Have you ever missed someone long departed, one you have never even met?
If it had hardly been a winter of deep discontent, neither had it been a time of unreserved joy. Cold-weather confinement had lent itself to excess contemplation—of the flaccid-cheeked Facebook image of a once-beautiful ex-beau or the absurdly glorifying obit of another, finally lost to drugs.
So abandoning the talking heads on cable news was a sweet spring bon-bon. I always find myself nurtured by walking familiar Manhattan streets while disguised in my mind as a stranger. Now I was among the warring elements of late March in the city.
My mom took the seat closest to the door. I studied the auditorium, which dipped downward. Each table was positioned to face the podium below.
I saw Marshall Rancifer, former member of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, sitting at the opposite end of our table with a plate of three slices of pepperoni pizza in front of him. I sat on one of the chairs and rolled over to him. “Do you need some help setting up your table?”
Grandmother Firebird should be back by now. She shed her last feather, erupted into a blossom of flame, and fell to ash three nights ago. Her next egg had reformed from the ashes by morning. But this is the longest it has ever taken her to come back.
The surface of her egg is chilly. I ask Mum if we should swaddle it or something. Mum doesn't know, and she doesn't have time for my questions.
The city is alive in the dying light. The snapshot of the street is a long-exposure photo, with the taillights of cars streaking like arteries through the streets. The steady, pattering heartbeat of footsteps on the sidewalk pulses in the coming dusk. Streetlights snap into focus in the crisp air—gold and green and red bleed onto the pavement and catch in empty store windows. As I hurry through the streets my lungs burn from exertion and second-hand cigarette smoke.