A Short Story About the City

I await her. We haven’t seen each other in three years.

The coveted window seat is occupied by a woman fiddling on her phone. Men’s soccer and women’s fighting play on television. I hear bacon sizzling and smell bacon.

A woman behind me discusses her health care job. In a normal country, she’d be a decently-paid public employee.

I walked by three zombie RVs on the way here. The City reports over 2,000 dilapidated rigs on various streets. How did it come to this in one of the more progressive cities in the world?

In the distance, I hear someone winning at slots. Or losing. It all sounds the same.

I’ve got a keyhole limpet in my pocket. I’m wearing new old J. Crew brown corduroys with a 12 wale. $7.99 at Goodwill and never worn before. I’ll wear them into disintegration. I’m also wearing a gray V-Neck wool sweater spotted with mustard and wine. It’s disintegrating, too.

The woman vacates the window seat. I commandeer it.

My craft malt liquor tastes good.

The bartender has kilometers of tattoos spread across her chest and neck. A red-haired goddess clutching a triton stands tall in the bartender’s cleavage.

People in the City talk louder than they used to. They are struggling to be heard.

She is late. I’m early to everything. I was early to my own jailing.

I am writing all of this from a driftwood fort that I built and where I encourage unknown poets to write about everything that has nothing to do with the City.

A man just left the bar holding a high school U.S. Government textbook that I didn’t use my first year teaching American government 30 years ago. All I used was the Constitution. A thought occurs to me: the election of Donald Trump is the culmination of 30 years of terrible, irrelevant and rote teaching of American government at the secondary level in public schools. In this case, it is the teacher’s fault.

Everything is wet outside. The rain creamed and dreamed away the dust.

She’s not going to show.

An angry-looking man walked in and was talking angrily to himself.

My ex-wife just texted me. She wants to know how I am doing. In response, I lie.

I’m writing this in long hand in the margins of Keno cards, Oregon’s state stationery. I am writing with a Keno pencil. It is very sharp.

There is stimulation in the City. It doesn’t stimulate me.

I’m reading a book about writing fiction and it has a list of do’s and don’ts. I’m not paying attention.

A critic complained of Proust: “Introspection to the point of insanity.”

Am I going insane?

D.H. Lawrence wrote: “Love is action. Action is consolatory.”

I am gripped with torpor, but dammit I want to run!

Back in the fort, I play heads and tails with a mysterious sand dollar. It’s tails. I win. I found it on my back deck, delivered by a mysterious force I don’t yet understand. But someone out there knows what the sand dollar means. I’m going to wear this sand dollar in the pocket of my shirt or coat until it crumbles.

A woman outside just ran to the mailbox and deposited a letter. I haven’t seen anyone run with that kind of urgency in a long time.

She’s now 22 minutes late. Is that really late in the City? You just text you’re going to be late and you’re not late.

The Rapture is late, very late, at least according to the couple behind me. They talk loud.

People see the signs of the Rapture and rip off their clothing and we see it on the streets and sidewalks. So that’s how those stray clothes got there, in case you were wondering. I own an article of Rapture clothing. It’s not an item of corduroy. No one wearing corduroy believes in the Rapture. We are what we wear.

I see movement on the sidewalk. There she is, outside, gliding her glide. I knock at the window. She sees me and there is a smile. It’s not the same one I’ve known for 30 years. Can a smile ever remain the same for that period of time? It’s probably better that a smile changes. It suggests you’ve lived and learned.

There is so much between us; it’s a novel, except that it’s all true. In the past year, I have found novels more true to life than real life. I will write upon that theme soon and probably on a Keno card or on the back of a sand dollar.

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