The Burning City Lights

(Inspired by the first 1 minute and 53 seconds of the movie, Nightcrawler)

The Burning City Lights

Do you remember all the lights that night? 

I do.

There were so many lights. The city was lit up like it was on fire. 

Do you remember?

We drove that whole night. You and I. We talked about everything. Your new job. Sam’s wedding. Your old man. How you thought Lost was dumb and I thought it was brilliant. Your thumbs on the steering wheel, I still remember the way they stuck out backward off the wheel as if suspended in air.

And my heart. 

It was bursting out of my chest the way it was beating. To be with you, to sit with you next to me. I could smell you. Even with the windows open and the sea air coming in like cold water. And we spoke with our voices above the sound of the wind and I didn’t know what you were saying but I remember everything. You were so close I could touch you if I wanted.

But I didn’t. 
We didn’t. 

I ran my fingers out the window, closed my eyes, heard the world pass me and your voice rose and fell in the background and it was like we were kids again and nothing had changed. I was ten and you were eleven and we were riding our bikes down the street and we thought the summer would never end. 

Do you remember?

The sound of insects, the walk through the field with the grass scratching our legs, the spot where you could see the whole world if you knew where to climb. 

And then you took that bend in the road and the whole world spun out of control next to me. And I thought, this is how I die. This is how we die.

But I didn’t.

We didn’t.

And then you stopped the car, pointed out to something in the distance, jumped out and I, as always followed. 

We walked along the beach, the rough side where nobody goes. The city was quiet, just burning with light and we ran along shut shops below pools of light and made our way to the water. We sat in the sand and it was so cold it felt wet and I asked you a hundred times if the sand was wet. You were wearing those jeans I loved, not because they looked good but because they were so old and so worn out and they know your body so well and they made you look like you and I couldn’t help but reach out and touch the material and you looked at me, like you knew, like you knew it too. Then you turned and pointed to the horizon, pointed out a ship, told me ship things, about shipmen and how they lived on the sea, smelling of fish and surviving on biscuits and dreaming of home.

The city was burning above and below the water was lapping at the edge and I thought if this was a movie this is the part where we would stand up and take off our clothes and run into the water screaming and laughing. 

But we didn’t.
We wouldn’t.

You told me about your big brother. How no one could ever be like him. How you wondered where he was. If he thought about you. You said you wont ever leave anyone you promised to love, no matter how bad it got, no matter how stuck you felt and I thought, maybe you were talking about me. But you were talking about your big brother and I knew that.

I knew that.

You stood up, dusted your hands, pointed out a new direction and we walked along the promenade and passed that stupid painting on the wall outside the closed carnival – the painting with the sea side town with smiling people, as if our town was ever a place like that.  When you were a boy you were in love with the woman painted on the wall. Her blue eyed gaze frozen in joy. She wore a polka dot swimming costume and the colours ran off the wall in peeling paint and grime, yet still, even then after all those years you lingered as we passed.

This city, it’s just not big enough for you anymore, you said. You needed to find a place where the streets were big enough to get lost. You needed a city that would make you forget everything; a city big enough to swallow you, you said.

There’s no city in the world that can swallow you, I thought.

We sat on the road, looking up at the sky. And I was swept up in your dreams, already there, already living in your new city, already burning in those lights, being swallowed by everything in it. I was you, I was you and you never knew.

There was a plane flying over and anything seemed possible. Anything. I could have reached over and touched your hand. I could have held it and you wouldn’t have stopped me.

But I didn’t.
We didn’t.

It was so still I could hear the electricity buzz. You were next to me. Right there. And then, just then I did want you to kiss me, not big, not like in the movies, but just stilly, small, on the cheek, like we mattered. 

But you didn’t.
We didn’t. 

We can travel the world, you said then. We can travel the world together. And I knew you meant it, I know in that moment you meant everything you said and I knew in that moment, you believed it. 

And then dawn began to pick at the edges. The seagulls came down, crying. I rubbed my hands together to keep warm, the smoke rising from my mouth. The city was coming alive, cars starting, garage doors being rolled up; light was filling up like a person breathing. Early fishermen were making their way down to the pier, fishing rods in hand. Joggers were starting to dot the promenade. 

The light of the city went out like a candle.

I didn’t see you after that. 

But I remember.

I remember how the city burned. 

How we burned with it for one brief wondrous moment in the dark.

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