Stuck in the Meta With You

By Brendan Fardy

“Really?” The first inquiry came slow and soft, tentative and timid.
“You’re serious. Like you’re actually not messing around with me?” The tension was building now, the strain in her voice becoming increasingly obvious.
“Please tell you’re joking. You can’t honestly be serious, can you?” Bursting with anxiety, she was struggling to emote with precision anymore.
“Why do you have to do this to me?!” The tears were flowing now, and the fluidity with which the flow was progressing was unlike gently meandering rivulets and lethargic tributaries. This flow was full-on river-like. Class VI rapids with turbulent currents would pale in comparison to the tearful onslaught spewing forth from her ocular orifices. But alas, the severity of her sobbing is beside the point (perhaps not even directly adjacent to it but rather temporally and spatially removed on a distal tangent). The bawling had subsided by now anyways, and she succumbed to defeat in a crumpled heap of dismay on the cold tiled floor, cracked and dishevelled from years of neglect. This derelict region of the downtown core was forgotten long ago by the privileged and affluent. Mockingly referred to as the Mangy Meta District by the populations of the surrounding neighbourhoods, those who lived within this epicentre of crime and despair seemed to foolishly embrace the lifestyle comorbid with the wretched scum that littered the area. Thieving from “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel, the scoundrels from the Meta District stole with neither hesitation nor remorse. Much like the infamous gasoline scene from Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs”, the general intent here was to haphazardly provide a thorough dowsing of fuel with as much cruelty as possible in an aim to execute the end goal of burning through good to the marrow of evil. Even in the Meta District, some things were done with purpose. Much like a Tarantino cameo in a film of his own devise, the role may not be prominent, but it’s there. For Meta District inhabitants the role and purpose were usually one in the same—chaos.

A week passed, and then another, and those who were not present never did find out what all the commotion had been about during the anguished questions and bouts of crying before more than a dozen sunsets and equally as many sunrises placed that day a fortnight into the past. Today was a new day and with it came new hopes and dreams, new goals and aspirations. The floor was the same though, the tiles’ slow decay unchanging and unflinching. She pushed herself up onto her feet and came to her senses. Almost as soon as these senses were regained, they were lost again. Disoriented and exhausted (from two long weeks of resting like a log struck with thrice the recommended dose of a potent horse tranquilizer), she repeated her collapsing routine. This time she slumped onto the rotting furniture-shaped chunk of fabric that the residents knew as the best couch within several street blocks. The times were tough for the people in this area, but little of the collective plight was not self-induced by the individuals comprising the underground community of thieves and invalids. The people here deserved each other. The only people from whom they stole more than themselves were each other. Likewise with lying, the lies they told to themselves fell short of those they exchanged with their insidious peers. Villainous and disenchanted, these folk were long removed from any sense of dignity and respect. All around them the world brought glorious hopefulness, but these individuals were stuck in the middle with no exit sign to guide the way out.

In certain contexts, graffiti is considered a legitimate and constructive means of artistic expression. But not here. In the Meta District anyone found tagging run-down infrastructure on desolate street corners was nothing more than a vandal. One of these individuals could be found spray-painting poetry all over town in every nook and cranny not already infested with the remnants of aerosol-expelled paint at any given moment of any given day. In another setting, some of the poetry may have been recognized as profound and insightful, but that wasn’t going to happen here. The most recent work was still drying on the side of an abandoned trailer when it was first discovered by another of the recidivist citizens of the Meta District. With bleeding letters still dripping from the haste with which the amateur graffiti “artist” had performed the work, the legibility was compromised but still just barely discernible. The crying girl (who shall remain nameless, only to be referred to in reference to her tragic state earlier that month) read the words aloud as she struggled to make them out.

“Self-referential when I refer to myself, I refer to myself, I refer to myself
Self-referential, got a reefer to myself, a reefer to myself, yes a reefer to myself
And I don’t even burn herb, man I used to do that but then I kicked it to the curb-”

Her recital was interrupted by the sounds of sirens. No type of medical personnel or law enforcement ever bothered entering the Meta District. They had all written the area and its inhabitants off years ago, believing that everyone in the area was deservedly hopeless in that each person could turn to any other resident at any time and proclaim with truthfulness and relevance, “I’m stuck. I’m stuck in the Meta. I’m stuck in the Meta with you.”

Something had to be very wrong (in a relative sense, for things were always wrong here, so much more wrong than dictated by normalcy in this instance) in order for there to be a police presence working towards actually making some kind of measurable difference in this frequently forgotten and seldom remembered land of nightmares. Startled and confused, the girl ran back to her shelter to gain a slight measure of privacy within which she could assess the situation. It wasn’t long until she was back where she started, sprawled out in a contorted prone position on the cold, cracked tiles. The cold was unrelenting. The cracks were unforgiving. The Meta District took another prisoner.