Walking home from a friend's house
The familiar song playing from the bar down the street. The lights of the bridge lit on a trellis like Christmas-lights as you turn and walk south. The new cement on the sidewalk that covers the cracks. The warehouse with new glassed-in windows, the windchimes in the fire escape, and lamps on the interior of a curtainless studio, with walls painted aqua-blue and with the patterns of goldfish stenciled over a sleeping sofa. The chain-linked fence covering an abandoned lot, with steel bleached rusty aluminum gold with years of disuse, and the new-painted posters announcing Chase Bank yet to come. The steps of your feet on the pavement. The humidity rising over the lights of the bridge, turning its Christmas trellis into a muted and amber sketch of incandescence, like in a long exposure of traffic on a city street.
The sound of your footsteps on the pavement and your breath echoed back, reflected upon the sheer wall of humidity. The shuttered garage doors, one time steel, one time had a graffiti tag about your hometown, now painted burnt orange, a new graffiti tag: Waitz Till Spring. The traffic at the intersection at the same place in memory you have stopped many times before, with many different thoughts, and always for the same reason: the light being red. The church you've never been in for Sunday mass. The apartment a friend once lived in and called from the windows, late at night, when she saw you passing by. The parking lot where in summers years ago the slots were empty and kids from the neighborhood played pennies. The twenty-four-hour tattoo parlor still beckoning (for the lonely, hapless, or drunk). The sound of leaves rustling in the park across the street, the silence in the second between the leaves drifting and the sound of raindrops hitting the pavement.
Your breath as you suck it in and hold it tight, the split darkness of light before it flashes green, your footsteps as they dash across the pavement, and dodge the traffic coming east from the city. The conversation from passing-by strangers that explodes and erodes as it follows the wind-trail past your dash towards the lights of the subway station just across the street. Till you run, and run the corners, and run again, twice again, as familiar scaffolding and unfamiliar buildings all blend into a long panorama of one moment in a second of time, or rather until your legs ache and defeated, you climb down the stairs to the subway turnstile. Wring out the water from your hair.
The metro station, the crawl past sleeping men on benches, to the end of the platform. The water glittering in the puddles on the tracks in two identically-shaped, different-colored streaks of light; one blue and one golden. One from the blue safety lights parallel and one from the flickering yellow lights meters down. In a certain silence, when nothing reminds you to listen, or breathe, or wait, the importance of objects interrupts your line of vision; a cement pillar will focus into being as the tracks behind it blur out of aperture; the blue light from a bulb becomes the only light. The reflections in the tracks, two parallel beams, shake and then waver as a sound suspends, the steady shiver of something thrumming the tracks, the reflections scratched by crosshairs of moving water, until the train arrives.
Silence. A man in the subway car stands up to beat the windows as a friend is running down the platform to join him, just as the doors slip closed. A woman nods to sleep in the seat across from you, clutching and kneading a folded set of mittens. Beside you, a girl sighs, and the man holding her scratches the top of her head, beneath her ears, the sides of her temples.
Silence. Then the whine of the turnstile, the rain pouring up above, down the stairs, the beat like a tinnitus, the blue overhead, false lights from the parking garage across the street and the construction site down the road. Illuminating all the familiar objects from behind, so that they become like silhouettes. As if they are fantasies you had planned that now feel like a daydream or lifetimes already lived. The duration of silence between drops hitting pavement. The feel of the water like ice on the back of your neck as you pull up your collar and blink against rainwater and run home.
words: Lori Fredrickson, New York (lorifredrickson.com)
image: Brigita Pavsic, Slovenia (soul flowers)
another way back home: The Subway (#17)