Where We Stand

Where We Stand

“I’ll always be above this line.

Here, the water is drenched in some kind of rust but,”

maybe it’ll be treated and if treated I won’t have to say

that being here drains me, but I can live here, and I can taste the water here.

Here, I’ll know where you’ll be, and you’ll always know

the sun bleeds orange onto the pavement. And

splotches of paint, end up where leaves gather on manholes, where

It’s just, sometimes, always, empty, by my side, but that’s okay since

I’ll always be above this line.


Below this line, is where I’ll be.

Here. And I know that

I can see shades of orange, bleeding into the pavement;

loose splotches of paint from the bulbs, coming together,

the stars, the moon,

Every step echoes in a crunch as leaves break. It all molds,

My eyes shut tightly to let it all find me, a soft ebb and flow.

Then I stop. The streetlights flicker, and it leaves an afterimage.

It’s empty. I can almost see you.

I stretch my arms to find you, but when I open my eyes.

Nothing.

And then I remember, where you are and I’ll say,

“Below this line, is where I’ll be.”

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Hiding From a Monster

Hiding From a Monster

Pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter

TAP. TAP. TAP. TAP. TAP.

Lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub

Vzzzzzt vzzzzzt

Crash, BOOM…

Shhhhhhhhhh

Shhhhhhhhhh

Shhhhhhhhhh

Sh – pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter…

KRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..Shhhhhhh

Lub-dublub-dublub-dublub-dublub-dub

….

Phew.

 

Tell Me When It Rains

Tell Me When It Rains

And if you do I’ll bring an umbrella.

And if you do I’ll drift my hands over the balcony, letting it drip onto my fingers.

And if you do I’ll make sure to open my windows and let the humidity linger, my plants soaking, no longer lounging in its hunger.

And if you do I’ll know when to throw up my wind chimes, singing with the rain, a ballet for a storm, ringing with a short shingle, dancing with the small drips that find its way onto the fading iron.

And if you do I’ll know when to watch for errant bolts of lightning that may cause forest fires or damage to property, living or not, and listen for the thunder, shaking my pulse pulling my blood blaring rumbles across my chest chaining my legs letting it all freeze.

And if you do I’ll make sure to have my blinds closed so that only the small glimmers of the droplets find their way as I listen to the pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter.

And if you do I’ll drift through my sleep, the soft songs luring its way into my weighted eyes.

And if you do I’ll bring an umbrella.

 


I like the rain, and the snow. The feelings that emerge from it, the stillness, the way things seem to change despite nothing really changing. So here, I wanted to do a little bit of an endeavor, a little bit of play on structure, and also to express some motions about rain. Just something short, and sweet, I think.

6 Word Story Practice

One night I had an urge to practice my short form, and how to get the most meaning in as few words as possible. These are the results. 

On a hill, warm, without you.

Today, tomorrow, yesterday, you and I.

Your hands are soft, let go.

Without you, I fly, then, fall.

With you, I fall, then fall.

Count with me: one, two, three.

You told me, “I love you.”

So I told you “not anymore”

The snow burns through my skin.

On the streets, the sewers snake.

At the station, warning, another knife.

Today the rain falls, yesterday too.

Tomorrow the sun rises, me too.

Tomorrow is unknown, so is today.

Dancing leaves sing with the storm.

I cannot, I know; your words.

There she is, glowing, incredible, mine.

Clear skies, dry bodies, drug money.

Clear skies, cicadas die, without warning.

I lost you, I found me.

Together with you, an endless haze.

The sun shines for no one.

Chained to myself, without a key.

Learning how to breathe, I fail.

I smile, I live, not enough.

Perfect score again, no substance, again.

She smiles my way, behind me.

Flowers bloom in the sun, radiating.

For us, I wait in rain.

Bladed against my fingers it stings.

Rusted blades singe my tongue, ow.

Bullets rain the sky, our creation.

 

In The Ground Where We Lay

In The Ground Where We Lay

None of us can say otherwise that the time we spent together was a lie….Or at least, that’s what I told myself. To fly back to where we all congregated under an open sky was…not something everyone could afford; reasonable, understandable. But…empty. It makes being the only one who stayed behind, just that, the only one who stayed behind.

