Big City

Marream Krollos

September 24, 2018 
The following is from Marream Krollos' book, Big City. Big City is a work of vignettes, verse, dialogues, monologues, and short stories that map the geography of urban consciousness. Marream Krollos was born in Alexandria, and has lived in Los Angeles, New York, Seville, Seoul, Christchurch, and Riyadh. She has a PhD from the University of Denver, and taught one of the few creative writing classes in Jeddah.

People in the city are alone in their beds.

She used to actually say a little prayer every time she heard sirens at night in this city. She would pray for whoever might be bleeding. Now every time she hears sirens she wonders how much can naturally leave the body at the same time. Shit and piss and blood and milk and mucus and saliva and tears can all leave at the same time. A woman sitting on the toilet naked, crying, spotting, and lactating at the same time? Yes, maybe. Not likely, but maybe. There is a woman who is crying while she’s shitting and pissing and she’s bleeding and dropping milk her fat gut and there’s mucus and spit all over her face and her breasts are dripping. Men have neither, do they? Men do not have blood or milk. What else can leave the body? Yes, she remembers.


The woman in the city misses a man in another city.

I will leave him a message. I will just say, hi, I miss you. You are the only person I have ever really, really wanted this much. I dream of tracing the outline of your face with my lips. I dream of it. I relive the day we spent together in your city over and over again. But we can be friends still if you want. I will tell him about how on the plane back from his city to my city I couldn’t tell when there was turbulence because my stomach felt as if I were diving down through the clouds the whole time anyway. I will be fine. It will be fine. We will be friends. My face will be fine. My feet are all right. My hands are good. My neck and shoulders are all right too. Everything will be fine. I will look the same and will be able to be touched by somebody I want to touch me. My feet will be fine. I can always get pedicures too. My hands too, manicures, and keep them away from the sun. I will have gained weight, but I can walk everywhere and not eat as much as I do now. I will have to dye my hair. I will have to make sure the skin on my face looks fine. The skin on my face will have to look at least as good as it does now.


Even if you knew the earth was flat you would still wonder why the horizon curves slightly. The clouds could be women bending down to clean hard floors, or bushels of hay, or homeless men sleeping. But they most often look like the foam on waves on the ocean. In heaven as it is on earth, what is above is below.

“She used to actually say a little prayer every time she heard sirens at night in this city. She would pray for whoever might be bleeding. Now every time she hears sirens she wonders how much can naturally leave the body at the same time.”


