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He hated walking in the city. He had to shuffle to get around people, more dancing than striding. Some collided with him, and then glared as if it was he, and not they, that had failed to look.

There was noise from traffic, voices screaming, a babble of conversation from a bar. He was aware of how shabby he looked beside the men in their suits, the salon-perfect women with their make-up and jewellery. He could see judgement in their faces.

Homeless. Lazy. Worthless. Bum.

The city didn't want him, any more than he wanted it. The towering glass buildings opressed him, pushing his spirit into his head and trapping it there, not like the open road where it could spread out, reaching ahead as far as the horizon, trailing behind in his memories of a flower blooming far from any garden.

He made a left, and the buildings grew darker, the street got narrower. Here, nobody walked at all, they just stood, bunched in groups speaking low. There was hostility in the eyes that watched him pass, and would have been danger, he was sure, if they'd thought he had anything worth stealing. One punk spat, his mucus and spittle smirching the toe of the walking man's boot.

The smells that filled his nose made him want to vomit. Decay, rot, urine and, somewhere, disinfectant, as if one lonely person was fighting a deperate war against dirt and disillusion.

There was blood on the sidewalk, though no sign remained of whatever, whoever, had left it there. He walked through it, knowing he was watched, that changing his path to avoid it might be the last thing he did.

Where he went then, the heavy tread of his soles was printed in rust-red. But, at least, they showed a way out.

The road to ruin The path to paradise

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