Cities and Minds

“Tell me,” one day I, Fist, asked of The Brain, “tell me this. Look about the city: what are you?

“Are you, Brain, those five towers there, flying higher than birds, tallest and proudest, cleaned each day by slaves to a gleam, a world within a world formed to your own design - all that that started with a clear, good plan, which, one day, found a solid place for foundation, then building began, rapid and efficient – and now you overtake the rest, a light placed atop your crest for all the ants below to worship? Grown from a single point like a tree, from a seed? Onwards, upwards, free; as solid as a fist, but flying, but punching? Are you like those five towers, that fist the roof of the sky, like five penises fisting a vagina all at once, groping into the black innards of woman, fisting up at the mysterious dark matter, that is perforated with points of light, an alien perfection fisted with your own perfect purpose?

“Or, or, or. Or are you like the city as a whole? Dark and disorderly, all hidden corners and wrong turns? A corpse rotting in black bag there, a tiger locked up in a bedroom here? Twisting canyons made of concrete, mirrors, and steel; flinching imperceptibly, as a stray snake writhes below, beneath a thundering wheel? All blare and bluster, all lurching litter, and some random name – Paris, London, New York; Moscow, Baghdad, Hades – chosen to make the mass of messiness seem part of the same? (But where an innocent and stupid child might, in obscure, neat gardens, for a moment run happy and wild?)”

The brain likes the luxury of such speculation. Retreats from the dirty window, mouthing that such metaphors deserve real contemplation. Then, a call into the comfort comes – from the left foot’s little toe.

Something like this, Little Toe’s tale runs: “Would you call my crescent of calcium a finger-nail moon? Would you call my dotting of hairs an oasis – perched amidst the tumbling dunes? I am the size and length of a lozenge; am I baklava, liquorice? A sugar sweet flavoured with artificial orange? No; you know full well I have only one human life – in which to march with me to the drums, and their demands from the day, or dance amongst the delights of night, or allow a lady to paint me purple, say, or leave me sparkling after sex, cooling out under the end of the duvet, or stroll the streets for whatever marvel comes next. So I am Little Toe only, with only one life, and without like. Brain, for you it is the same – you are not a tower rising in space, not tears creasing the contours of a face, not a city drowning in rain, not a desert dotted with oases of drugs and sex. Although I admit it is more complex, it is the same for the toe as for the brain.”

“No,” I, Fist, replied. “No, Toe – and how annoying! What a pretty picture I was just painting! The brain will prove you wrong: throw you like an unwanted worker from its top tower, or pluck you from its neat city garden like an unruly flower. You, he will amputate! Apologise toe, before it’s too late!”

Then the Little Toe became a little itch, that to peace and silence Fist failed to scratch.

And he, man, uncertain, stammered out that: “A ludicrous and existing thing I am … and now - like a lame fool, unlike tower or city - surprise, I seem to be laughing …”