Long, long ago, engulfed by the sweltering twilight of a summer night and the vacuum hum of a small town in retreat from the heat and the falling darkness, the yards and sidewalks abandoned for living rooms and television sets (the wobbling blue screens of which we could see through the dark, otherwise blank window frames and the gauzy, fluttering filter of curtains), I bucked you across town through the empty streets on my stingray bike.
We were hunched together on my sparkling blue banana seat; I was peddling furiously and you were clinging to the sissy bar. I wished you had been clinging to me, wished you would put your arms around my chest, but it was nice to feel you there behind me all the same, nice to hear your laughter (all the wonderful variations of your wonderful laugh) ringing out over the silent neighborhoods and your voice at my ear and your breath in my hair.
I don't know, can't remember, where we were going. We weren't, though, going to the Dairy Queen, where the moths were in full swirling frenzy around the streetlamps in the parking lot. We were headed, I'm sure, elsewhere.
We had darkness in mind, I think, the place where the futile over-light of that grimy little town gave way suddenly to a great stretch of emptiness, where the pavement turned to gravel, where there were fields rolling away into the distance, and where there was a muddy creek and there were railroad tracks and trains (which sounded, you said, like iron waterfalls, and which I've always said sound like something heavy being carried away) crawling off into the night, out into an America we could only then imagine.
But which we did imagine, together, breathlessly, with ridiculous hope and optimism. That place was where we knew we would eventually have to go to make our escape, to complete the process of becoming, to find ourselves even as we lost each other.
That was also the place, the place beyond our close little world whose secrets and sadnesses we felt certain we had already divined, where we would one day, through exactly the sort of occasional miracle this world is still capable of delivering, find each other again.
I am still, every day, my sometime sister, my old friend, stunned by this miracle, still grateful for and puzzled by my bounty of blessings entirely undeserved. And now it always seems to be that same magic dusk I remember, and I find myself once again in the position of trying to talk you onto the back of my stingray bike, trying to convince you to ride with me out beyond the false, feeble light of that low town, away from and out from under the people we have allowed ourselves to become; trying to get you to slow down and to listen again to the roaring silence and the moving water and the watch-winding racket of insects throbbing from the ditches, and to lie on your back with me marveling at the stars and the heat lightning trembling down the dark sky across the fields.