Alleys


In books, alleys are always narrow, dark corridors filled with dumpsters and storage boxes. As I kid, I imagined the best alleys with a diagonal shadow running down the middle and brick up the sides of both walls.

I never thought of alleys as something wide enough to drive a car down, like they are in Galveston. Paved in asphalt, in varying degrees of cracked, and strung with wires like garlands, the island alleys look like something out of a teen urban cyberpunk book. There's something charming about the fact that this alley is paved smooth, while that one has green shoots bursting through the cracked bricks. I walk past them wanting to take a picture, but I can never get the angle quite right.

After it rains, I like to peer into the grates in the alleys and watch the water stream from the peaks and valleys in the asphalt down into the storm drains. The water rushes below carrying all kinds of things with it - bottle caps, cigarette butts. Last month, I squatted down by a grate after a particularly heavy rain and saw two golden eyes, blinking at me. The eyes drifted up to the grate and in the darkness, I could just make out the green scales fanned around them, before the current in the storm drain dragged them away.

Sometimes, when I walk past the alleys, I'll see something shift in the corner of my eye and I'll backtrack. Oftentimes, it's nothing. But every once in a while, I'll catch the paintings on the alley shift and shiver. The graffiti tags unravel and slide across the walls. The tags tumble like a ball of spaghetti across the plaster until they reach the edge and plop down to the sidewalk. There's a pond of painted orange koi on the wall behind one apartment complex. When it rains, the failing droplets brings the brushstrokes alive and the koi begin to pivot around their vertical pond. When I was at the pet store one day, I bought fish food for them and now I always go to feed them after it rains. There's a big one with a wide spot on his head that always comes to greet me the moment I walk up. He's excited for the fish food.

Another alley wall is the home of the stick figure man. He normally stands under painted bright yellow light, but he likes to stroll through all the alleys. While I walk my dog, I'll see him peering into the windows of the shops on The Strand or jumping from light pole to light pole. He doesn't like to talk much, but he will play tricks on pedestrians - stomping in puddles they're standing next to, blowing hats off their heads.

Every once in a while, at sunsets, the wooden arches with utility wires hanging from them will light up. That's when you know if you walk through them, you'll be transported to all kinds of places. I've never tried, but I've heard that while some make take you to other parts of the island or across the world to Greece or China, a few archways will transport you to places entirely unlike this one. It's where they sky may be purple or the air taste like peaches or the flowers sing. Or so I've heard at least. I've never been myself. I think I'll walk though the arches one day, but not quite yet.

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