I close the front door behind me and scan the other side of the street, either checking for acquaintances or to situate myself in the city. I glance up and see that the sky is upside down again. At least it’s staying in one place. Don’t take a picture. Some things are just for you.
My right hand slips into its coat pocket to search for a lighter that isn’t there. It’s getting colder, as it does around this time of the year. The hill I’m on is steep, so I let the slope be my guide. I catch my footing in time to snap out of it. The red light at the bottom of the road refuses to change, and so the crow waits as I make my way towards it.
All messed up with nowhere to go. There’s always somewhere to go. I remove a single cigarette from my coat pocket and light it out of overwhelmingly immediate boredom. The smoke rises without me. Six empty beer bottles stand at attention, in a row on the sidewalk, deliberately placed for a game that hasn’t been played. One by one my right foot knocks them all over, destroying a world that never stood a chance. I only want to play god. I smile to no one, and the avenue of trees smiles back. To the left is darkness, with uncertain buildings of daytime institutions, and so I steer right. The street light fades, again and again.
A woman on a second floor patio is complaining about her boyfriend, her acute pitch leading me to an involuntary shudder. I stop and listen. Shut up for a minute. Let me get swallowed by my own city. The door closes behind her. An older woman, wearing a dress she’d like to believe she threw on at the last minute because she’s not like the other ones, walks past me and excuses herself. I wish she would tell me to get my ass out of her way so I’d at least have an origin for her narrative. I’m drawn down, counting the bottle caps on the ground. There are none. I bounce my head along with what I guess are seconds, trying to predict when the round light gives up on being green to distract you with a steady amber for what might as well be forever.
Two more girls coming toward me on the sidewalk are having the kind of fun I used to have. The taller one notices my eyes lingering too long, and suddenly I exist as more than just a fly on her wall. She puts on a serious face and walks directly up to where I stand, screaming loudly in an attempt to startle me. It worked, but only barely because of my recurrent lag. Startle me awake next time. The girls run away in an echo of unskilled laughter, and I accept my role as a prop in a story she might never tell. A character actor in my own life. It’s all a little too random, the way it should be. And to think, this all sprang from inertia.
A phantom ship is bobbing next to a dock out of the corner of my eye. I walk towards it. It is water. I’ve already figured that out, but it’s easy to lose the memento. Years earlier I was outside a docked boat with a stage inside, playing hacky sack with my favourite band and trying to play it cool. The opening act’s German drummer apologized for World War II, then said he was sorry again and again. I never considered he might have anything to do with it until the fourth apology.
Taking the tangled headphones out of my inside pocket, I plug them into my phone and press play on a song I’ve heard in many states before, using it to stabilize. You could guess who I’m listening to. No missed calls. The music moves me forward before being cut short by an empty battery I should be thankful for.
Across the street a man is staring me down, although he doesn’t mean to. The world’s about as fuzzy as you want it to be. I squint to see him swaying like a tall building in an earthquake. A half cigarette he found on the sidewalk hangs loosely from his mouth, his head hung low like he’s hiding from someone. But nobody even knows who he is. He used to like that. But there’s a point in most when you tire of the one-off interactions, meaningless exchanges that at best invoke laughter, at worst nothing. He will remain in place there until something happens. He’s not looking for a fight but he won’t be the one backing down.
I follow a shortcut that takes just as long through a church parking lot. The dying arms of the aging clock at the top of the steeple are noticeably exhausted, inviting chaos and dilating time. The madness starts at the top. The pale yellow beacon hides behind itself and I continue on. The sun is out on the other side of the world, but in my mind a reflection remains. The sky smokes cinnamon, but the night refuses to join. A thousand feet ahead is unrecognizable, so I stop here. This night’s not what I need it to be. I find myself creeping down the road, no end in sight, finding faces in a row of tall maple trees. The advancing army of clouds approaching from the east means nothing to me, if it’s supposed to. I follow the clashing sounds of booming music and important dialogue. Only a single door entices me, and I’m not surprised which one.
[Editor’s note: The above is Part 2 of 3, of 5. Part 1 can be found yesterday.]