two people who are dating walk along a busy downtown street and experience the hustle and bustle of a big city during ‘rush hour’

the two of them, they’re walking down the street. it’s a very busy street with people sitting on stoops asking for money and also people in business casual outfits with business casual smiles on their faces walking very fast to lunch or from lunch or maybe these people with their baggy khakis and their slightly too large or slightly too slim plaid shirts are playing hookey and heading to a bar for a very happy hour or to a baseball game or to a retirement home to play mahjong and gossip about old lives and new romances.

but the two of them amidst what, to them, appears to be a flurry of very metropolitan activity (there is also a man in a hoodie offering them pot and other digestibles), the two of them are walking very slowly. slow enough to, almost be walking not backward but in reverse. as if their steps (which are clearly directed forward) are working against the fabric of time and against the propulsions of a very busy city at high noon on a tuesday.

it is as if the two of them are playing a video game, as if the fray around them is composed of expertly engineered avatars. and the couple (they’re dating and holding hands) make eye contact with various members of this near-human community and see (because eyes are windows to souls even if empty) that their robot neighbors are imitating such human experiences as minute awkwardness and drowning boredom as well as skittish self awareness. and, maybe most importantly, they display within their eyes intense distress regarding the quality of their imitative performance.

this gives the couple (they’ve been dating for almost three years and regularly end conversations with “i love you”) this gives the couple the chills. first these chills (much like goosebumps but more fleeting) begin in the hands of couple member number one and then transfer (like disease and misinformation) to the hand of couple member number two and they soon are having a very coupley moment of shared sensation.

before they can process all that is going on the couple (despite the seeming inverted speed of their intertwined gait) emerge out of the busy clouds, pass through something like a membrane and find themselves stumbling down a new and very empty street lined by very tall buildings and cultivating very little sunshine.

it seems as if the vendors who normally vend this street have all gone home or maybe have taken up vending on different streets and that the street’s street performers have either lost their passion or have found new venues. the business casual folk, it seems, have all decided on a new route to and from lunch.

the panhandlers maybe have recognized this street to be unprofitable and the police officers in their too-tight blue police uniforms with their unshined gold badges don’t patrol this street because empty voids need no surveillance.

couple member number one unclasps their hand from number two and, stepping slightly back, says something mundane about the eerie and sudden emptiness of their surroundings. number two (who’s equal in value) responds by mentioning something about the insignificance of anything other than that which exists between them.

later, safe in their home (they’ve lived together for seven months and both report the situation to be ideal and often almost blissful), they climb into bed and touch each other and roll around and have sex but not consistently, an ebb and flow of sorts. and through the course of their fumbly interaction they slip out of themselves as if their identities are loosely stuck-on name tags that fall off and into their bed and, through topsheet tumbling, get tacked onto the body of the other and this goes back and forth for what, from a narrative perspective, feels like hours.

even later the pair sit up with their backs against the window (that acts as their alarm clock) and they share a cigarette, their only one of the day because they have, together, taken up a cause of nonsmoking but they are also mature and rounded and reflective and allow themselves occasional indulgences; they — inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling — are certainly not absolutists. they have had threesomes, you see, but never really enjoyed them.

the next day the couple searches desperately for their empty street but it seems to have disappeared or perhaps the vendors and the panhandlers and the burly police officers with their razor blade-sharp police caps have returned as if in pilgrimage. even the street performers are back and performing with refreshing enthusiasm on stages made of flattened cardboard boxes.