The Pipes Call Again (The Distance): Richmond Wanderings


by Maya Chesley

No stars wink at me from miles away; no squid-shaped clouds swim across the horizon. Even the moon has nodded off behind the silhouettes of gaunt willows. The Richmond sky, from my spot on the sand, looks flatter than a piece of black construction paper and just as dull. I breathe in. The James opens up and spits out a sour cold that floats over the water, over to where I lay.

I lay—on top of a boy. All young and glasses-wearing. I wear some boy’s jacket, all faux-fur and cheap cologne-smelling. If I could cozy up enough to close my eyes, I would dream of another boy who I’d like to be lying on top of, who lays miles away. (No fissure has split the two of us yet, but if such a weak fracture does, later on: would we have been close to begin with?) The body I lay on now is warm.

Miles away in my broken AC room, I have pictures of my family who are—miles away. They have scattered and dispersed to American Cuba, to Japan, to the South. What more do I want, more than their warmth hugging me till my temperature shoots up? But it cannot wrap around me like a quilt because they are too far, like the boy I would dream of, whose hair curls rough and tight like mine. The body beneath me beats and breathes and I turn my head from its face, squeeze its heat like a pillow. Without the face it can become anything. A bed. A blanket. Another body, belonging to another face.

Sand sneaks into the pockets of my jeans and scrapes the spaces between pants and boots. The wooded patches of land around us hum and chirp and buzz. If I could close my eyes, I would dream of forests singing, of the smell of swamp clogging my nose. Of sand sliding like sawdust between my fingers, and a boy, winking at me from miles away.

Maybe I want life to beat steady. Like the crickets thrumming in the distance. Steady like the water licking the shore. This night has been blacker than the last, flatter and painted in monotones. The body beneath me fixes my hair and kisses my face and I think, how perfect would it be to have only the warmth? To have the body without eyes for staring and lips for kissing?

Yesterday, a boy came with me and I showed him the cracks in the pavement nearby. He filled them with cement and simple words, and after he did his fixing we slipped down to the pulsating water. His calm was a swift one, matching the pace and changes in my uneasiness. But short-term repairs only do so much. Tonight I can feel the pavement splitting again. The only ones who can patch it up are—miles away.

The sky rolls out, a pristine construction paper black.

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