Vicente; black, glossy hair, brown eyes and skin the colour of burnt umber sits on a camode, not for shitting but for writing puzzles in his head. He lives with friends beneath the city, in the sewers, smokes basuco and thinks about the cans, the crackers and the packs of glucose jelly he keeps in a black plastic bag and hangs above his mattress. The last time it rained Vicente’s things washed away—he marked the spot on the wall where the water sat for a week before receding slowly to its usual ankle height—slate grey, opaque, reflecting the jagged pipes, the soot-covered bricks above. He cooks rat meat, bread and onions sometimes in a wire cage that he guesses was for a car or boat—some part of either that made it run, or sat inside the trunk, or held the wheels, the rudder in place. He has never been inside a car, doesn’t know how boats or cars or planes are run, how they spin the wheels, glide across the water, fly. He thinks of everything outside the sewers as sacred, but deadly and full of unanswerable problems.
In the dark the high becomes an agency for vicarious experiences of these things, that raise him up from the sewers and into the world of angels above—the level of upright animals, not rats, goblins, blind and gaping changelings. He sees not only colour, light, texture, but experiences happiness—he is positive about his space, feels the things he does are purposeful, important, and maybe evolving into something great. For an hour or two at a time Vincent braves the tunnels, visits others living in the gaps, the inner rooms and crevices, that wander, bored and agitated, hunched like broke-backed dogs through slime, concrete and gas. To steal, absolute silence must be observed, and so the muteness above carries into the blindness below, back and forth—unthinking and unlearnt instinct making more basuco—appearing, like an apport amid a seance, on his breath, on his fingers, in his lungs and hair and skin—gasoline, white grit, bitterness.
On the surface also are the fallen angels, the Escuadrones de la muerte or destroyers, that find the holes in which they live and kill them. The squads are paid by the government to make the cities nicer, less black and shit-stained, and to raise the morale of the ones who use computers in their offices, jog and pedal on their machines, make coffee in their high-rises and see the horizon when they wake. They count the hours on calenders, and speak in voices above whispers. They are the gods and angels; they are the patriarchs; they are the holy seraphim of the world above our own.