I love this bus stop. She is kissing my neck. She smells of grapefruit tart, smack of concrete, and juniper from gin. I am trying to drag from a cigarette. I love this bridge. Louisiana-Pearl. I whisper it to her, Louisiana-Pearl. She doesn’t say a thing, she is biting my ear. Louisiana-Pearl: old-world, maybe European if we weren’t standing in the Queen City of the Plains. Below I can hear the bell from the light rail. The bell rings three times to announce an arrival and three times for a departure. She stops for a moment and seems to listen, muttering a phrase about not liking shallots and maybe she should go. -We are going. -Where?
The 11 passes by and I can feel its weight in my feet. My shoes are white, almost, and the sidewalk is white. Below, the highway pulses alongside the light rail. The blood of a city is running below us, some river rushing. Red lights leaving, white lights coming. Fountains of fragmented light, we are dodging into the shadows. Unseen and alone, almost, except for the consistent motion of that lit tip extended from my hand rising and falling. -There is a late night taco stand near my place. -Maybe. I don’t feel hungry.
She is no longer kissing my neck, but I can feel her breath behind my ear. I can’t hear her, just the waves of cars tracking lanes. I hold her, watching a man pass on the other side of the bridge. He holds two fluorescent pails, one in each hand. I can see his eyes watching us in the pale city lights. In the city, stars are dead. The moon creates a fragile light like a lamp burning out. His hat reflects the street lights strung above. He is a shadow of himself, but light keeps catching his eyes and holding. A flame slowly receding. I carry his eyes as he passes. She stares into the dark street and glances toward me. Strips of paint reflect across pupils, eyelids slightly closed. She asks me what I am looking at, -It’s nothing. Nothing, he is gone. Leaving us with a glowing green screen floating towards the crest of the bridge. The silhouette of the driver sits dark in spectral light. The phantasmal 12 approaches with a warm exhalation into the evening, the hiss of hydraulic brakes echoing toward the city. -What did you say? -I said I could make you some food if you get hungry. -I’m not. -But you might be later.
-I won’t be. She breaks from my hold and enters an invisible queue to board the bus. I step in behind her and touch her shoulder, but she doesn’t turn around. The doors to the bus open. Transfer? The driver doesn’t look over, just holds up the transfer, a bookmark with worm holes. -No thanks.
-I’d like one. She takes the transfer and studies it, walking toward the back of the bus to an empty bench. The bus is clean and mostly empty, it smells like an airport. Sterile. The lights inside the bus are a flickering green. Strips along the ceiling. Paths along the floor. They flicker just strong enough to keep us awake. -That night at Jeanie’s house. We were all drinking Rainiers on the lawn. Pouring out libations for the dead. There are no dead. We played Yo La Tengo on the record player. It was skipping and we ignored the repetition. We laughed about drinking on a Tuesday night, like it was really different than any other night. -That was a long time ago, Clare. -No. It wasn’t. Her eyes are closed. The transfer in her hand is crumpled, obsolete and impossible to read. -We were given life so carelessly. They didn’t tell us what it would be like. -What is it like? -Monsters terrorizing the maidenhead of dawn. Our minds once sharp, alert, are dulled by morning dew. Chewing on our passion. Chewing the fat. Dull teeth for a life uncelebrated. -We celebrate. -No. We make toasts to the dead. The stars are already dead. The last of their light is just now reaching us. What happens when… -We will be okay. -No. We won’t. There are two other men on the bus. They talk anxiously, their mouths close together. Their hands, their hands cannot leave each other’s head. Cradling a chin, a neck, running fingers through long hair, or brushing a cheek. Their faces are impossibly close. I move my head from side to side to meld their features into one. I try to read their lips. -I could make some egg drop soup. I could make some spring rolls. We could have Mexican. I have a vegan taco salad recipe. I can make you…
-Are you hungry? -No. -I could make you… -I feel intoxicated with night. Poisoned. Don’t turn on the lights when we get to your place. We exit the bus. The sky is an empty tank to the East. Few buildings block our view. A star falls. I didn’t know how to explain it to her, if I needed to. The way a star falling makes sound with light. A rock falling to the ocean. The wind whistling, a splash hardly detectable over the sound of waves. I tell her how the meteor enters at such a speed that the air cannot part quickly enough. Air compressing and transferring that terrifying energy. Burning a rock weighing barely an ounce. “It gives life to what was dead,” she stops as I say this and sighs, as if I don’t understand something.
I enter the key code to the front door of my building and let her walk in ahead of me. She reaches her arms out and brushes the walls with her fingers, moving silently to my apartment. The door is unlocked and as she opens it, wind rushes in through the window. She takes off her shoes and slips them off her feet and under the bed. I lay her down and sit next to her, faintly hungry.
The breeze comes in bursts that weave through her wavy hair. Her breathing deepens. From the street a ribbon of light reaches the kitchen. I pour packaged soup into a saucepan, ignite the gas stove, and steal a bite. -Still cold. I whisper to the spoon. I seat myself at the coffee table and wait for the heat to rise.