Our old elementary school was shut down due to lack of attendance. And by association: population. Not many people chose to have children in this area, stained by miles of old homes, with unkempt yards and glaring stares. Every once in a while a car would slowly trudge by the streets, kicking up loose stones. They were there to keep an eye on us. On those small cliques that roamed the streets with echoing laughs. On those men in suits who were just a tad bit too wary. And on those that were just there to live. Finding my way around them was just another day.

Except, on that day in my hands was a sheet creased with the years it was tucked away in my room. Fluttering away sheets of bills and loose clothes led me to find the envelope it was sealed in. Handled by neglect, I opened the letter to find our childhood sprawled on a map.

From my house to the school, it was a few streets away. Enough time to let the sun glare off of the broken glass. Enough time to let the sun fill the space between alleys (to wake those who didn’t know better). Enough time to see that my phone was shaking with a call from a place beyond the sky.

“I didn’t think you would pick up, Tristan. It’s been…a long time, hasn’t it?” Her voice spilled into my ears with a slight reverberation.

“It’s been a long time for everyone, Lili.” Her name slowed my steps. A few bodies came down the streets with loose eyes. Ignoring them, I held the map in one hand, watching as it flapped with the chill winds. In the distance, I heard the laughs of those hanging by the remaining corner shops. Turning into the streets, those laughs flooded over my face.

“So you really are going to go back there? Knowing it’s still there might be nice but…that was a long time ago.” Her words were light as they filled my mind. Light syllables. Light breaths. Light filled the empty corner stores. They always did.  Even as children, running by those shelves of candy and snacks made those lights warm. It was a pointless pastime. But it was our time.

“I’ve made my decision. This is what I want to do. And I’m going to do it, no matter what.”

I listened to her light breath.

“No one’s asked you to. And, no one particularly wants you to. But you’ll do it anyway. I guess that’s just who you are in the end, right?” Her words stung me. Stuck in the middle of the street, I listened as she gave a small chuckle.  A couple came walking down the street, an oddity. But they smiled and laughed, glaring past me.

“That might be so. But, it’s also who you are to call like this. No surprise there. That’s just who you are in the end.” The gates to the school blew into view. They were rusted, peels of brown beginning to fall towards the clawing grass.

“In the end we haven’t changed at all.” I smiled at her words.  Bracing my feet, I steeled myself for a climb, tracing my skin to the rough edges of the iron. Scraping against my hands, I felt small taps litter my palms. Taking in a waft of the material brought my mind out of it until I flipped to the other side.

The building was left all the same; worn bricks and dusted windows faced me as the flag waved gently in its faded pole. The double doors leading to the main entrance had its paint chipped, revealing a soft grey under its blue. Nudging its handles produced a large clash. Trying anymore only puffed up more dust. Leaning towards the glass panels I squinted for a peek but found nothing. Pressing my ears towards the doors I heard a few creaks, and skitters. Must have been rats; the new students. Checking the map, I doubled around the entrance, to where the yard was used for recess.

“Do you still remember what we left in there?” I hummed at her words; five children running around town as if the world revolved around our laughs, our smiles, or our games….It was incredibly, well, childish. Those laughs, and those smiles, and those games still lingered, in those who hung in the streets, in the alleys, and in the empty stores.

“Not in the slightest,” I lied.

“I see. Well, I hope whatever it is that we did leave, makes for a wonderful reunion.”

The yard sprouted an array of dandelions overtaking: the swings, the sandbox, and the slides. In a single gust, puffs of white all swayed as if they were there to fill the missing time. Beyond this was a tiny space where the school used to keep a garden tucked away for study. Drawing the cycle of life as we grew with those flowers and trees made for…something none of us could forget, or at least that’s what I told myself.

“You must be at the garden now. It was in part an excuse to have us experience life as it was to be greener.” She gave a small chuckle. “But it was nice.”

“It really was. Do you think, those drawings might have found their way in?”

