heat

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.

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This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 4

Part 4: Some Vandals

Back porches

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.