city

flash fiction or w/e

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The open road was the second mistake, but it took a while to get there. First came the boxes: cardboard, made for packing and impermanence. You hated for things to be thrown away, and you hated the boxes, but you kept quiet until the yard sale when the girl with the red backpack came and bought my lamp. You went inside to make coffee but there was no coffee maker anymore and I walked in just as the ceramic hit the floor. It was the loudest thing.

The first mistake had to have been the wooden floors. The creaking was so insistent! More than the dark knots and the smell of dust and yellow light in the hall. It all got to my skin before you did, before you took my hand and we danced in the living room while the seasons changed. I never knew what home was. I only wanted to look at the maps.

Inevitably the floors and the lights and the boxes all led to the open road, the one you insisted you would accompany me down, at least until we hit the coast. Through the city we were alright. Across the plains we were alright. Up the mountains (and down the other side) we were alright, but when we hit the water we started to sink, possibly because there weren’t any floors out here. Howdid we not see this coming! Why weren’t we prepared!

It was not until we got out of the car that we realized The Wanting was terrible and The Leaving was worse. It was not until then that we realized that the colors of the maps were not true and you’d have to go back the way we came and I’d have to stay here. But it was never anyone’s fault.

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This is Fiction I Swear: Part 14

Part 14: A Parting Shot

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Sometimes the papers don’t tell the stories we need to hear. They tell us about robberies and murders and corrupt politicians but they don’t tell us about boys with light hair who try to steal your souls or about girls with nice smiles who lie to your faces. They don’t tell stories about us. So I tell them. Sit down and listen. Lend your ear to the one who might cut it off.

The sky is lilac for some reason tonight and strange spaces are opening up between the buildings. I can’t think of any good words to put down in this letter so I stop where I am, I stop with what I have, right in the middle of the sentence. She’ll get it. I fold it up and put it in an envelope and drop it in the rusted box at the corner. Then I jog across the street at the red light and continue down 18th. I’ve got ends to tie up before I go.

Past the park I used to cut through in nicer weather. Past the trees they planted in September. Past shops and cafes and everything that has been bought and sold, bought and sold, like you say. Find something that hasn’t been! And I can’t.

I can’t think of what I’m going to say to you because my mind is full of your earliest memory. You told me about it once, about sitting on the floor while your parents argued in an apartment off Lawrence. About yellow lights and floorboards and the smell of Chinese cooking. It sounds sort of nice to me. It sounds like being underwater while the world explodes up above: only muffled noises reach my ears and it all seems far away. The water holds me and flames can’t touch me. Nothing can touch me.

I stop in front of your apartment and look up, way up to the window that lets a pitiful amount of light into your living room. Even in daytime. Wait, is it your living room? Or maybe your bedroom? I have to think. I’m going over the layout in my mind, getting all tangled up in the rooms and the corners and the walls and the floors when I hear my name.

-Ana.

You’re standing in the open doorway looking like a storm is about to hit. You know why I’m here. I ask politely if I can please come up, and you step aside and let me pass: up the creaking stairs, three flights, cobwebs above, below, and on all sides. Your door is open when I get to the top so I walk in and set down what I’ve brought. I promised to return it weeks and weeks ago. It might have been months but here I am finally and you don’t look mad that I’ve kept it so long. You look like you’d rather never see it again, like if it would keep me from saying what I’m about to say you’d have it buried deep underground where no one would lay eyes on it until the end of time when the earth turns inside out and all things hidden come to the surface.

-How are you?

-Fine.

-Is it ok if I leave this here?

-Sure.

The dishes are dirty in the sink. There are clothes everywhere and a few cans of soda on the table near the couch. You’re staring at me while I look around the room in all its chaos. They say a system needs chaos. They say it wants to be in disorder, that it’s more stable that way, and I’d like to believe them.

Finally I look up at you and you take a step closer to me, challenging me to say it. Go on, I dare you. I part my lips to speak and you step forward again. I’m forgetting everything and I have no idea where I am or if it’s hot or cold or if I’m moving or standing still.

You put your hand on the back of my neck and lean forward so our foreheads are touching. Eyes closed, we hang on, for how long I cannot say.

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!