“Maybe they did. Would you be happy if they did?”

I turned her words over and forced my feet to move forward.

“I’m not sure,” I lied. The garden itself was a tidy guardian, with towering trees holding lumbering leaves and brandishing branches. Wild flowers and even small animals made their homes here. A tear in the fence might have let them in, an admission to study. The school had always taken up far too much space for its good. But it was our place, our home, when the morning came, and our time, crawling through it all.

“What do you want to be in that time capsule?” I couldn’t help but laugh with her question. In the distance, I could hear the slight drift of a car.

“Maybe a picture would be nice. A picture of our smiles or even just how it used to be before. Maybe a picture of the school, of the streets, anything of that time.” Pushing away gnawing branches and watching my steps, I listened to the small of her breath.

“If there was a picture, would you share it with the others? I’m sure it would make for a nice moment.”

“Yeah. Yeah, if there was a picture, then I think it’d be nice for all of us to see it again,” I lied.

“Do you think we’ve grown up since then?”

I laughed.

“Of course. That’s just how things are. If we’re the same then things would be –” The words that tried to complete my sentence spilled itself to the floor, lumping with the dirt. “Horrible.” Another lie.

With the overgrowth, the map quickly became minute. Just winding paths and sprouting bushes greeted my every step. However, there should have been a clearing in all of that mess. A place where we came together to bury what I came to find. It had always been like that, parted away from the flowers we studied, and even the teachers never stepped foot in that circle.

“What about you Lili? What do you want in a time capsule?”

“Candy.” Her declaration stung my body, though not enough to hold it in place. I held in my laughter.

“I see. Yeah, that might be nice.”

The vegetation began to thin. My body slowed, catching itself in the strutting rocks. I held onto a tree for support, before my legs began tapping. It was close. Edging on further I met with the sun, filtering through the leaves. Even further, the leaves stopped, and the sun met my eyes. A circle stained only by grass presented itself. Near the edges of the clearing, small petals gathered. None made it to the center, but they all grasped with every breath of wind that came. Breaking into that sunlight, I stepped over the petals.

“What do you think the others would have wished for in our time capsule?”

My body ached the more I moved forward. Holding my sweat, I gave a light breath. Landing at the center of the clearing made my arms shake. Leaning over, I let my arms rest over the soil, until they began to dig, the motions finding themselves.

“The others? Maybe…money? Though would we really have had that kind of foresight?”

She gave a slight laugh.

“In that case, maybe a favorite book?”  Every handful came with hardened breaths. The only rest I had was in my words. “I’m not sure any of us were big readers. But maybe a picture book. Though the box wasn’t that big I think. As children, did we really have anything to treasure? Maybe it really is just candy.” Soon enough my hands became numb. Thinking about the sensation halted my body.

“I think you might be right about that. But, would you really think we went through all that effort just to stow away some candy? We must have been an ambitious group then.” Repeating her words let my hands continue.

“Ambitious?”

“How would you describe us? After all these years…I wonder what you would say.”

Soon enough, a hard clank stopped my digging. Rooting it out, I was thrown back. Stained in dirt and glimmering lightly underneath its veil, I laughed.

“We were really great friends back then, at least. And now?” I let my eyes rest on the fading metal. “I’m not sure.” Another lie. We didn’t keep a key. But my hands shook as they held onto its top. An airplane above shattered the air as I closed my eyes.

“How would you describe us? With someone like me, I’m not sure my answer would be very viable.” Striding over its top, I let the rust singe my skin.

“Do you really want to know?” Trying to answer her made my words scramble across my mouth. The only thing I could do was trace the metal box, tracing the path our young fingers must have took to bring it underground. Tracing the words we must have said as we buried it together. Tracing the laughs we had…the laughs we must have had.

“I don’t.” Letting my fingers over the cover, I lifted our capsule open. She laughed.

“You’ve finally become honest.”

I strode my hand against its empty bottom.

Lilith was gone.

So was everyone else.

I stayed.

