I walk through the night, with a friend, talking about nothing, talking about everything. And I smell scents that are true. And I see reflections of the old oaks and cypresses, cast by the neon streetlights, on the damp roads. I see all my walks leading, as they always do, to where my first sweetheart lived. I see myself walking in circles around the block. My friend knows about her, of course, and he doesn't mind, for tomorrow we're walking around the block where his sweetheart lives.
We keep walking through the infinite night. An occasional car pauses at the intersection and its rear lights fill the night with red, a reminder of a love that hadn't been consummated. But I walk on nonetheless, around the same block, for the wounds have mended and yet I still come back to where she lives, and walk around the block. I'm not a child anymore, and yet I'm not a grownup. I'm irresponsible in my own level of honesty. Even the 'depraved' carnal images are pure. So we compare notes, me and my friends, about what we saw from the balconies of our childhood, or later, leaning against a wooden telephone pole and watching high school girls stream by.
My friend is smart; all my friends are smart, in their own way. And we talk about nothing, or everything. What we study in school always comes up, what she studies in school always comes up. I have now learned the ultimate truth: who hasn't excelled at the favorite subject of his first sweetheart? Who hadn't sat in class, in the back, through all the sessions, watching from afar, or from near, imperceptibly picking up the words, furtively seeking a glance. Who hasn't excelled to impress? I did, I have the proof of words and memories; taped from my vantage point as I watch from the back.
And so when we walk, me and my friend, we don't really run out of things to say, there is always the thing she said, in class, while savoring her favorite subject. There is always the things I said, in class, savoring her subject on her behalf. There's an undying eagerness there, a constant yearning for tomorrow's challenge. No walk has ever been mundane. All feelings have been christened here. The sounds have been chiseled with the care of a master sculpture; I kick the crunched can, and it reverberates through the stillness. A dog yaps from a distance. A leave emits a different tune, when kicked, and, pregnant with rainwater, it won't travel far. And the conifer scents are all true. No breath ever smells the same, as we inhale the black, damp air.
I part the company of my friend and keep on walking home. It's few miles away, but there is no option of transport at this hour. No worries there, no concerns, not a single pause. As I walk and replay the words. And the conversations. The challenges. I am light-headed and sprightly. I've got nothing on me but heavy winter clothes. And the keys. My shoes scuff at the old steps, yet another ingenuity of sound. I open up the door and walk in. There is no home like your own. And I'm the owner of the night. But the night is about to excuse herself to give way to sleep.
I yawn as I give my mother a silent salute, she's drowsing on the sofa watching muted TV. She asks me why I'm late. And return to the TV before she even completes the question. Why I'm late? I ... I don't know. I'd never known. But I'm always late. I never timed my rounds around the block, never counted them. I change clothes in the dark and insert myself in the bed.
The proprietor of the night is about to be put to sleep, may we play the highlights of the day for him? Thank you.
And here they come, shadows on the ceiling, cast by the neon streetlights. Refracted by the damp roads and a million other detail. My demands are met with diligence, and the images play themselves for my benefit. I don't need to urge tomorrow to be good, or better, or to behave. Tomorrow is when I excel. Tomorrow is up to me. Tomorrow never lies. Tomorrow is made true by tonight. And the image of her, on the wooden seat-- sitting through her favorite subject, with grace and due attention-- is the last thing I see before an invisible hand draws the curtains closed with gentleness. And I feel them, I hear their hissing and chafing, and I smell their softness and their promise, for when they'll draw open again. And that's the last thing I do, before I close my eyes and hand over the keys of the night, to yet another happy, wandering soul.