bikes

This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 16 (or The End)

Part 16: Time Zones

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I couldn’t ignore it if I tried—the lightness of unfettered freedom settling in my soul as I step off the train and onto the pavement. A new city. The air is warm and sweet and all the colors are faded like they’ve been left out in the sun too long.

I don’t recognize anyone except those I’d been in the same train car with for more than twenty-four hours now, and even so I make sure to walk a different direction than they do once we leave the station. I wheel my bike to the curb and adjust the backpack on my shoulders as I look down the road in both directions, deciding which one to take. The roads are bigger here, much bigger, but somehow there’s less space on them and they turn up at the corners like they’re sneering at me, like they’re telling me they’ll swallow me whole if I attempt to ride them.

Good. The sun is on its way to the other side of the world and shadows from thin, twisting palm trees cross my face. I think my sister lives somewhere near here. I put on my sunglasses and walk across the street to a little restaurant with outdoor seating. It says it has coffee for one dollar and that’s all the change I have in my pocket and I want to watch the sun set and to feel the gold.

The people here look happy. I’m thinking this as I put my feet up on the plastic chair across from the one I’ve chosen. The people here are pretty and they have families and cars and they are happy. Why wouldn’t they be? They have California in their skin.

My coffee gets to me via a waiter with dark eyes. His t-shirt is very white and his skin very tan and I thank him for the coffee. I will empty out my backpack to find some more quarters to leave him a tip when I’m finished. I have to.

The coffee is just right: a little burnt, very hot, with substance. And my tongue adores it. A soft breeze brushes past my skin like warm breath before a kiss and I get goosebumps for no reason. It’s not cold but I’m shivering. It’s all perfect but I’m crying. I’m understanding everything in the last folds of light on a coastal evening.

But soon I’m moving, again. Leaving, again. Putting tires to pavement.

And this is where I’m invincible. This is where I can fly. The wind doesn’t catch or snag my body but streams past it in clean lines. Nothing holds me back: not the holes in the road or the dark of the tunnel or the vehicles that think they can do better than this. Watch me take your lead from you. Watch me till I’m out of sight. My lungs feel like they might explode from the air pumping in, and my legs are burning deliciously from the effort. I’m intoxicated from being alive.

And nothing happens! You’d think one day I’ll get what I deserve for being stupid and reckless and overconfident, but I don’t. I’m switching lanes and flying forward at speeds I shouldn’t know, and I have no idea if this is heaven or hell or reality because most days life is one or the other anyway. And they all thought they needed something after this.

This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 7

Part 7: Collisions

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I’m blind upon waking. It’s the noontime sun streaming in through his curtains and I hate this apartment. I have to leave. He’ll be fine waking up alone, but I’ll go crazy if I stay because nothing’s moving in here, nothing’s breathing in here, and the only colors I see are yellow, white, tan, and beige. And those are polite names for them! And there’s a folding chair in the corner! I dress quickly, steal a pair of sunglasses I see on the counter, and leave without a sound.

And of course I don’t answer when he calls ten minutes later. Or the time after that or the time after that. What could I have said? What could he have said? I’ll talk to him later when I have words but right now they won’t come. My head is a jumble of different shadows and pieces of fabric and ribbons of thought that don’t go anywhere. I can’t be expected to talk to anyone when I’m in such a state. I just cannot.

When I finally speak to him later he’s visibly upset. Fine. Makes sense I suppose. It happened like this: I had gone outside to check my mail because I was waiting for a package from my sister and there I see him standing outside my gate. He’s got me. I let him in because I have to, and he starts asking all these questions like “What is your problem?” and “Why won’t you answer me?” and “We need to talk about what happened last night.” The last one isn’t a question, but still. He’s freaked out but no one saw us, no one was with the man when it happened, and no one would ever expect it to be us. We don’t look like felons, we look like BYT’s, like stars on the screen. It’s almost criminal.

Only you know we were at that bar last night. Only you and your performances. They’re maddening and they’re maddeningly effective, but I won’t ever tell you that. Probably because you already know.

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I’m thinking about all this on my way home from a quick sale in the South Loop, pedaling easily through the dark streets almost home when another cyclist speeds past me right up on my left side, almost grazing my shoulder.

“ON YOUR LEFT” he screams, and I know immediately who it is. I pedal harder to catch up while yelling something about you being a dick or something like that. You slacken your pace and now I’m right up side you, still yelling. You push my arm and I retaliate with a shove of my own which apparently is enough put you off balance so much that you fall. Your bike collapses, catching mine as it does, and I go down too. My limbs are all caught between metal bars and spinning tires and pavement.

We untangle ourselves from the wreck and I’m still yelling and now you’re yelling too and somehow there’s a cop car slowing down alongside us. Maybe because we’re in the middle of the street and our discarded bikes are blocking a whole lane, but there aren’t any cars coming! It’s almost the middle of the night! This is what I tell the officer who has gotten out of his car and is coming over to tell us to “take it somewhere else.”

