Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last House


I remember being in a large room.

It didn't seem spacious though, because the ceiling was low and the lighting was indifferent. The walls had fields of red, and wood panels. It had a closed-in feeling.

It was both an event and a dinner. Someone I knew was getting honored. Was that it? Or was it some kind of show?

On one side of the room, on the tables, cases were on display. You could look through the glass tops at something. Whatever it was, it was not the center of attention. The people were mostly standing and talking to one another.

Lots of people. I felt I knew some of them, but I cannot identify any one of them.

Then we all sat at tables on the other side and were served food. It was not a fancy place. It was a little shabby but comfortable. I remember it as chicken with green vegetables. Probably off a steam table. The food was not the reason we came.

Someone stood and spoke for a few minutes and we listened.

I was standing after dinner among all the people and a woman came over to me and started talking. I felt like she was someone I knew but I don't know who she was.

I could tell she really liked talking to me and standing close to me. It was awkward. She knew I am in a long term relationship. What was she doing?

This happens to me all the time. No. No it doesn't. But there we were.

When it was time to go, she said she was taking the same bus as me, so we rode together.

The bus was really moving. I remembered the Fordham Road bus as poking along. Something had changed. I leaned over to see out the front. They had built bus lanes down the center of the road, with dividers separating them from the rest of the traffic. We could race from one bus stop to the next.

It then entered my mind that this bus didn't go all the way to the terminal where I needed to change. I got off. She did too.

Evening by now. Night in fact. We walked down busy sidewalks past the bright light of stores. We crossed many streets.

Presently there were fewer stores, and less light. The street got narrower and less busy.

Then it was only a narrow sidewalk, just enough for two to walk side by side. The concrete walk hugged the line of brick buildings on the right.

On the left there was a black empty space. I didn't look there.

We came to a place where the walk went up a half flight of steps. They were brick, with a waist-high brick barrier against the open space on the left.

At the top we found the barrier wrapped around a corner to the building wall, so our path went no farther. There was just a heavy closed door with no handle into the building on the right. We turned around and found a young couple coming up the steps.

"Dead end", we told them.

"There's no way down to the basement level?", they asked.

We all realized we should have taken the other steps that went down a half flight. Why hadn't the couple gone that way? Maybe we had all instinctively chosen the steps closer to the building.

The four of us went down those steps. On this level there was another door on the right. Through a window we could see young people gathered in an apartment, and the couple behind us went in there to see their friends.

But she and I continued on. The walk had changed to weathered wood planks but it was still attached to the building on the right. Now on the left we could see and hear, not three feet below, dark waters lapping on a pebbly shore. A damp breeze went through us.

And then we reached the end of the buildings on the right, and as we faced forward the dark open water was all around us. We had come to the Last House.

No sound of traffic, no voices. Out across the water were the lights of ships passing in the night. We could taste the salt in the air. We could hear the movement of waves, and once a faint and distant ship's bell. I thought there was a flapping of canvas.

We stood there in silence. There was something about her. I wanted so much to tell her something that would make her smile. But the only thing I had to say would not make her smile.

I put my arm around her waist for a moment and gave a her a hug. For another traveller on the road.

I told her. She nodded. And she was gone.

I mean, she was completely gone, just like that.

I faced the dark water a few minutes more and then turned back.

I found my way to the bus terminal. I could not think of what time my bus was scheduled to leave. I used to know that. But I have not taken a bus from that place in twenty-five years.

A clock hanging from the ceiling showed me the time. It was too late.

And I woke up.


No comments:

Post a Comment