Though, surely the time we spent together had happened, and the smiles and the laughs and the games and the warmth of the light we let each other have surely had to have happened.

 

Nameless

Nameless

Clarus, or Clara, or Claris found her phone buzzing far too much for an afternoon at the office. The weight of her eyes drowned until her head found itself on the glass end of the screen. A slight bang resounded, and the glow followed to goad her awake. She widened her eyes and grabbed her phone. Mother was calling again. Wouldn’t be the first nor the last.

Sweeping her phone away, a notification fluttered onto her computer screen. It was blinking red, peering itself away from the faint glow of the office. Casey told her to pack up for the day, but that meant going home. That meant seeing her mother, who barricaded herself in her home for her birthday. Clicking on the notification prompted another screen to flash its way into view.

“That one’s got some luck.” Casey peered over her shoulders, hair falling onto her eyes.

“I thought you were gone. Like two hours ago.”

Casey chuckled, placing a cup of coffee onto an opening between piles of papers filled with names – her own sat nicely against her lips. Her darkened hair swung in the night, blending itself at the corner of her eyes. Blinking lights beamed in through the windows. She watched as they tried to fill the office.

“You giving him a name?” Casey asked. “Technically you don’t have to. Technically no one knows you’re on the job. And technically you would be putting the company under a lot of legal scrutiny.”

“And technically you shouldn’t be here when you went up and told me you were going home for the night. But I guess we’re both bad at technicalities.”

“But you are giving him a name, right?” Casey’s eyes locked on the window that hovered on her screen. A smile appeared on her face as she drew on every bit of information that was given by the hospital – a hiker found him.

Clarus, or Clara, or Claris let out a breath at Casey’s eyes. She looked out of the window, watching as the cars streamed by. Her phone was shaking again. Casey leaned onto the window, her coffee’s steam losing itself in the low light of the office. She took a sip, watching the back of her head as it leaned into her chair.

In an hour the hospital who found him would stop sending information. It was up to her to give them a name. They worked on commission; every ten names gave them a cup of coffee, maybe more if their manager wasn’t high out back. “Naming centers” were one of very few places in the city that had its particular role. Though it wasn’t a position anyone wanted to be lucrative. It was just giving names.

“Why did you decide to stay, Clara?” Casey turned her eyes to Clara, who stared at the steam.  The streets stopped for a moment. She tapped her foot to every second the red lights were on.

“No reason really, I just wanted to.” Casey shifted her eyes to Clara’s words. She let her feet take every pulse of her body, standing against the window. Placing the cup down, she traced the rim with her finger. Slowly, the steam enveloped her skin.

“I mean at this job, giving names. I’ve been here much longer than you have and I’ve told you my reason. But from these few years, you’ve never given me one.”

Clara traced the cap of the cup Casey left for her, letting her fingers burn, reciting the document in front of her: male, stable condition, wrapped in a blanket. She held onto those words, finding the image of her own blanket warm against the short breezes that seeped in. Clara kept the blanket her mother found her in, cleaning it along with the rest of her clothes. On slow nights she held the blanket close to her as she watched the sky, shades of moonlight peering into her eyes.

“Clara?” Casey watched as Clara’s eyes beamed across the page. She gave a light smile lifting her cup, and sipped as the streets ran with the grain of the shooting stars. She could feel her weight push into the glass the more Clara ran the information in her head: well-nourished, a few months, home birth. If the hiker hadn’t found the child, he would’ve died to the cold. Though it seemed from the time he was abandoned the hiker was already walking the path of being a founder.

Clara shifted her eyes as that word rang in her head. Founder. The hospital used that term for those who turned in nameless children. If they had signed documents to adopt, they would update the sheet to mother or father. If not, in a year or two they would be sent to an orphanage. But at least then they would have a name. Clara hovered over that section. Her mother was waiting. She knew. Give another hour into midnight and she would drive down and drag her out. Of course she would.

“And in the two years we’ve been working together you always space out like that.” Casey stared at her cup, watching the loose steam. She picked up a sheet, reading the printed names of found children that Clara didn’t hand in to be commissioned. Their time of completion was after ten; the end of their shift, the closure of business.

