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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

streetlight people

We stumbled upon a street festival in my old neighborhood, a steady drizzle dampening nothing but cockeyed rows of folding chairs. A handful of twelve year olds were tuning instruments and checking microphones. N looked at me knowing I would want to watch for at least a little while. Surrounded by excited parents we sat in the back and held hands. 

The perfume of grilled meat and smoke curled around us, crackling in the wet air. I drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. If I still lived here this is exactly where I might be, I thought to myself. 

The band transitioned from tuning to thumping away, launching into the first song. Feedback howling, sound levels running wild, they kept playing. A scrawny girl with white sunglasses propped on her forehead and a sheepy boy in a tight leather jacket sang together.

Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world 
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere 
Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit 

He took the midnight train goin' anywhere 



The drummer lost the beat completely as the song tumbled out, a spastic train on rubber band tracks. The girl stared out at the crowd, a smile plastered across her face. The boy grinned at her, one leg stomping out a rhythm for the two of them to follow. 

Strangers waiting
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people
Living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night

A surge of feelings swarmed inside me. My stomach turned. I thought of E singing her heart out in the bathtub, in the street with me, on the playground. Everywhere. I thought about how she could be this skinny girl, singing in the rain on 5th street in the East Village. I thought of her banging away on a piano in an empty room, singing for her dolls. 

N squeezed my hand. She knew everything. I closed my eyes for some time. The cool, miniature drops of rain were collecting on my head, rolling down my cheeks and into my ears. 

The city was doing the crying today. 

Don't stop believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Streetlight people

The song ended abruptly. The boy and girl struck poses as their parents went wild. 

Someone came out and talked for a while about the program. My stomach was empty. N looked at me, staring deep into my eyes. We rarely need to say certain things these days. Everything is understood.

I tried to call E, to hold my phone out to the music for her to hear what was going on. The phone was turned off in Moscow as it often is. 




The rain came down harder and we walked. 


We walked for miles, as lightning burst in the sky, as thunder rolled through the valley of Times Square, as the sky grew dark.

 


Comments

Omgrrrl said…
Don't stop believin'. I mean it.
invisible woman said…
Beautiful.
It's amazing how it's possible to be in two places, on other sides of the globe, all at once.
Invisible Woman x
Annie said…
I felt I was there with you....

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