You say something like “Yeah, officer tell her how it is,” and I absolutely can’t stand you so I lunge forward and shove you as hard as I can, which makes you come at me, and suddenly there’s another officer in the street pulling you away from me. I get one more good swing and catch you right on the nose before I get pulled away, too. I see blood but no satisfaction because your nose bleeds all the time for no reason. All the goddamn time! The lights on the cop car are on now and I think that’s ridiculous. They’re telling me I need to come with them to the station, and I think that’s also ridiculous. So I tell them.

They ignore me, and you’re voicing your hearty agreement with the officer, who then tells you to shut your mouth and makes the mistake of putting his hand on your shoulder. You whirl around and shove him and now here we are both in cuffs in the middle of 18th and some chick wearing a beret has appeared from nowhere and is writing things on a notepad and asking me for a “statement.” “Whose fault was the crash?” “Do you know each other?” “Was this a domestic dispute?”

I sit shotgun in the squad car on the way to the station because I told the officers there was no way I was sitting by you. I said I thought you might attack me or something which was probably dramatic but I didn’t care. I still don’t care as we cruise through the empty streets with our new friends Officer Michaels and Officer Lurez and the wind is ruffling my hair and it feels pretty good.

Officer Michaels rolls up my window after a minute though so I can’t enjoy it. He looks annoyed and so does his partner Lurez. You’re in the back seat next to Lurez talking about “Shouldn’t you just let us out to settle it by ourselves? Aren’t there gang boys out there lining up toe tags that you need to take care of?” And now I’m annoyed because you always talk about our neighborhood like you know something, like you’re hard or something. Give me a break and shut up.

I realize I’m saying this not thinking it and now Michaels is telling me to close my mouth and Lurez is warning you about being a smartass and I think this is kind of fun. I catch your eye in the side mirror and can tell you think this is kind of fun too. Oh, what kind of villains are we? What kind of creatures are we? It’s that Peter Pan Syndrome, I believe, and we’ve got it bad. Out the window and into the stars! Let’s go!

This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 3

Part 3: That Party Somewhere

Industrial

I’ve been gone for a week now and I’m not sure where. Dead to the world my friends say. M.I.A. Unreachable. Out of touch. I’ll say something about the reception in my apartment or the poor quality of my old phone, but it wasn’t those things. I don’t know what it was. I lost some days, just dipped out for a while because everyone is terrible and boring and I couldn’t find it in me to bother.

But I’m back. Shoes on, and the evening smells like promise. It rained earlier in the day and the wet sidewalk reminds me of the first time I left you. It didn’t feel like summer then but it was, and the heavy sky hurt when it came down to rest on my shoulders. Your silence hurt when it dug into my shoulders. I just needed to feel your arm on my shoulders.

But everything around me was gray and damp and covered in little stones. I thought I saw you everywhere. People who vaguely resembled you or people who looked nothing like you or people who I didn’t even see very well—they were all you. Why couldn’t they be you? I remember I stopped at the drug store to check on our carelessness and wondered why I had to leave you. I wondered if I’d see you again and if you’d give me another chance to do better. You did, later. And you were so stupid.

But tonight a few of us–Max, Angelica, J-Kim– are riding over to a venue with no name to listen to kids play around with synths and act like they’re artists. I can’t tell one set from the other, and the room starts to get hot and my friends and I are passing whiskey around till the dark room embraces us and the neon lights blur to liquid channels. We’re happy because we’re together and we’re here. What else do people need? What is there outside of this? I think the world must be so jealous of us, but it doesn’t know about us. It doesn’t know about this room or these kids or this dark.

Then somehow I’m outside later and the guy I was chatting with is leaning in and I’m pressed up against the brick wall in the alley. He’s wearing suspenders and that’s dumb and that’s why I was talking to him in the first place, but now we’re kissing and I can’t breathe and I can’t think so I push him away and go unlock my bike. On the ride home my body goes numb. I’m suffocating in this perfect night air and thinking how I just want to feel it, just for a second.

But all I feel is the kitchen floor against my bare feet when I take my shoes off back at home. I turn on the light which I hate to do but I can’t see a damn thing and need a little help. For some reason in this yellow glow all I can think of is how my dad used to cut up pears for me when I was a little kid. I’d get too hungry before dinner was ready so he’d slice up a pear while I waited. I remember once when I was six or seven and swinging my legs back and forth at the dinner table I said, “I think Mom will be happy that I ate the whole pear.” My dad stopped what he was doing at the stove and very slowly turned around, spatula in hand. “Your Mom does not know, Ana. She’s not here, and you know that,” he said. Then he set down the spatula, walked out of the room, put his fist through the bathroom mirror, and I spent the rest of the evening watching him pick glass from his palm.