“I could do anything to you, and you wouldn’t notice.” Casey traced her hand over Clara’s hair, brushing every strand between her fingers. Clara continued; length of eyes, color of eyes, shape of eyes. And in some instances extra information can be requested.

“Though I guess being noticed is just something I have to work on.” Casey brought her hand out of her hair. Clara’s phone was still vibrating. Casey finished her cup, and tossed it into the bin, pumping her fist when it entered. “Haven’t scored in two weeks! No wonder they kicked me out of the team in high school.”

Clara’s hand moved to the mouse, beaming over the button to request more information. Every sheet scattered across her desk was printed with an appendix regarding eyes. Casey watched her hands shake. Her hand raced to the keyboard. The streets and the quiet hum of the computer melded in Casey’s mind. She closed her eyes, focusing on the way Clara’s breath pulsed when she concentrated. In the next instance, she opened to Clara reading new messages. Once Clara had read the information thrice over, she slouched on her chair, looking at the time. Her feet tapped with every minute.

“What are your options?” Casey asked.

“Alon. Oliver. Perry.”

Casey mulled the names over in her head. She peered over her shoulder, reading the information again, skipping over the details about the eyes.

“They all deal with trees?” Casey brought her back against the glass. Clara let the silence drag until Casey chuckled. “You’re always particular about your names, huh. That’s just how you are. They’re all wonderful names.”

“It’s reassuring to have your approval.”

Casey hid her smile, watching as Clara typed her choices in a notepad.

“Have you ever told me what your name meant?” Casey watched as Clara’s phone rang again.

“You’ve never asked.”

“Which is why I’m asking now.”

Casey couldn’t help but continue smiling as Clara tapped her cheeks while whispering every name. She let the words roll off her tongue, changed the way vowels left her mouth, and counted syllables.

“Clarus.” Clara took in a breath. “Not ‘is’ but ‘us’ though I make everyone call me Clara since it sounds –”

“More appropriate?”

Clara nodded.

“Though wouldn’t Claris been fine as well?”

“It sounds…Too pretty.”

Clara flipped over one of the loose sheets and rummaged in her desk for a mechanical pencil. Once found, she began scribbling the names. She wrote: quickly, then slowly, then in cursive, then in blocks, then back in cursive, then freehand. Every stroke left a letter in her mouth. And when the name was finished, she trilled them in a hum: then in a song, then as a greeting, then as a goodbye.

“I think Clara is a pretty name.” Casey’s words flew over Clara’s ears. Her phone was raging. She picked up, watching the glow of the screen. Her breath broke out in waves. No. Not yet. The glowing stopped as the call stopped. Clara placed her phone down. Back to writing. Casey fingered through more loose sheets, reading about every found child who was granted a name by a woman who didn’t garner credit. Those names all fell out of her mouth like clear water. Without thinking, she let ‘Clarus’ slip out. Clara’s hand slipped for a moment.

“What do you think?” Clara asked.

“Like I said, I’m sure any name you –”

“About my name. My real name.” The air stilted, and the soft pulses of her breath emerged. Casey tried to find her eyes, but Clara was locked onto the names in front of her.

“What does it mean?”

Clara found her documents by accident. Strewn across the page, Clarus rung in her mind; that was the same day she decided she wanted to give names to other children. She’d never gone home since.

“Bright. Clear. Illustrious.”

Casey gave a small hum to those words. She smiled.

“That’s a good name. It’s a wonderful name.”

“Thank you.”

Casey lowered her head to Clara’s shoulder, letting her warmth exude over her as she continued writing. When she was done, she typed in the name she had decided, “Oliver”, and sent it back to the hospital.

“Do you think he’ll like it?” Clara asked.

“I’m sure with a name like that, he’ll have many friends, and he’ll find a good family. No one will know about where he came from, with a wonderful name like that.”

“I hope so.”

