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Once there was a boy who thought it a noble idea to lie down in the middle of the street and sleep. For four hours, no one bothered him, but let him lie on the road as though he were an enchantment. This became newsworthy and soon helicopters hovered above, hosing his curled torso and thick legs in spotlights televised the world over. Foreign correspondents focused on the neighborhood and its relative poverty as recognized by the plethora of low-hanging jeans worn by shirtless men and loud music issuing from passing cars, which had the effect of drowning out everyone’s already bottled-up thoughts about the boy sleeping in the middle of the street; others jumped in front of cameras seizing an opportunity to be seen by their relatives on the other side of town because they had run out of minutes on prepaid cellphones.
The roadkill in the neighborhood, and some on that very block, rodents, cats, and possums, feeling equal amounts of jealousy and futility, each began to rise and return to their den holes, cursing the boy sleeping in the street beneath their breaths for his virtuosic performance of stillness and tribulation in the city. The drug-addicted men and women leaning into doorways like art installations were used to being ignored, but they, too, felt affronted by the boy sleeping in the street and folded their cardboard homes.
For the first hour, he practiced not breathing. For ten seconds, he would hold his breath. And then, he practiced longer sets of minutes during the next three hours until he was able to stretch out his non-breathing for whole hunks at a time. When his breathing returned, it was so faint, his chest and shoulders barely moved; infinitesimal amounts of life poured out of him, but no one noticed. The police cordoned off his body, and after some time, declared him dead because they had only seen black men lying prone on the street as corpses, but never as sleeping humans.
The whole world, eager and hungry for a Lazarus moment, watched and waited to see when he would awaken and rise to his feet, especially his neighbors with minutes remaining on cellphones who filmed and animatedly discoursed behind yellow tape the ecstasies and muted sorrows of watching a boy sleep in the middle of the street.
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