Today We Leave The City

Pigeons pecking at the curb, ivy scrambling up the wall.  Architecture of the bag lady sipping black coffee from a paper cup in the bus station.

The horizon blushes, rubs rouge on its cheeks.  We move past the graffiti, the dumpsters, we move through the oil, ash, brick, concrete, steel, glass, gravity, recollection, sweat, urine.  Circle-moving every time, every time circle-moving in our own footsteps, wallets, alarm clocks, heads.

Soup-ah, soup-ah, the Bosnian man says forcefully.  You eat, stay strong, no sick.  Soup-ah, soup-ah, you eat.

Fire and water are in us, scorching, cooling.  Ascending the round red brick tower it comes to mind, up the winding stair above the dead sticky air – up, up! where a breeze pulls through, high above the gay men with quick pulses in the bushes, where the rough edges of our thoughts are polished again, where we can see outside the circles in which we move, where we are for a moment transformed into sell-swords, sentinels, keepers of the red dawn, before descending again into age, oil, rouge, architecture.

Today we leave the city, leave it to steam beneath ginger-root rain.  The garbage, needles, parks, people, cafes and lights we leave to someone else.

We leave the corporations and the non-profits, the park benches and office cubicles, the steel cranes and culture, the breakfast sandwiches and nightclubs, the somebodies and the nobodies, the squealing tires and horns and gunshots, the sirens and cigarettes, the broken and the unbreakable, the low-hanging boughs of a half-million lives swaying forward and backward in the wind of the carnival storm.

It will continue as if we were never here.  People will drag themselves along, glide, float, swear they’re being aided by unseen hands, long with all their verve for exotic lands.

A union of chance and decision brought us to the city, and now sweeps us back out, wayward, to another sphere.  Into the midst of magnetic silence, we push on.


The Parting

Pittsburgh had given Troy an edge, but he managed to stay pretty calm.  He kept an agreeable conversational way about him, yet cut right through the bullshit, told it like it was, and with an unwavering intellect.  That was the first thing I loved about him, and it would be followed by many more.  Pausing often to roll a smoke, we had chess games for hours, days, weeks, at the local coffeehouse where our names were known.  Judging by our expressions, no one could have guessed we were actually enjoying ourselves.

Christian would come and go, handsome Christian from Chicago in his self-imposed purgatory over all the girls he’d slept with.  Confident, exuberant Christian, with his overalls and guitar and philosophy books – a modern-day Dean Moriarty living in a bus in an old hippie’s back yard.

The three of us were there at the bar, the night before I split town, with the smell of fried calamari and nachos and pints of stiff beer.  We drank late, and were high and boisterous. We all loved each other but never said anything about it – a commonly avoided social transaction among men.

Parting ways out in the empty rain-dampened streets of our small Oregon town, I said I’d be in touch, my drunken voice raised.  “You’re a beast for saying that,” they yelled back.  They were older, wiser, and perhaps knew me better than I knew myself at the time.  Christ, they were glorious friends.