Clara leaned back into her chair, watching as the screen in front of her blinked lightly. She turned to the window, a stream of moonlight being interrupted by the short glow of her screen. Clara yawned for the first time that night. Even with her mother clawing at the back of her mind, she let it all drown with her eyes, listening to Casey’s tiny breaths, rewinding the way she called her Clarus.

 

A City In The Clouds

A City In The Clouds

We lived in a city in the clouds. In the same way that birds flutter and make
their nests in a sky where no humans can hope to see; this was a place where only some can breathe. Migration or desperation, people stormed to this city in droves. Money flowed from one pocket to another, and the blood of the city became entrenched in… No. None of it was true. We were just trying to live. In the same way that I could walk down the streets and see the same panhandlers, and the same students. Students who go downtown are brave. Either that or goddamn rich.

Walking past all of it I only had one place in mind. It was neither here nor there (just some place in the city where things seemed to stop). In the migrant trains or the bustle of coffee stained shoes, breathing was a sport. I fiddled my dirt riddled pockets, chugging change between my fingers. Enough for a ride on the streetcars or a small meal at the bakery, it was all a beggar’s wish. Except, I didn’t beg for my coins.

Blaring in my ears, the horns of cars and the rush of feet along with distant cries of… Exams. Exams were up. It was that time again. Just like always. I began humming. No tune in particular. Letting it all sink into my mind. My feet began to float. My arms drooped like hanging clouds. Everyone was rushing, pushing me back to where I came. But I kept forward. There was some place I needed to be. I had to get there. And it had to exist. Or else…Or else I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

If being on the streets taught me anything, it’d have to be – my phone was shaking. It was shaking for the entirety of the morning. Humming my silent tune allowed it to disperse in the winds. It would be lost in the veins of the city…At least, on any other day it would have. But that day my hands reached over, and before I could finish my song I was already engulfed with a call from my little sister.

“What is it?” My voice cut into my ears as much as it did the phone. I swallowed a lump. Was it really my voice? Hadn’t spoken in a while, but still, it was harrowing.

“Brother, you have not been home in such a long time that our parents are worried for you. I am with them now, and they wish to speak to you. Do you mind?” Her words were gentle, landing in my ears like the soft touch of rain. Concise, every breath created a well versed syllable. Was this really my sister? I tried to run her name in my head but drew blanks.

At the intersection cars ran by, flooding my phone. I smiled, listening to her breath, letting her hear the city in the clouds. When the lights flashed on, I noticed a bike. Further and further, and I would be on the highway.

“If they really wanted to hear me, they’d call themselves. That’s their job, isn’t it?”

My sister sighed. She had…Long hair? No, she must have cut it by then. Always nagging. To me no less. Always used to be there. Beginning on the next sidewalk, I looked over to see a row of shops lining the streets. One last stretch, one last hook before the clouds were gone. And then, my humming would turn into a nice little song. Inspired by…Nothing much. That’s just how things were.

“Brother. Please. They are worried for you. We…Are worried for you,” she said. Her ‘we’ was soft; drifting off of her mouth as if the word had only found itself in her sentence. I stopped at one of the largest fast food chains in the world. Its windows glistened, the printed letters more bright than stones on the street. Staring at those lining up for a quick meal swept away the city’s pulse. And then, it was just the quiet sun, the hanging clouds, and rolling wheels.

“Where are you? You must come home. They do not mean to intrude in your life anymore. They just want to see you. Please, brother,” she said. Every word came with its own weight. Anymore and it would outdo her own…That kind of weight was unwanted (she should know, not that it mattered to me, just our parents, and their own…Way of making her their lovely little daughter…Or some similar drivel).

“Can you step outside for a moment?” I asked. In the end, it never amounted to much. Not when she went with them, to a place beyond the clouds. The city lost a little bit of blood that day. And I had to stay, to make sure it didn’t bleed out. My legs kept a steady pace the more I stood. There was some place they wanted to be as well. The same place as mine? Yeah. It had to be. That’s the moral of this story.

“Pardon?”

“I mean, out of the house. You said you were there, right?” Walking past the stores I let my free hand rustle the coins in my pocket. Their stains and my skin melded into one.

