It feels like a narrow spit of land, growing narrower.
It feels like being swallowed up by water.
Losing touch with something bigger.
Always the right thing – what you want to say, what you never do.
Every night, in the red glow of city lights, I think of going wandering.
If I spend time with people, we will talk bullshit. And I’ll make a fool of myself for a laugh. But things will wind down and slow to a halt.
Eventually, I will be alone, taking the A Train back home.
Maybe everything is written. And there’s really no room to move, outside of a narrow track.
Robbing you of complicity, or at least agency.
But I think each one of us can make some difference in the world. Each one of us can choose what life we live, or at least how to view that life.
And sometimes I think the two aren’t all that different.
I miss the forests. The mountains I used to hike in. The sunlight through the trees. Everything laid out before you, youth was a mystery. Nothing could hold us down.
Now I’m maybe halfway or a third-of-the-way done. It feels too far along.
And every time I try to talk to anyone, I find it harder and harder to recall familiar territory. We’re just strangers now, who remember one anothers’ names. But there’s no ritual left to follow, and every sacrifice feels forgotten.
In time, everything dissolves.
I kiss the top of Salma’s head as we stand on the platform waiting for the L.
“He only went ahead of us because he knew that I was with you. He wouldn’t have done it otherwise,” I tell her.
“How can I repay you? Can I buy you dinner? Some ramen? Carroll, let me buy you some sweet-ass ramen.”
I tell her not to worry, that she’s cool, so she kisses me on the cheek.
“I bet you didn’t expect your night to end like this,” Lamia says, as the three of us follow behind, through a construction zone.
But I never know how it’s going to end. Sometimes I never even know where I’m at, much less in which direction things are headed.
Maybe two days after I text him, Garrett responds. And I wonder if he’s angry.
But it doesn’t matter; I’m angry at myself.
“You are a good man. So things are going to come harder for you.” Salma says, dragging on my cigarette.
“What makes you think I’m good?” I ask, feeling a little defensive.
“The minute you start talking about your nieces, a woman is going to know – come on, Carroll, you’re good.”
“I’m not that good,” I protest.
Thoughts spring up in my head, leaving me feeling rotten inside.
But even a person like me feels a sense of right and wrong. So I don’t touch Salma.
But when she puts a hand on my arm, it burns.
I’ll go out into the night and wander.
Listen until it becomes unbearable. Open your senses until it hurts.
Like a dog sniffing at city streets. Every drop of sound. Every stab of light. But nothing left to remain loyal to.
In the gutter, you can only go up.
Everything beautiful will break your heart.
Even as my eyelids seem to close, the train pulls into the station at Franklin Avenue. With some last vestige of energy, I hazily exit the train and go up to the street.
Is it really 4 am?
Everything is closed, shuttered, cold and dark.
I feel like the last person in the world.