She stalks across the broken asphalt the aftertaste of tobacco in her mouth. Far off, beyond the city’s border, a dusty glow approaches from the east. It thickens the night air and warms the roadside silt. She sips from a plastic water bottle, trying to peel the bitterness from her tongue.
Pausing next to a dark salon, she bends to ease the bite of narrow shoes. One hand against the cement block building, she balances like a desert lizard. Shifting from one foot to the other, she wipes lymph from burst blisters and adheres an uncooperative bandage. Then, stiff legged and deliberate, she picks her steps and continues her hunt, a heron moving through a still pond.
The stillness does not last as morning brings life into the sun-bleached city. Like blood in veins, the streets begin to pulsate. Pumped between lights and signs, the commuters with their rumpled collared shirts do not permit their eyes to linger on her. These men go to work to feed children and wives, to pay off houses and cars, to maintain their place between horizons. The collective memory of her arched back and long bent legs has no place near morning radio and lukewarm coffee.
She’s tasted their coffee. Here it’s bitter black caffeine and chewing tobacco. Miles and decades away it was chili powder and cigar smoke. A century ago, turmeric and opium. She has tasted them all.
Waiting beneath bus stops, women watch her pass. Like their men, they recognize her. Unlike their men, they do not look away. The women admonish her bare shoulders with rigid stares, made brave by their numbers. They watch until she turns the corner, a predator exiled before she upset any carefully laid nests.
The city embraces her unwelcome presence. It stirs as she walks, and quiets upon her passing. She takes comfort in her entropy.