“Brother, I do not know what you mean to imply but they are worried about you. This is no joke. Please, even for a brief moment, if you can tell me that you’ll be on your way then –”

“Caroline.” Her name, I remembered, as my eyes traced the shoulders of the people walking by me. Caroline. One of the women walking by must have been named that, as it sparked my mind tracing the flow of her hair. Caroline. It sounded like sweet candy.

“I understand. Please excuse me for a moment,” she said. The call was on mute. My feet began to slow. My legs knew. My body knew. And so I began to slow.

“Brother?” She said.

“Alright. Enough of that crap. Carrie, what the hell do they want?”

Silence.

But then she spoke. Thank god.

“Sorry. You know how it is around them, Laurence. I just can’t help but–”

“I know, Carrie. I know and I’m sorry for being an ass. Just hearing you be like that is… It’s not something I want. I’m the one who’s sorry. Why are you over there anyway? Don’t tell me you –”

“Yeah. It’s – Exactly, what you’re thinking…Yeah.” Her words were gentle. But they were spoken in broken breaths.

“You never learn Carrie. You never will. But that’s why we’re related. We’ll always be two idiots in the end.”

“Right.”

My feet eventually stopped. There it was. If it wasn’t, then I wouldn’t have a story to tell. But it wasn’t there. In front of where our old apartment used to be was an empty lot. Demolished, detained, deteriorating as the soil kept retaining rain running through its veins. Beside this empty lot, was a corner store, no longer in a corner.

“How long has it actually been since I’ve been there? Those…Parents, must think it’s been a decade. It hasn’t been that long has it?” I ruffled through the coins, pulling out a penny. Ancient. Illegal? Nonexistent. But in my pocket nonetheless.

“How long for you? Or how long for them?” Her words kept my body from moving.

“I see. Yeah. You’re right. You’re always right Carrie. But I’m not coming home.”

I turned the penny in my hands before tossing it into the plot of land where my childhood was buried. Like that, stunned in the earth, for as long as I kept coming back, for as long as my body memorized its path, it was there. It had to exist. I made sure it did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

“I know. But, I just hoped you might change your mind,” Carrie said. It wouldn’t be the first time. It wouldn’t be the last either. Though it had definitely been a while. “It’s not too late, I don’t think. But, you have your life. And–”

“You have your life too, by the way. You shouldn’t… I’ve been telling you the same thing for so long, is there any point to it? Just know I’m rooting for you.”

Silence.

Silence always followed.

Never with me. But, whenever they were involved, she would go silent. Watching with eyes unable to cry out that she was also a person, she stayed silent. And I watched. Silent as well.

“I’m trying. Okay. I’m trying,” she said, her breaths growing rough.  I smiled.

“I know.”

Leaning down, I threaded the dirt with my fingers, ignoring the passing cars. An airplane crashed through the sky, and the few who still came by gave me half a glance.

“How long has it been since you’ve been to the city?” Carrie asked.

“Me? Do you think I’ve actually left?” I could feel her smile.

“You’re right. You’re right. No. You’re exactly right.”

The empty plot kneaded its way into my palms, and before I knew it my nails were stained. I dug through my pockets for another coin, producing another penny. In a single motion, my fingers sank into the dirt, and as I extracted my hand, I laughed.

“Stay strong, Carrie. I’ll be rooting for you. Even if you’re not here. And even if you may never be here. I’ll always be there. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I began wiping dirt over my jeans. An act of habit. Leaning back on the sidewalk, I traced my fingers over the dirt, making small lines. We used to make lines all the time. Lines in the sand. Lines in our room. And lines in our words so that we knew who we were talking to (that way, we’d always be together).

“So, how’re things over there?” I asked. “Beyond just having to deal with them all day, I’m sure your life has been quite fruitful. Why don’t you tell me about it?”

My body was aching. My arms and legs twitched the more I sat, and my pulse grew. Watching over the empty plot of our lives together in the city made it grow. Her words started to flow into my ears, gently, with rough syllables. I listened to her for a little while longer as I let myself drift on by. In the end, that’s just how my story goes.