Last Night

I’m safe here. Mist seeps through a missing pane, one of his ex-girlfriend’s took it out with a right straight. Hard to imagine, I’m a lefty. I don’t want to face the night. I don’t want to walk to my car. From here, I can see it all. The letters, the addresses, the cracks in the street, the empty sidewalk of an unsuspecting town. I don’t need to be out there, they don’t need me, either. My mouth slumps.

I tell people I grew a beard out of laziness. “Didn’t feel like paying $6 for a razor.” Not quite right. I let it scrawl my face to hide the sadness of my lips. Full, pink, they receive remarks. They’re rarely perked. Twangy hairs dangle over their cracks, slip into my mouth, and with my teeth I pull. A condemned house. Overgrown. Useless.

“You have sad eyes all of a sudden, don’t be sad!” She said. There’s no hiding. What I had thought in that moment was beautiful and painful. It bares no recall – a truth whose power lives and dies in me. I stroke the hair on my chin, my eyes begin to droop.

His door locks like some found antique machine forced to life–of course it still works. I wait with the draft, with the mist.

We exit his building; his car is in front, mine a block away. We shake hands, bump shoulders, and I take flight against little wet pincers. He says something. I turn back, laugh and smile. He disappears inside his car and it’s far too late for pedestrians. I can remove my thumb from my mouth now. It’s mostly healed.

Two weeks ago I stopped a grocery store panic attack by chomping on my thumb until it bled. I wrapped it like sliced deli meat, and watched with pursed lips as my stain stuck the napkin to my finger. Too many people, too many. Shopping, doing. Being. No, not me. I can’t. I won’t. Bread, coffee, oatmeal, bananas, yogurt. I ran my fingers, one bandaged, over the paper. Focused on its crinkles. It soothed me enough to weave up and down aisles. To become.

On the corner, I wait for a sports car to droll past before crossing. There’s flecks of black in the blue line, only took 6 months. A block and a half away, a block away, half a block away, a bus charges towards its garage. The mist kneads the headlights like dough, blurs and bends them to form an electric halo. Just as I find the curb, I imagine without effort tossing myself head-first into its grates. There’s a mess, my body parts scatter. It erupts the boulevard with lights and sound. In the next moment, I’m surrounded by sterility and stiff lips. Would my hands land palms-up? Is there anybody on the bus? In the next moment, I’m gone.

Beyond the lights and self-righteous silence of the boulevard, I slink down a side-street.

Be happy, dammit.

I move with the wind, a little game I’ve played by myself since childhood. How quiet can I be? I’ve snuck up on friends without trying. Overheard terrible conversations meant for none. I’d like to quietly slip into the fluffy shadows of these hedges, but don’t have permission. I live vicariously through my own shadow. It disappears and pokes out. Grows long and short; knows the rules. I live like a shadow. But I am not literal.

Be happy, dammit.

Between two rows of crane-dropped homes, whose owners pay no mind to the magic and privilege of flipped switches, a stream of light intrudes the road and wanders with mist. Is that my car? I forget my little game and jog towards the source: a dark, almost vanished metal brick in the filtered night. It is my car. I unlock it, turn the light knob while cursing myself out, and plug the key into the ignition with bated breath. It turns on; the fan-belt squeals for a moment. It stays on. I smile for a moment, and roll towards the sign to STOP.

Summer in the ‘Burbs

Summer in the ‘Burbs

Reggie sat on the curb, looking through junipers and into the Vakenzi’s backyard. They had a trampoline he always wanted to try, but never got invited. There was an ankle-high fence and small flower garden separating their backyard from the neighbor’s, some old guy who never left his house—except to get the paper and mail. Reggie looked down at his laces, fastened them, sipped his Capri-Sun, and stood up. He inhaled sharply, closed his eyes, and exhaled through his mouth. He got into position, his knee burning on the hot, smelly July asphalt. He was ready.

3…2…1…

And Reggie was off, leaping through the junipers into the Vakenzi’s yard. He slowed, just for a moment, and thought about jumping on the trampoline. “Next time” He thought to himself. In moments, Reggie was over the bushes and into the old man’s yard. The grass was patched yellow, dead from pee and heat. There was nothing of interest in the backyard of the 70’s paneled home, save a red shed in the corner, the perfect hiding place.

