Monkey Heights

Behind Teprima Hill runs a long, wide, commercial street: this is the thumping heart of Monkey Heights. Smaller streets, all of them residential and quiet, branch off in both directions. To the north these quiet lanes are stunted, dead-ended affairs, for they climb the back of Teprima Hill, and must stop before the elevation rises too sharply. To the south, they stretch down to the valley below. The valley is brushed with rows and rows of faded pastel houses which look, from this distance, like a child’s worn but obsessively organized wooden blocks.

I have found no explanation regarding the peculiar name of the neighborhood. I have spent hours researching in vain. Neither library nor bookstore hold any historical accounts, and the citizens, upon being questioned, claim ignorance. It is as if all memories, all printed records, have been meticulously and mysteriously scrubbed away.

The name is far from the only peculiarity. During visits to Monkey Heights I have noticed odd, somewhat eerie things. You must pay attention. If you look closely, you can see things that are off. For instance – one day I walked by a woman who was hanging out of her window watering her flower-boxes. The boxes were crowded with pink and purple petunias. Despite being close to them, however, I could smell no odor. Walking back later, I hazarded a touch of the petals. They were plastic.

On another day, I watched a mother and father as they dragged their little boy, dressed in his Sunday best, into the church at the corner. They had to pass under a disheveled lattice of scaffolding that clung to the building’s exterior. At eye level on the scaffolding hung a large sign with the words “Closed for Construction” in weatherbeaten black type. When this family opened the church doors, I spied two-by-fours and other debris scattered over the pews. Dust floated so thickly in there that the air was opaque with it. But the three continued on, making their way up the aisle, and their backs grew rapidly invisible to me through the church’s hazy half-dark.

Outside the bookshop down the street sit wheelable racks full of children’s books. Fantastic drawings and brightly-colored covers lure the young; parents are forced to stop and take their tiny charges inside. Fragments of childhood (lollipop wrappers, small broken figurines) lie, not infrequently, about the shop’s entrance. I went in once. Very quickly I realized the true nature of the store. Bindings shouted their vulgar titles, and I was overwhelmed by pictures of naked bodies in every lewd arrangement. Those browsing the shelves kept shoulders hunched and faces drawn. Dirty erotica choked every nook and cranny.

Weather is another thing altogether. No where else in the city does it behave with such stunning and strange regularity. Early every morning a soupy fog swallows the wide street and any sleepy-eyed citizens who happen to be out. By late morning, the fog whisks itself away, leaving shreds of mist hanging here and there until the sun melts them apart. Around noon the sun dominates, touching the whole length of the street with its heavy yellow forefingers. A few hours later the clouds make a great show of rumbling in; they thumb their dark grey noses at the sun, and proceed to dump sheets of water over the neighborhood for two hours. I have heard the inhabitants of Monkey Heights call this “The Deluge”. Finally, when early evening arrives, the rain stops. Then before night comes down, the sky clears enough to allow a brilliant rose and gold twilight to bathe the buildings in romantic thoughts.

I have taken late-night walks along the wide street behind Teprima Hill, and along the smaller branching roads. As it so happens, I am on just such a walk now. There is never another soul out at this time. Ground floor windows, the ones that are still aglow, always draw my attention – I move near and peep through them surreptitiously. Electric light floods the rooms, but I never see anyone in them. The easy explanation would be something like coincidence: inhabitants are simply in rooms away from the street at the moment I go by. My imagination is not easy, and prods me to other possibilities. Do these denizens turn transparent after a certain hour? I breathe wetly in the soup of fog, saturated by questions. Then, just before heading home, in the last lighted window of my path, I catch a glimpse of life. It is a woefully hairy arm – much too hairy to belong to a human – reaching around the corner to switch off a lamp.

~ by kingzoko on January 14, 2011.

3 Responses to “Monkey Heights”

  1. this is my favorite.

  2. this is my favorite too.

  3. I want more!

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