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.
Part 4: Some Vandals
I guess that boy hasn’t forgotten me, the one from that rooftop that one time, so here we are again. I like the way he stands at the corner waiting for me. I like the lines he cuts through the space around him. Gray and green and blue and textured. Now we’re walking on Cermak past Halsted where the warehouses stand empty and cobwebbed.
We’re talking about where we grew up or something inane when suddenly I say “We should do something” and he says “Yes” so we find the side door to one of buildings, the one just past the tracks. He picks the lock, whereas I was going to go with my classic brick-through-the-window approach, but he tells me that’s careless so we do it his way this time. Fine. The dark is deepening so we should be alright. The air is damp and clinging to my face, but it’s alright. We’re too old for this, but we’re alright.
It’s everything I hoped it would be: scraps of metal and dusty windows and air as cold as a dry ice bath. I’m wearing these heavy rubber boots that feel great with every step I take against the cement floor, like power or something close to it. We’re checking out the space, kicking things around and touching the walls where racks of tools once hung. Or maybe not tools, maybe cabinets for filing or paintings of rivers. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.
I only care about the seven-foot windows letting the rest of the dusk right in where it can swirl around us and mess with our heads and our hearts. It’s definitely messing with mine. Girl, get your head right. He’s talking and I’m not listening so I go over to one of those damn windows and touch the tips of my fingers to the pane. It’s cold and cloudy and I can barely make out the industrial horizon to the south. Rusting train tracks with weeds spreading out like grasping fingers trying to touch all the colors and shapes of the graffiti-covered walls. To feel them for just a second…! Why doesn’t anyone think this is beautiful? I can’t understand it. Out there it’s glowing—dirty—but glowing.
Then I feel something like a burst of heat over my right shoulder. His hands are on my waist now, and his warm lips are searching my neck and turning my skin to fire and ice, and my brain to mush. Hello, how are you? It’s good to meet you.