembling hand – a janky side effect of the Klonopin. It thins his hair too, so he sports a grey golf cap he got for a quarter at the Brown Elephant. However, copping donated gear is not Al’s main reason for frequenting The Elephant – it’s the cashier…

Xochil has dark, shoulder-length hair that she sometimes stuffs into an engraved clip that reads “Hecho En Męxico”. She doesn’t talk much, but her fluctuating tone fills the verbal gaps. When she speaks of the weather her voice lilts up as the sun showers or down if the rain falls. She always drives her points home with pronounced hand gestures that suggest she enjoys a good dance from time to time. Xochil says that the Brown Elephant makes her feel like she’s serving the Lord in a practical way.

After his appointment, Al takes the Blue line back east then transfers to the Brown line. He’s heading to East Lakeview for his weekly social rehabilitation group at Catholic Charities. He hopes they paint today because he loves taking his easel to the park and practice painting the big Goethe statue on Diversey. There’s something calming about the smooth, earthly texture of the metal and the giant hawk perched on the knee of the protagonist. The base of the sculpture reads, “To Goethe: The Master Mind of the German People”.

Photo: @metalphotoman

Directly across the street is the Elk’s lodge – it’s always been a mystery to Al. Much more ornate than the Goethe site, its Romanesque architecture and well-polished sculptures add to its mystique.