This is Fiction I Swear: Part 9

Part 9: The Daily Herald

standees sign

A most excellent kind of panic attack. If you’re going to have one, have one like this.

I’m leaving work after the first shift a little after five and the time changed a few weeks ago so night has been slinking in for a good half hour. I exit the building through the back door and see the sky to the west is a million different colors: black, indigo, blue, purple, pink, gold, white. It’s so beautiful it hurts. But it keeps hurting and I wonder if the pain is from something else, like the cold biting at my neck where I forgot to bring a scarf. Like the knowing how close you live but how far apart we are.

I walk on and the pain only gets deeper, only gets sharper, until my breath is coming in short bursts, barely filling half my lungs. Oh god I want to stop or pass out or die or something but its Sunday and the streets are almost empty and I’m sure in the morning my body would be mangled and robbed so I keep walking for five more blocks while the fear seizes me completely—

And then it evaporates.

And then I’m back to drinking too much coffee and buzzing so badly it’s like I did a couple hard lines in the bathroom of Bar Deville. Not that I’ve ever done that. Must make analogies less specific! And one day I will but right now my phone’s going off and I’ve got some place to be. It’s Graham who has agreed to meet me at a café near my apartment to talk about things because he needs a game plan or something.

I don’t like this café, but I don’t like many cafes so it’s nothing personal against this one. Actually this one is better than most because it’s mainly neighborhood people and construction workers getting coffee instead of the usual flannel-clad crowd working on their Mac Books and not tipping the staff because they’re “poor” because they have all these loans from liberal arts school. For christ’s sake.

Graham is already here sitting at a small table against the exposed brick walls. He’s got a drink in front of him and looks up immediately when I walk in but doesn’t wave or anything, just looks at me in that sort-of nervous, sort-of intense way he does. I sit down and he says Hey and slides a newspaper over to me before I can say anything. My breath gets caught in my chest when I see the headline on page 4, the local news page:

Bicycle Collision Leads to Two Arrests in Bridgeview

You must be kidding me. That fucking girl in a beret! I snatch the paper to read the rest of the article which goes like this:

Two Bridgeview residents, Ana Kasic and Michael Devin, both 23, were involved in a bicycle accident late Friday night that turned violent and led to the arrests of both Kasic and Devin. The crash, which took place on 18th Street just west of Racine, appears to have stemmed from some personal, possibly romantic, conflict between the two. It is still unclear how the collision occurred because both parties lay blame on the opposite side. Devin says Kasic pushed him from his bicycle, while Kasic maintains that Devin harassed her while she was riding and caused his own fall. Law enforcement got involved when two officers noticed the pair arguing loudly in the middle of the westbound lane. The argument seems to have turned physical only after the officers arrived on the scene. Devin suffered a bloody nose from the altercation, and Kasic had scrapes from the crash. Both were released from custody within hours and neither side pressed charges.

I look up at Graham who’s staring at me, waiting for me to say something, waiting for me to explain myself. I know he’s fixating on Michael’s name. If it had been anyone else! But it wasn’t. It was you. You and your—

But before I can finish having that thought, the one I’ve had so many times it’s become like a heartbeat, I see my landlord’s truck pull up to the stoplight outside. He’s on his way to my place there’s no question about that and I have the money! I’ve got to give it to him! I tell Graham I will be right back—right back, I promise!—I just have to do one quick thing. I think I said half of this on my way to the door because the next second my feet are pounding against the cement to catch up with the truck.

This is Fiction I Swear: Part 8

Part 8: Squares, Circles


But it’s not stars it’s a goddamn ten by ten cement holding cell. At least we don’t have to share but you’re right across the bars staring at me, waiting for me to say something but I’m not. I won’t. It’s not fun anymore and I’m furious that you got me stuck in here and I won’t let you think for one second that I’m giving in.

When they give me my phone call I call Angelica and tell her we need to meet up later because I have things to tell her. She asks if it’s about the eviction and I have completely forgotten about that and say it is most definitely not. I know her next guess will be you. And it is. And I tell her I’ll be by later to talk about it. I hang up and she’s still saying something about a bad idea. Well of course it is.

But things get off track when they make us wait together to get our bikes back. We walk outside at the same time and I’m not saying a word which makes you furious so you “congratulate” me on my unconventional tactics to win you back.

Win you back! I stop you dead in your tracks, look you in the eye, and tell you how wrong you are but your eyes are locked on mine and you’ve got that look and now your hand is on my waist. The words are melting off my tongue and I can’t look away. Even if I wanted to stop it, I couldn’t. My eyes shut, our lips lock, and I can’t tell if my heart is beating too fast or if it’s not beating at all. Breath comes quickly, in bursts, and the neighborhood knows about us, but it’s the only one. Then there’s nothing but the gray dark of my bedroom at the 1:00 hour. The kind of dark that gives no way of knowing what’s me and what’s you. That kind of dark.

My favorite kind of dark.

And I wonder—does my name excite you? Does the sound of it sink into your spine and travel up to the base of your neck? Does it give you chills? Does it? You never admitted that much to me, but I know it’s true by the way you clung to me. You think too much about me, you said that once when we walked a long way in the wrong direction one night. It was raining and my head was down but I was listening. To know that, to know you, I knew you weren’t gone. I knew if I stayed still for a while you’d reappear, and we could start tracing circles again. You know the ones—the ones that start far apart, but get closer and closer till they’re on top of each other, entwined in perfect wholeness, then—they break apart and float parallel once again.

This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 7

Part 7: Collisions


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.


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!