Monday, March 3, 2008

parallel nightlife

It is a beautiful night out. The air is still and warm, despite the still-thick layer of snow upon the ground. I walk outside, breathe in, breathe out. Fill my lungs with the wanderlust that permeates the air around me. I suddenly want to walk, and keep walking, wherever my legs take me. I start with the gas station, down at the end of the quaint single lit street of this quaint little town, where all the stores have already closed, and the earth is saturated in pale orange fluorescence. To the 24 hour gas station where there might still be some kind of sustenance to purchase.

My heart begins quickening its beat as the blue and grey self-serve pumps come into view, beyond the flashing walk signal. Push through the glass doors of the store, and I don't register anything is wrong until it is too late. The moment of my realization is, ironically, when my heartbeat stops for a vital second. Because after the gunshot reverberates through the store, echoing off the cement, after the acrid, gritty smell of gunpowder mixes with the petroleum and fills my nose and tongue, after I can taste the blood in my mouth and realize I must be on the ground, because all I can see is the stained tile ceiling, ear to the ground listening to the thud-thud-thud of too-loud footsteps; then my heart is straining every beat, working overtime to compensate for the sudden wound and loss of pressure; pumping madly to compensate, and losing the battle.

My vision blurs, and the ceiling tiles above me double, receding and swaying sickly, and I turn my head, trying to make sense of the suddenly tilting universe. I close my eyes, and there is a flash of imagery behind my eyelids: of a dark, hooded figure, gun in his hand; eyes that could not have been older than an adolescent's staring out of the hooded shadows; bright fluorescent lights drawing lines across the ceiling; a dark lonely figure running out onto the street, receding past a swinging glass door.


"Let's go for a walk." We are sitting close but not quite touching when I say this. It is a catalyst.

You glance at me, uncertain. At this hour? It's almost 11. Where?

"I just want to go somewhere. To the bridge; let's walk to the bridge." Again, the uncertainty in your eyes. Before you can breathe out the question, I answer, smiling

"Don't worry. I'm not going to jump."

Now your eyes are clouded with...what? Surprise? Confusion? Worry? Your mouth forms its words carefully.

You shouldn't joke about that.

I shake my head. "I wasn't." And when you don't say anything more, I swing my legs, stand up, stretch, and look back at you. "Alright, let's go!"

The night is refreshingly warm, a crisp humid warmth that seems to form a blanket around me. I fill my lungs with as much of it as I can, and cannot take it all in. We are walking side by side, stepping in unison, skirting puddles on the soggy sidewalk that goes downhill, towards the river. The street is mostly in shadow, and better for it. The trees are darker here, safer. More personal.

I take your hand as we step onto the bridge. It is much brighter here, lit by symmetric street lamps, and I suddenly feel more vulnerable. We stop near the middle of the bridge, look out into the darkness beyond.
The landscape is a shifting of blues and greys and not-quite-blacks. I step forward, excited by what I see. I feel the physical space of you staying back, alert and wary. I feel that tension rise as I grip the railing, swing my body forward, relishing the vertigo along my senses and the heady rush in my brain.

I know what you must look like, if I were to turn my head back. Body tensed, watching my center of gravity waver over the fulcrum of the railing. Arms half raised, half-reaching out. I lean back from the precipice, to calm your fears. I know you worry; why then do I purposely do this? If not for the pure rush of endorphins.

I turn, step into your outstretch arms, suddenly tired. We stand together like this, listening to the whisper of the water below our feet sounding larger than the world, than anything I can comprehend. Finally you lift your head, and mine, your arm heavy around my shoulder.

Let's go home.


Some, all, or none of the above may be true.

I may or may not have been dreaming.

Fact: it is a beautiful night.

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