The Maintenance of Public Order  Karina Borowicz



The men are always pounding on things. It’s impossible to escape the obsessive whack and thump. Long past midnight a knot of men will perch on the neighboring tin roof and beat it with heavy sticks. They smoke without touching their cigarettes; the smoke invades my room and is backed into a corner by moonlight’s fist. In the morning my eyes are rimmed with salt and my body is bruised, having been batted between one stick and another all night long. Then the men slide off the roof like dirty snow, hoist the long sticks across the backs of their shoulders and hold them in place with both wrists, their smoked sausage hands dangling. At the first kiosk they stumble upon they’ll buy a couple more bottles.

The women-folk walk around. They measure their steps to the beat of the men’s sticks. In summer you can hear the high, hollow click click click of their heels even as you sit in the kitchen trying to wipe the slate clean with coffee. The street is already filling with clicking women, their heads thrown back and their arms clenched immobile to their sides. The frequency of collisions is alarming. It’s as if the driven, yet aimless pedestriennes become entranced by their straight-line dance and cannot deviate. Knees lift higher and higher. A film like an inner lid slides over their eyes.

From my window I’ve become adept at predicting which ones will crash.