People Kill People in the City

She really wants to stop panicking. Nobody is going to kill her tonight. The doors are locked, the windows are locked. Nobody is coming for her. He is not coming for her. The man screaming, how do you think it makes me feel don’t you ever think about how it makes me feel, does not live with her. He lives in the next apartment. She can’t stop feeling this panic. She sees shadows where they shouldn’t be, in lit places where shadows can’t be. She sees marks on the walls that she thinks are shadows. There is no logic to this. It’s psychological. There is something psychologically wrong with her. She is so worried about herself that she begins to cry. She is terrified of somebody, a man, appearing out of nowhere with a knife and she is crying because she might be going crazy. She is crying because she thinks she is going insane. She is scared because she thinks somebody is coming to kill her tonight. She knows all the other people in this city are not scared when their doors and windows are locked and there is nobody in their lit apartments. She wants to believe she is normal. She wants to remember things other women have told her about times they were frightened in their locked apartments for no reason at all. It’s just like that feeling people have when they are outdoors and they’re worried about being bit by ants or mosquitoes or other insects. They begin to feel them crawling on their bodies even when they are not there. She can feel the sensation of them crawling all over her, but when she looks at her skin there is nothing there. She can’t see anybody in the apartment right now, but everywhere she looks there are weapons he can use to kill her when he comes. These cords he will use to strangle her. These pillows he will use to suffocate her. And everything in the kitchen he will use to take apart her body. All the metal objects he will use to gouge the inside of her body are in the kitchen. She feels she knows this will happen tonight even though there is no reason for it to happen tonight, or any night. But she knows there is a reason, because it happens, because it has happened to other people whose windows and doors were locked, because it is something that happens to people and has already happened to other people. She doesn’t want to become crazy. She doesn’t want it to get to that point, because that point is always there inside her, because other women have died this way, because that happens too. She might have to live on the streets if she goes crazy. She will be crazy and homeless if she can’t control herself. She doesn’t know how to stop this. The only other time she wants to stop herself from feeling something and can’t is when she is in love with a man who she knows doesn’t want her but she still can’t help wanting him anyway. It feels exactly the same way, because she can’t stop, but better maybe because she isn’t terrified, she is hopeful. She never thought anything could feel worse than that feeling of being in love with a man who doesn’t want her and not being able to stop waiting for him to call or walk by or say or do something he will never do. If none of those other men she has waited for before could stop themselves from disappointing her, then why would the one she is waiting for now, to come and kill her, not disappoint her?  Now that she knows how bad this feels though she wishes she could be waiting for a phone call from a man she wants to call who won’t call instead, at least then she isn’t shaking. It’s the same feeling in a way because she can’t control her thoughts and she is waiting for something to happen that won’t happen, but it is a better feeling because it is hope not terror, at least until she really realizes. . . It’s just that when she is in love with a man she expects to see him everywhere she goes and is disappointed when he is not suddenly walking down the same hall or crossing the street. She looks up now and expects to see the man with a knife in the doorway. The same irrational expectations, but she now realizes that wanting somebody to call when nobody will call her feels a little better than waiting for somebody to come kill her. But if no man ever has called while she waited then no man will ever kill her while she waits. She must know that she will not die tonight. Every time she has had her cards or her palm read the reader has told her she will have a long life. She wonders if maybe simply pretending she doesn’t care if she gets killed tonight might help. If she thinks of her slashed body and sees white blood instead of red. . . If she imagines a knife plunged in her exiting her body a dark shade blue instead of a dark shade of red. . . Why is she so scared of being murdered? What would it feel like anyway? Probably just like. . . nothing, but she can’t stop shaking. Even though if a man pushed her down and cut her throat open, it would probably be painless. What will she feel right afterwards, those few seconds, while she knows she is dying? Probably. . . nothing. Why would any of this make her heart beat out of her chest then? What if she imagined her body cut open and all her blood was bright yellow, not red? What if she imagined a whole field of women with slit throats hung upside down on spikes, naked, with forest green blood dripping slowly from their necks onto their faces. Earth brown blood flying everywhere as somebody’s head flies off their body is not terrifying. Nobody gets told they will be murdered when they have their cards or palms read. Why would anybody have let her know that? Anything can happen at any moment. This has happened before to other people in this city. The only thing that could calm her down right now is if nobody had ever been murdered in their own apartments in this city. The only thing that should comfort her right now is that not once has a man she was waiting to love her actually loved her even though other people have been loved by men they wanted to love.  Purple blood doesn’t make anything better. Black blood makes everything worse, black blood is worse than red blood. Orange blood. Orange blood gushing out of her chest when he stabs her, that would be fine.


“The clouds could be women bending down to clean hard floors, or bushels of hay, or homeless men sleeping. But they most often look like the foam on waves on the ocean. In heaven as it is on earth, what is above is below.”

Why is the city beautiful?

You know, there are so many people in the city. People will not know you are alone, if you pretend, they will not know you are lonely.  And maybe you will have a home here until you find a home. The city is the only place that will keep you until your fate changes, or if you have tempted your fate. That is why its slums are full of people who would otherwise have nowhere else to go. Where else would the homeless have a home except in the city? The trees of the forest and the swamps of the jungles do not protect and keep the people.


The woman travels to the man’s city.

I will leave him a message. Hi, the city is only interesting without you. I am back in your city, but you are not here with me. No. Hi, the city is only interesting without you. I promise I will be normal, and not cry, if you see me here now. No. I promise I will not touch you or cry about anything if we can have one more day in the city. No. Hi. This city, it is only interesting without you. This city is only interesting without you.


A woman travels to a man’s city.

The city was only interesting and dirty without you. I would like to see you again before I leave. No. I won’t be able to see you again if you don’t see me today. Please come see me again then we never have to see each other again. No. The city is only interesting and dirty without you. No.


The woman who misses the man travels to his city.

The last time I missed you this very much was the day after the day we spent in this city.


The city is made of sand. The cement needed for its buildings, the glass embedded in its buildings, and the concrete that is its ground are all made of sand. The beautiful stained glass of its cathedrals is only sand.  All cities then are desert cities. All cities then come from the sea.


From Big City. Used with permission of FC2. Copyright © 2018 by Marream Krollos.

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