Reggie slid between the shed and a wooden fence surrounding the house a block over’s backyard. He caught his breath and made his way to the next yard, his back pressed against the fence, arms outstretched. He could hear a man doing something in the yard over. When he was able to peak around the corner of the shed, Reggie watched the man come out of his shed with a lawnmower. A freebie for Reggie, the noise would give him noise cover and he’d be busy with his back turned. When it revved to life and the man began tending his yard, Reggie took advantage and ran out from the shed and behind a tall oak. They had a tree-house and rope swing, looked like it was bought. The tree-house Reggie and his friend’s made didn’t have a roof, or walls, just a floor and chunks of chopped tree-trunk to sit on. Reggie timed well and ran behind another oak, behind his shed, out of view and harm from that guy.

A chill ran down Reggie’s back. It happened to him every time he did something like this. Something he wasn’t supposed to. His parents would be pissed if they found out he was doing this, of course. He was excited, adrenaline beating through his heart and temples. He hopped a chain fence and walked across the next yard, his eyes catching a ball that he kicked softly across the yard. Reggie didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up, he just knew that he liked some strange things—or at least his friends and the kids at school thought so. His 4th grade teacher, when going around the class and guessing the career of students, skipped over Reggie.

“Hey! What about me?” Reggie shook his hand in protest.

“Oh, I don’t know!” Mrs. Farmings snapped back. She continued, as Reggie proceeded to laugh.

Reggie walked to the next yard, peaked over, and didn’t notice a woman getting out of her car as he was one leg over her fence.

“HEY!” She yelled from her car, closing the door with her hip.

Reggie zoomed through her beautifully trimmed yard, a sun-bathing chair in the middle of summer-green grass, and out of sight—her yelling wasn’t enough to stop Reggie.

As he jumped a waist high white picket into the next yard, Reggie’s eyes focused on a man almost directly in front of him, leaned over, pruning his garden. He was in shorts, shirt, sandals, and socks—his bent over butt to Reggie. As soon as he landed, hard, he knew it was game over. The guy turned around, gave one look at Reggie, and yelled “Who the hell are you?” Reggie froze; a deer-in-the-headlights. He looked directly at the man, yelling at him and shaking his pruners. Reggie couldn’t hear a thing he was saying, he was far off somewhere else, a rush flowing to his brain and numbing his fingers and toes. He snapped back to himself in time to realize the man had made his way towards Reggie and was about to grab his arm. “I said get the HELL off my property!” Before being snatched, Reggie raced out of the backyard, through the open gate, past the driveway, and into the street. He kept going, up Hickory Street, and down Autumn Ave until he reached a balding forest near the baseball fields.

“Damn.” Reggie thought to himself.

“5.” Not his best run. Reggie’d made it completely up the street once, but it gets tough towards the top of the block: lots of vines, heavy bushes, a face-high wooden fence, and prickly trees. It was 8 back yards before coming to the first natural danger. That wasn’t fun for Reggie, that sucked—and hurt. He’d get caught one-hundred times before going through those prickly bushes again—although this was the first time Reggie’d been caught.

Reggie laughed, the same laugh he met Mrs. Farmings strange comment with. “That was AWESOME!” Reggie thought to himself, his heart still racing, out of breath, sweat rolling down from under a ball cap. Reggie smushed his face into his t-shirt and rubbed the sweat off.

“Oh, mmaannn.” He longed for his Capri-Sun, back on the curb at the start of his adventure. It’d be warm and gross, part gel from boiling in the sun.

“I gotta get it.” Reggie paced a few times, breathing in-and-out hurriedly, trying to speed up his cool down. After a few moments, Reggie was fast off, back up Autumn, thinking about which route he’d take to get there. He stopped half-way up the street, turned around, and ran back and past the fields, further down Autumn. He’d just been through the backyards, so Reggie decided the best route was through the collapsed building rubble and foundation behind the baseball fields. A big tree fell onto a still-standing chunk of brick wall, and low hanging branches made it a cool place to play. Reggie ran down Autumn St., making a sharp turn into the woods, out of sight, and well on his next adventure.