Shiny Bits In Between (excerpt #3 from Chapter 18, shiny bits in between)



I stay here when the moon is only a hair's width and the night is dark and I don't have to see. That's when I keep moving, counting these red bricks, worn through ages of walking and walking. Mesmerized by the shiny bits in between that I follow to nowhere. Cold through the sole of my broken shoe. I travel far through a maze of buildings too high to look at, ghost impressions written on their walls. And people who stare like they know. Who move away to the edge of the bricks, see sadness oozing from me like a sore. I am the beggar Lazarus, rewarded upon his death by watching the fortunate suffer instead—mothers who haven't lost their baby. Or perhaps I am the other Lazarus, brought back from the grave. Perhaps I have already died and this is Hades.

I don't look into their faces. I don't want to see the me they see. When they pass by, I feel their complacency like a punch in the stomach. So I find alleyways filled with the stink of trash and piss. Sometimes I eat food tossed aside half eaten. I don't taste it anyway. At first it was easier to find a place to sleep that wasn't the red bricks. But they don't look at me anymore, those men with stares like tar—that's when I knew I had a place to lay my head. Now it's only men like me, who wander the streets. Only they will have me now, will share their pallet of sticky clothes, their precious sips that dull what they do to me later. Sometimes I'm lucky and don't even remember.

Finally it is almost time to go back. The moon is only a sliver away from whole and I can visit him again in the water. But before I ride the boat, I must return to where he left me. It takes days to get there and I worry he'll reach home before I do and I'll miss him. I force my legs to lift and step, to move closer to where I lost him—his blue body the only version the sea would give me. But of course he isn't there anymore. He's on his way home as I should be. I find a sharp sea stone and press hard into the soft black wood of the brine-soaked jetty to mark it with his name. I collect sea rocks, only the smoothest ones, and stack them, mix in shells and a feather for good measure—a cairn to mark his place.

Now I can go back and find him.

I have to be invisible to sneak on and off the boat, but it's late. There are only people half awake, people like me—half alive. Later I find a dark dune and sleep under the condemnation of the piercing stars. Only after the stars fade into submission do I trudge through sand, parched like a desert. My skin and hair stiff with sand and salt like a strange sea creature that crawled from the ocean, laying desiccated on the shore.

My tracks mark the sand for him to follow, so he can find me if I lose my way. I step over the ocean's discarded innards—tangled coils of rope like entrails, viscera from the sea, bleached vertebrae like ancient relics. I follow the moon, low on the water, below the black tarp punctured by stars, invisible seam between sea and sky. It shows me the way if I ask. I have to look carefully where it glints on the water. I will find him, I just have to watch the moon glow and listen very very carefully.

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