Pigeon City by Fiona Murphy McCormack

The Cynic opens his blinds which shadow the large room like prison cell bars. From his master bedroom in the penthouse suite of the third most expensive rent imaginable in the city, the Cynic sees the early morning horizon as a cluttered collection of crowded buildings too close together. He already groans that once again it is another blisteringly hot day, the sun searing through the window pane. The Cynic’s negativity hangs in the humid air and does not lessen with the AC switched on at full power.

The Cynic looks down at the world, both from his view and in general. And when the Cynic looks down he sees swarms of sweaty people flooding the pavements, teeming taxis honking their horns through traffic lights. The Cynic thinks of the people who come here in their hoards to a godforsaken city because they’ve seen the sights on television and they have their sight set on their name in lights. He thinks of those young hopefuls who move to the charming city full to the brim of confidence, enthusiasm, and certainty. Then, inevitably the majority struggle to succeed. The pursuit is put off by the reality, the need to keep from going hungry. Slowly the glimmer of expectation dims and is replaced by abnegation. For the few who ascend this fate, like the Cynic himself sitting alone in his one bedroom apartment, the situation does not improve by much. He has been as miserable in life as he has successful in finance. The Cynic had begun realising that rising to wealth conveys the truth of corrupt businessmen and crooked politicians. The Cynic had almost been driven to insanity by the pressure to push further, work harder, press farther. When the Cynic watches the world from his window, he no longer reminisces on those joyous juvenile days when he lived downtown in a molding apartment, desperate for his ideas for the future to come to fruition, blind to that upper-crusted contorted logic which feeds on the ambitious.

And so the Cynic’s heart bore a hole, a hollow passage where he used to care. Now he frowns in frustration and says to himself, those dreamers deserve their descent and if they had any sense they would get the next train headed to the Midwest. The Cynic sees a streetlight still switched on, a block away it burns bright in the morning heat. A waste of energy on a useless flickering bulb. Above, in the skylight, he sees a flock of pigeons, nay, vermin, hovering above. Shitting down on this waste disposal of an island.

***

The Optimist opens her curtains, the light pouring in like gold. The sun dances off her yellow walls. The Optimist lives on the second floor of a modest midtown building. From her perspective, she can’t see the whole picture of the city’s horizon, just a glimpse of it. She relishes that the city lies waiting for her to step into the outside world. Gazing from her window, the Optimists watches the lives of other people. She sees a mother yawning while she stirs breakfast for a small child who claps his hands with glee, waiting for the airplane of a soaring spoon to reach his mouth. She sees a man kiss his wife on the cheek. She sees a floppy dog basking in the morning heat. She smiles. The Optimist’s view is an ever-changing mosaic of infinite variety, and she is met with the incandescent capacity for wonder. Of course, the Optimist knows, the city is a haven for crime and the inevitability of human evil. Yet she is determined that hope cannot be lost to tragedy; hope radiates and permeates within even the most damned.

The Optimist rises each morning feeling grateful to be alive. Thankful to live each day at the centre of everything in a bustling city full to the brim with opportunity; vivacious with vitality, choc a bloc with celebration, the city which is famous for its relentless restlessness. To the Optimist, this city confirms her beliefs that if only you believe hard enough, motivate far enough, all wild dreams are tangible. The Optimist is fueled by the soundtrack of loud traffic, the rustling of garbage trucks, the rattling of the subway trains to create something which matches all of this intensity in the heat.

The Optimist would never admit that she feels a small sense of pride thinking of how she narrowly escaped her small hometown in a backwards backwater four hundred miles from her island. Back there, people are loving, endlessly endearing, unbreakably kind-hearted, and happy to remain in their lowly position. If they were not, she thinks to herself, they would get the next train to the city. The Optimist often lives in a mind-made manacle, unable to realise this is not always how life happens. Of course, in the perspective of her narrative, she humbly omits that it is her parents who provide the rent for this little room, her sanctuary in the sleepless city. She forgets it was also their faith which brought her to leaving. The Optimist neglects her privilege and instead prefers to make her own identity as a struggling artist. At home she is the one certain to make it. Here in the competitive city, though to herself she firmly denies it, she tries to defy against her pangs of inner doubt.

On the corner of the block she sees a streetlight illuminating the street, regardless of the sun. It’s shining convinces the Optimist that everything is possible. That once, humans lived in darkness and now there is overwhelming amounts of light. Above, she observes a flock of pigeons, flying above it all. And she envies their beauty as they soar beyond buildings.

***

The Realist wakes in darkness to the sound of pigeons coo. He leaves the curtains closed with no time to look at the view. Checks his watch under a burning streetlight. The Realist has a lot of work to do.

 

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