Just Down City

Text by Annie DeWitt, images by Jerome Jakubiec

 

My mother never said, Don’t Usher The Good Times In.  She never took the pot from my hand and said, Don’t Beat On It With A Stick.  Don’t Make Noise.  She never threw up the window shade and said, Don’t Look Out.  Or, I Remember Chilly Scenes of Winter.

I remember sitting around the fire while my father sang a song about a railroad that stretched all the way from our living room to Kansas.

“What else,” I said.

“Oh,” he said.  “Never mind. Teach me to dance in the kitchen.”

*

“The bus dropped me off at the corner of 9th and 10th,” you said.

“I thought,” I said.  “You said that bus stopped in the Bowery.”

“I thought so too,” you said.

Or maybe you said, “That fair went on for a year.”

It kept going round.

The ride I meant.

“Right here,” you said before I left with my belongings.

“Yes,” I said patting the trunk.

You said, “I sure will miss it.”

You were speaking about the chair.

I thought, Maybe I should sit in that chair a little longer.  Maybe if I sit in it I will start speaking upwards.

“Sightlines,” I think they call it.

*

“You can borrow my name,” you said that afternoon in Reno.  “If you need it at the Motel.”  We were chasing down my Uncle again.

“Who’s following whom,” Uncle said when we caught him.  He pointed out the window at a neon yellow Thunderbird sailing down the highway.

“Birdwatcher,” you said.  “Sightlines, they call it.”

Maybe they call it night driving in the west.

Maybe they call it fishing for sticky.

*

I could say I did not keep dirty laundry.  I never took his shirts and folded them out so the pit stains were under my head.

“What’s this mean,” he used to say whenever he freed something from my body.

“Just a drop in the pan,” I’d say.

These sort of rarities.

I remember happy.  Just like that.  Old boating shoes.  Faded red sweater.

*

You said you would pack my knitwear and drive me there.

You wanted to do things that made you look humble.

On the highway you drove with your hands over your eyes when we hit those square patches of sun.

 

When we arrived we unpacked me.  There was an old woman sitting at the entrance to the clinic.  She asked what I wanted with her mess.

“It’s MISS,” I said.

Afterwards, we stood on the street corner just outside the riverbank.  I cannot say I didn’t wear that white sundress.  You kept your car running.

“I guess I leave you off here,” you said.

*

Across the river, that ewe was struggling, hefting her rear back and forth so that her tail looked like it was swatting at a horde of fruit flies in summer.  Her calf must have been half way down her chute.

“The problem,” I said, “Is finding a small enough dropper.  One big enough to stick in the corner of our mouths yet small enough that it doesn’t emit so much that our nostrils start to fill.”

*

We watched the backs of that ewe’s shoulders.  The way she held her small frame.

*

The old woman keeps the apartment across the hall from mine.   The night after our first meeting she entered my room.  She turned the knob with her palm – gripping the teeth of the thing hard against her.  All you could see was the tops of her nails tapping at the brass.

She said she was wearing the coat her Grandmother gave her.  “In here,” she said, throwing wide the lapels and drawing me close to her body.  There was a small silk label.  Dear China it said.

In the cleft of her stomach there was a small pit where she kept all her food.  It was fair and broad and when I looked out of it I saw the place where I used to be before I came out here.  That spot inMcLean’s field.

When I’m stood there in that spot I noticed a good clean breeze coming on.

“I never said,” the woman said.  “I wanted to gather my own stale air.”

 

 

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