Bits of Blue

Nothing between their hot breath and the black night sky and the moon lit golden over a city growling loud as it cleared its throat and breathed anew.

Leah Kaminsky - leah.kaminsky.writes@gmail.com Photos ©Icarus Blake

Street Art photo©Icarus Blake

There was a time when they told the seasons by the changing of the skyline. It was hard to recall now, the edges of the memory torn and blurred like those photos the boy had found beneath his mother’s bed where the rat had chewed quietly and efficiently until the man who called himself father had come with the trap and the time for games was done.

In spring there were the great groundbreakings, the machinery wheeled into position, the ceremonial shovels dug sharp into the ground. His mother sighed as she wrote the rent check, held it close to her chest before slipping it beneath the door of the bottom apartment, turned her head as it disappeared from view.

As spring skipped into summer, the men poked their hardhats up from within the earth, foundation firm and triumphant beneath those hard, leather soles. Soon a first floor would follow, then the bare bones of two and three as the neighborhood kids wrestled on the street over footballs and the moms and dads pressed cold cans to their heads, muttering curses over public schools in a stream of sour breath.

Then it was the leaves, floating vibrant and vermillion over cement and stucco siding, clogging drains before the caulking dried. The men left one by one, driven like cattle by winter’s bite. In their place came the ladies with bright lipstick, digging signs into the ground with bony elbows that told a different story than the wealth that smiled from the photo above. The boy’s mother made food from a box, patched her clothes during the time when they’d once read together by the window as the light faded from the houses that were gone now, replaced by stones brighter than the television screen that glowed now from dawn until dusk.

The only thing that stayed the same was the face in the window across the alley from his own – the girl in the blue nightgown and the half moon mark on her cheek. Or maybe her face did change, but if she grew she did it bit by bit like him and not at all like the skyline. She wasn’t always there, just at night in those few spare hours between the lacing of his mother’s fingers up and down the blanket and the pull of darkness that brought him down down down to the place that could lure him but that he could never really know.

American Mercury photo©Icarus Blake

She never turned to see him there, stuffed onto the sill, breathing delicately so as not to fog the window and obscure his view. She looked out to the moon, which was sometimes there but mostly not, hidden first behind clouds and then brick that grew higher and higher until there wasn’t much of the moon left to see at all. The boy longed to take the girl’s hand, lead her up the fire escape, lie down next to her on the black roofing which was too hot or too cold depending on the direction in which one season was moving into the other. Hand in hand, nothing between them. Nothing between their hot breath and the black night sky and the moon lit golden over a city growling loud as it cleared its throat and breathed anew.

Across the city, new families spoke of up and coming. The boy’s block, which had always felt so familiar, was painted into something new and shiny, strange smells slinking out of store fronts, wrapping around his throat like the silky scarves that choked the color from the women that clacked across the sidewalk in shoes that stabbed holes in the new cement that had covered the boy’s initials.

Seemed like each week, another building fell, another building rose. The boys he used to play with – boys with scraped knees and crusted noses that played with plastic toys– dragged their suitcases towards the subway, towards the great wide future a little further down the line. And the diggers, they dug closer, louder. The streets glowed brighter than bright.

And then there came the wrecking ball, the explosion that echoed through the morning dew. The brick that had always stood so solid fell in upon itself. The window he had always spied from his own was no longer, the girl with the mark there one night and gone the next. In her place, broken bricks and planting pots. His mother’s reflection bent over a yellow paper. Choked sobs echoing across the hallway.

Dust upon dust upon dust.

It was spring then, when the notice came, and the men cleared the rubble with efficiency and intention, leaving nothing but a dark, empty pit with orange cones to dot it round. But when they left one morning to bring in the trucks and the diggers and the man with the clipboard who had yellow teeth and spoke in shouts, they failed to return in the afternoon. Not when the boy had made his way back from school, navigating slowly and methodically across this unknown terrain. Not as his mother poured the yellow sauce onto the pasta, pointed toward the white glass and told him to drink.

Shoe Lace photo©Icarus Blake

They weren’t there the next day, nor the next nor the next. Not as spring bled into summer and summer found its way towards yellow and red. The men in their khakis and the woman in the clothes that looked old but smelled new walked quickly down the streets now, whispering words about prices and crashes and big banks and the very stern things that governments should do. When winter came, it drove them out like it had driven out the hard hatted men before them, leaving silky scarves to snare on imported hedges. The colors of India and Taiwan, fluttering helplessly in the cold wind.

Still, the pit sat. When the rains came, the robins and the blue jays waited by the walls for the worms to emerge, and the crows waited for the robins and the blue jays to do their work. Together, they sipped from the ponds that formed so hurriedly, flew on before the ground could choke back what had never been theirs but should have been.

The boy, he climbed over the fence that was already falling, pressed his feet into the soft mud, lowered his chest into his knees and stared into the void, so dark and so deep. At first, he could feel his mother’s eyes from the kitchen window, the sting of her palm on his bottom when he followed the broken glass bottles back to his front door. But, as the weeks passed and the tiles from the new building on the far side of the pit began to crack and fall and tumble down down down to that dark place where there once was light at the end of a string and now was nothing, nothing at all, he could feel her no longer. Just see her spine bent over the ashtray, the beer cans glimmering in the glow of the TV screen, the arm chair sagging with the weight of her arms and her legs and everything heavy that lay in between.

He couldn’t have named the season when the first people began to arrive. Degenerates, his mother called them, when she still found the words to speak. They came in shifts. The addicts with their bones in the open, with that thin, sad skin. Teens with bobbing cigarettes and awkward limbs and jeans big enough to hide the bodies they acted like they’d just discovered for the first time. The men and women and thick coats and even thicker beards, huddling down into a far off corner and not moving for hours on end.

And then one day: blue. Not in the sky, which was hidden entirely from view now, but laced into a pile of bricks in a dark corner of the pit the boy had failed to see as he sat by the fence, day after day, straining to see what others before had found here. The day was windy – perhaps that’s why he’d seen it – and the blue waved from its perch on a rusty pipe.

Motorway Mayhem photo©Icarus Blake

And then the boy’s feet were moving and his limbs were scrambling and his shoes were sinking deep into the soft mud and he was there and it was between his fingers so soft and blue and as he stood there he could feel the moon shining down on him even masked as it was by the sun’s rays so bright and so cruel. He thought of a face, of those eyes probing the night for a sign of something else, something different, another way for things to be. Thought of her fingers and her lips and the games they could have played if there had only been something real between them and not the alleyway where glass bottles broke and rolled towards dumpsters that filled higher and higher but never grew empty and cold.

The boy would grow older, he could see that now. He would leave this city for another, one where the buildings had always reached high because he hadn’t been there to see them rise. The men would return with their equipment. The pit would be filled, perhaps with a building reaching high into the sky or maybe with something smaller, less worthy than the one that had stood before.

And yet. And yet.

He could feel them staring – the men and the women and the teens with their needles and bottles and mouths that said they didn’t care even though what they really felt was written into the lines running through their skin. They would take this from him, this one shred of what remained. They would take it from him and they would laugh at him and the sound would skip from one edge of the pit to the other with no walls in between to stop its pulse.

And so, before they could close in around him with the sun glinting off their teeth, blinding him from what was there the boy slipped the cloth into his pocket. Ran out over the darkness to that place where the diggers should have been. Fell to the ground beneath the wild bushes. Watched the colors of the scarves dance into the morning sky. The thrum of progress beating wild between his ears.

2 Responses to “Bits of Blue”

  1. Lina says:

    What I find so interesting is you could never find this anywhere else.