The heat is bringing me home--100 degrees today, 104 tomorrow, the heaviness of it settling into everything. I've moved back out into the balcony, the only place in our apartment the air really moves. So here I am, windows above me flung wide, sprawled on this box spring. It's sluggish in the day but oppressive at night, radiating back out from everything that absorbed it all day. This balcony gets direct sunlight all day long so even now, at nearly eleven, the tiles on the walls next to me are warm, holding it like sand, like stones.
I remember the cable building next to our babysitter's when we were little, the wall of concrete reaching up three stories, the tallest building we'd ever seen. We'd play in the gravel next to it, building nests, pretending to be birds. We were kids who climbed everything, who pushed and pushed against all the lines--and if there was one thing that town was full of, it was lines. On this side are the people who pick tobacco, who live ten to a house; on this one are the lords of small town southern football, who own the town, and here are the people who never root well, who grow up straggly, who get out or are choked out. And those who do root, they grow outward, not downward, drawing even that small place into parts: these are the people you can love, and these you can't.
But what did we know? We spoke their language, it was quick on our tongues. And that wall, smooth, straight upward, was as far as we could go. And so we'd lean against it, palms pressed flat, legs at an angle, drawing out the warmth of the day.
We could follow it back along the length of the house where it never got sunlight, the one place it stayed cool. But beyond that was a mystery to us. We'd wander back, sneak around in the shadow of it, come back with pockets filled with bolts. It never occurred to us what might be weighing us down--we picked up what we found, pocketed it, and never stop trying to find a way over.
I remember one day playing in the yard with my brother and Aaron, a boy my age, our babysitter's nephew who kissed me when we were four. He was a line twisted, his dad a Mexican migrant worker, his mom the sort of white girl everyone called a whore. But his dad settled somewhere on the edge of town so every other weekend my brother and I played by ourselves. And one day the three of us were chasing each other there in the yard and how it happened I didn't see--he ran straight into the wall. A thing that's always there--do you forget? Do you stop seeing it? He didn't turn away; it's just that he didn't stop.
I remember laughing at first, and then he turned, eleven and the biggest, face all twisted and crying. He scared us, a mouth full of blood and eyes wild. We ran inside, to the bathroom and between all the grownups saw all his top front teeth had been broken. My brother and I looked for them later in the gravel, leaning against the wall, orange light from the sun, then from the streetlights, just sifting through the rocks for bone, heat coming off of it all.
After that we weren't allowed near it. Not the gravel, not the wall. We'd run over sometimes, grab handfuls of it, fill our pockets and walk casually to the other side of the yard, never mind the bulges. There was a tree that looked like a bonsai, only big, and we'd dump the gravel there underneath it, little piles of rocks in the dirt and went back to being birds, watching the wall, waiting to realize we would fly over it one day, pockets turned outward, not looking back.
I'm too used to blogging, so it's not quite not a blog, but not quite a story yet. Definitely not done. Except the ending, which is overdone, because it's late and I just wanted to finish it. Anyway, it's been years since I've done this, so we'll see what happens with it. (Writer people, feel free to give advice!!)