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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 10

Part 10: The Ride

Waves

Sometimes I wonder if I could be a sociopath. But maybe the sheer fact that I wonder about it disqualifies me. Or maybe it strengthens my position among the rest, among the best. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure you’re a sociopath because I caught you lying that one time, and I only caught you because I’m so good at it, too. Sometimes I wish I weren’t, but it’s for your own good! I’m only protecting you!

From me, that is.

You finally stepped back because you knew you’d never be secure here. You finally put up your hands and backed into the dark where I couldn’t see you. I reached and reached but you were gone. I tried to cry out but like in a dream I had no voice. I stood blinking, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark, but they haven’t yet. I’m still standing here waiting. I could go forward but I’m not sure how far this tunnel goes and I can’t see a thing. I’m frozen and you’re gone. And I’m starting to pick up habits like dust.

Luckily today the sky is blanketed in gray. The Indian summer has long passed and November is digging in its heels. Rippling clouds with ivory tops and dirty bottoms spread out above me and keep me on the ground. It’s nice, though. It’s nice to have something pressing down on me from up there just so I know I won’t be sucked into some cosmic hole that might open up in the exposed heavens. It could happen.

I’m climbing the stairs to the train platform and pulling my scarf closer to my neck to ward off the sudden cold. Where did this cold come from? Just yesterday we were sweltering in the summer heat. Just yesterday we were standing half-dressed in front of the fan in your apartment. Just yesterday we were in love.

Just kidding. I never loved you. Smoke and fog and clouds are all mixing out the window of this train car as it pulls in and out of stations heading downtown. I’m supposed to go to the 14th floor of some building to interview for a job, for some legal assistant job, but I doubt I’ll make it there. I don’t know why, but I just have that feeling, that feeling like when you know the answer to a question but you ask it anyway.

The man across from me is sitting with his girlfriend. I think she’s his girlfriend, but she’s not looking at him. He’s talking to her, saying things like The worst part is the separation. I missed you so much. He kisses her cheek but she’s still looking out the window behind my head. Her indifference is sharp and I’m glad I’m across the aisle. I want to look away but I can’t. He’s still trying, still talking, still to straining say something that reaches her. Or maybe just something so there’s not silence. Looks like tomorrow it’ll be nothing but the house, the boring old house. But at least I can go to the refrigerator when I want. Haha! It’s things like that you don’t realize. He’s got a large duffle bag next to him and I realize he’s coming from the prison.

How long he was there, I don’t know. What he did, I don’t know. How long she was alone and hating him and yet still here picking him up at the end, I don’t know, but I know she’ll forgive him and it’ll be good—so good!—for a while before he does something else and she’s standing solitary in the cold once again.

They get off at the same stop I do. I rush down the stairs past them so I won’t have to watch anymore. I don’t want to see him try to grab her hand while she shoves it in her pocket. I don’t want to hear him talk about the traffic or the cold or anything while she pretends not to listen. The light is turning red but I run across the street anyways to put some distance between me and them. The legal building I need to go to is two blocks north but I keep walking straight east, straight to the lake. I need to see what the lake looks like today.

Gray and blue and white and spray! I knew it would be excellent. The cool lake air wraps around my face and dots it with water. I breathe in deeply and shut my eyes for a second and detach from everything, from everyone. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the interview.

This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 5

Part 5: Look Out! Monsters!

Hide! Monsters!

There’s knocking at the door. I’ve been ignoring it for almost ten minutes, and so has Angelica because she’s here with me. We’re in the back, in the kitchen sitting against cabinets whispering so my landlord can’t hear us. He’s here because he says I haven’t paid this month’s rent and it’s past the ten day grace period. He’s right, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have it.

Angelica is asking what did I do with the money? Shouldn’t I have enough? But ever since my last roommate moved across the country to go to school I’ve had to pay the whole thing myself and I barely make it. I often think about getting another one but I know I would hate whoever moved in. I’m serious I would hate them. We get quiet, and I can see the sun shining strong out the back porch window. I wish it would rain. Maybe if it rained he’d give up and go home, but Angelica says he’s not going to leave so I look at her and we’re thinking the same thing.

We know we have to be quiet or he’ll come after us in his truck and catch up to us because we’ll be on foot. We’ve got to be careful. Three. Two. One. We’re out the back door, across the yard, and up over the back fence. No time to unlock the gate because he’d see us from the front. Down the alley with our feet pounding the pavement we turn left at the first break and head south like it’ll save us. Like it’s redemption or freedom or something. People look at us as we dash by and it’s not until we get to 24th Street that we realize we don’t know where we’re going.

Eventually when it’s safe I begin to walk home. Angelica took the bus because she has class later so I’m going solo, and that’s when I see you. You’re walking, too, but you’re not walking alone. You’re with someone and she’s beautiful. She’s beautiful! Tawny skin and dark eyes and hair like cobalt cut to medium length, but not the boring-type medium length, the fierce kind of medium length that says I have my shit together. And she’s beautiful. And I can’t breathe. Everything is in super-high definition for a second and I’m praying praying praying that you don’t look over here. Don’t look over here. You don’t, but she does. She doesn’t say anything, though, because she doesn’t know me, doesn’t know what I look like or who I am or what we had at one point. The only thing she knows is how to iron a blouse and wear tights without holes in them. From what I can tell, at least.

You round the corner on the other side of the street, and the world comes back into normal focus. There are sounds again, and the colors aren’t so bright. I have a sickness—that must be it. I’m feeling pretty raw for a few blocks, like someone just asked me what my insides looked like and so I turned myself inside-out to show them. Like this. What did you expect?

But then I remember I have bigger problems to deal with, and sure enough when I’m back home there’s an eviction notice taped to the door. I wonder if my upstairs neighbors have seen it. They’d be cool about it because they’re middle-aged anarcho-syndicalists (whatever that means) who have probably squatted in more buildings during their lifetime than I have years to mine, but I still don’t want them to know. I rip the notice off my door leaving the tape marks behind and go inside to make some calls.