Same few, same happy few, same band of brothers.
Eerily similar, the streetlights globe by thru my smudged window and we careen lazily down abandoned highway tar towards the skyline.
Shotgun controls the tunes, and we rock to some debatably good music as the dark trees whip past. My backseat accomplices are belting out since you been gone, and so what the heck, I join them. We sound like some kind of lame barbershop quartet, but nobody cares. The open window howls in disunison.
My eye stings from the flashing, whirling, sparks of ash that have just accidentally erupted from the tip of my tiny cigar. A multi-layered hole has been clumsily burnt thru the arm of this borrowed polyester suit coat, which is apparently good for a laugh or two from it’s owner in the front seat, so that’s a relief. Pipe smoke mingled with my garment-offending cigarillo is a wonderful aroma to accompany this second timeless night of permanent memories. We exit the dark, empty freeway and slowly prowl to a parking space.
Something flits thru my consciousness as we disengage our collective seven-hundred fifty pounds of gristle from the tangled backseat. It flickers before my eyes and whispers in my ears as if hearkening back to something I knew in Philly.
Could this be my city, too? I don’t know. I haven’t been here yet.
We begin our newly familiar trek thru the sleeping heart of a city, lamenting the fact that nobody had foresight to bring an actual camera.
It’s scary how much like last November this is tonight, so I don’t allow myself to think about it because I miss Uncle John a little too much still. Besides, tonight is way warmer, and my little brother is getting married later today after lunch. Way different, but still way similar.
Walking up then down the sloped sidewalks I sense a resting, a waiting until Monday morning to resume life. There are surprisingly many out at this late/early hour, and evidence of wasted cash is everywhere, bolted to axles with 22 inch chrome, wrapped around necks and hips, and parked alongside sewer grates outside unoriginally mundane nightclubs.
There is an obligatory stop outside a closed and emptied formerly “great good place”, in his mind immortalized as THE PLACE he met her. Don’t look like much now, empty pieces of emptiness scattered inside on the floor, abandoned, but we briefly acknowledge the significance and then walk on.
Some free running mockery, some disgusting guy talk, and then we catch sight of one of those locations where time warps: a multi-level parking garage. Everyone knows these places have magical powers, where floors disappear and reappear two down, where cars move themselves once in awhile, and where Neo occasionally fights Agents while inside the Matrix. Our pace quickens with sudden weird energy, and we stride in with blank direct stares fired at every surveillance camera.
The elevator adds an even greater comic-book-antihero-like feel to the moment, and I stare out the glass, arms crossed and cigar clenched as we rapidly begin the ascent. In moments like this there is always time for a pic from a cell camera; the self-taken group shot turns out to be epic in nature, beyond our wildest imaginations.
My cinematic mind is again drawn to the window, and concrete girders drop thru my line of sight as our cabin rushes up and the city rushes down… and then I begin to feel something inside me. Ownership, or the longing for it.
The coolness of the night air welcomes our squad as the door groans open at the top. My reverie is interrupted by some leftover fear of heights, inexplicable but very real, and then all is forgotten by the views.
Thriving darkness spreads out below us in urgent Need.
Lights twinkle, dance, move, float thru the carpet of night. Dozens of windowed stories rise around us higher, and the wind passes quietly. It is calling to me.
We spot a darkened ballpark and hastily head back down street-level to check it out. The field is asleep, and I can imagine sitting in its bleachers someday with my girls, catching a Saturday night game under balmy skies.
The pipes are empty, the Black & Milds are spent, and a half dozen large guys with mohawks roaming around after midnight is just what a sleepy patrol officer might need to help keep himself engaged until shift change… we may as well go get some nasty gas station food and call it a night.
As we negotiate our way to the car, I am conscious of the bond that has just formed, and is even now increasing in strength and intensity. I will be back here to see you again, you can count on that. Keep the lights on for me, keep the cracked sidewalks waiting.
A threesome walks directly at us and past, friendly slurred greetings as they put their best foot forward in an unconscious attempt to be something other than more random faces… It seems that once again, their drinks and social interaction have not seemed to help take away the emptiness and wistful longing for a purpose in life. We return the greeting, and I wonder about their destiny.
And I wonder about this new city. My new city.