In a lot of ways this is a city built on Pretend. We pretend that we aren’t getting older, that we can still be out until four in the morning and it won’t be any different when we wake up than it was in our early 20s. We pretend that we have plenty of time to accomplish all the goals we think are still within our reach. We pretend that the careless ways we act and the carelessness with which we allow ourselves to be treated in turn are merely temporary stops on the way to the true happiness that we think is surely our reward for working so hard at the things we pretend make a difference or mean something. We pretend that everything is practice, everything is temporary, and that on the one day we finally decide we are ready to take ourselves seriously the world will stand up and applaud and say, “At last! Have anything you want, it’s no less than what you deserve!” If we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror as we pass by we pretend that we don’t see the wrinkles, the hard-set eyes, the dents and dings and damage and decay that the years of hard living have chipped out of us, the sad and addled residue that is the inevitable result of what can only be characterized as a toxic lifestyle. But most of all we pretend that everything we eat here hasn’t been touched by rats at some point. Because as rough as all the other stuff is, you can probably cope with it if you really have to, but there’s no way to get by if you are forced to acknowledge just how much anything you put in your mouth has been all rubbed up on by vermin. Now let’s never talk about it again.