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He said they live on an incline. Does this street look like an incline? Drive further up the hill to the peak and gather yourself before you end up on a one way street with no place to turn. Take a moment at the stop sign and look about.

Well, this certainly looks correct. There goes the street name. Yes, and there is the turn and there is the incline. 1209... 1207... 1205... it should only be one block further. The trees in this part of town certainly are tall, and rounded. Do you suppose birds nest in the trees? If they are old enough I bet you that at least one man has been hung from the neck from the branch of one of these trees. Old towns such as this have those sort of histories--the kind that remain hidden and are swept beneath the rug as new people arrive to fill the space left by abandoners and the dead. But I digress. We've arrived at 1144. You will have to park further up the street near the convenience store, only make sure to roll up your windows because I do not trust the look of that ghetto fellow loitering out in front of the telephone booth.

This would be a lovely place to go for a walk with a woman, wouldn't it? Flowers blooming above like colorful bubbles of sorts, and the birds chirping like a melodic symphony. Women appreciate that sort of whimsical fare. Do you think she would as well? I don't suppose you'll ever find out, at least not until he is out of the picture, and you're coming up on the place so you'd best prepare for a smile and a half-hearted wave. Who waves these days, anyway? I don't suppose... wait, someone's walking out. And would you look at that... did she get a haircut? My god, man! Forget the hair, look down. Look at her eyes. The stifled flicker. Locked away; hidden from the world as some form of cruel self-censure. You certainly believe that you alone see this brilliance. You want to pursue that light. You want nurture it. If you reach out, the light may become brighter. Or it may go out altogether. Such is the risk, and you are no longer in a position to claim youthful exuberance.

So she steps out one leg first, a black stocking leading down to a foot wearing a flat shoe of some modern sort and leading up to a skirt that ends just above the knee and starts at the waist where the hint of a white blouse shines through the part in the thick burberry coat draped over her shoulders which curve elegantly up towards her chin lowered slightly when she smiles and waves and calls out to say "Hey!" as her nose crinkles and eyes gleem with that flicker beneath the brim of a black, round hat that would look bad on anyone but her. So what? It's just a woman wearing clothes, and that's all. Now steps towards them unless you prefer to remain forty feet away and wave incessantly.

Be polite, and not too personal. Hold her hand, certainly, but do not go in for the kiss on the cheek. It will be too telling. You will linger. Hold her hand and apply light pressure, then turn to him and grip his hand firmly. Assert your position over him. Show him he who's hand he shakes is not a hand to be taken lightly. You will not do anything to harm the little fellow, of course, but show him regardless. If anything you will rest easier when you think back on the day's happenings. You showed him, ey? Walk to them, and greet them, then follow them as they lead the way. Don't fall behind, not if you can help it. Walk beside her at a respectable distance. Flank her, because as you can see he's all too keen on keeping ahead of her. It's just how he is. You've probably done it yourself, pal, so don't go holier than thou on me. Remain between her and the street because cars or trucks or mad bikers may drive by and take her or hurt her. Who told you that you have to walk between them and the street anyway? Was it the old man? Well if you can't remember I certainly can't. In any case, if you can only serve as a wall I say take it. It's better than nothing.

They're certainly leading you far, aren't they? The trees are bare here. You've never really seen bare trees save the odd one or two that people planted in the yard or on the bit of dirt next to the curb. The trees were always full, and blooming, even when they scattered leaves on the ground every winter. You used to rake those leaves when they told you to, when you were angry all the time. An angry young man. That's an awfully cliché state of being, don't you think? Of course everyone on the planet is some form of cliché so don't feel too bad. You simply transitioned out of that cliché and into another...

Hey, stop listening to me for now. Don't crane your neck and look around. She's talking and you need to talk so that it's not just her and him talking. Pay attention and talk. Well, isn't that something. She's talking about the trees! And before you go mad with spiritual kinship it is merely a coincidence, not a sign from the heavens that you are meant to woo this woman with your fancy talk about trees and what they represent. It's chat, buddy, and nothing more.

The wind's getting colder, and of course your coat is hanging in the closet at home. The old green coat, the one you insist on wearing for those few months in the winter when it rains enough to require a coat, is looking mighty worn. Perhaps a pea coat or some other hipster duds to look more cool? No? Well, then, don't bother me when you get alienated for wearing the same ol' clothes. I mean, jeans and a T-shirt for years. Grow up, and while you're adding action items to the bullet list please do enter the restaurant that they both just walked into.

Pizza? How mundane, and might I add you're certainly high and mighty when it comes to food as of late. Was it Mexico where you ate a tray of fried calamari, or Hong Kong? Both were good in any case. I mean, I don't know what kind of oil they used but it was un-fucking-believable and they have posters of baseball players on the wall here and is that Lou Gehrig? Here, in the city they have a poster of Lou Gehrig? Hey and look at that, they've chosen the table right by ol' Lou. He can watch the cheese trail from each slice and act as witness to your ridiculous guarded conversation.

She sits amazingly well. Such grace, and style. Brings her knees together and places her hands over them as she sits. And look at how she removes her hat, and her coat, and it is indeed a white blouse and she did indeed change her hairstyle. It's short now. It wasn't short before. You like short dark hair now, don't you? Yea, I figured as much. Now, that doesn't mean you can comment on her hair. Yes it is a new style and she does look amazing with her hair styled in short layers that hug her face, but do not dare comment on it. Your friend sits beside her. Make sure to pay attention to both. Equal eye time for each. Do not linger on her, jackass! That's right. Look up, at that television. Who's playing? Arizona?

Burgundy streaks across fields of sod... what's in a friend, anyway? Who's this guy? This clown? Is he really a friend? I mean, what's he done for you lately? Nothing. Not a single goddamn thing. The guy's okay to hang out with and grab some beers at a bar with, but really that's anyone. See the waiter? Yea, he could sit and listen and laugh just as well as this guy. Plus he's taller and he's more likely to want to hang around after your drunken arguments with the frat boys at Merlin's. He won't want to pull you away and make you feel a foo--

She turned her head! Did, did you see her hair flutter? Wow, man. I hope you did see because... because it was every possible synonym of the word "beautiful" that you can think of. Thanks for sparing me, but I saw it too, and I'd agree. Amazing... You could talk of pleasant things, risque things that would lull her into the proper course of conversation... but look at him. He must care for her. He must love her, still, because my god she is unbelievable. Do you suppose it's possible that, somehow, you want her because someone else has her? Now don't go withdrawing into your shell, I'm just thinking to the beat of a different drummer. It helps me understand you, because sometimes you simply confuse the hell out of me. You lack consistency in your madness and I'm left without a clue as to your intentions. Before you start to feel please grab that pitcher that the waiter just dropped off.

Her, through the brown ale and foam. Beer goggles do nothing. She is, and has been, a woman unmatched... until tomorrow when you reflect on today and realize yesterday is not a time to linger in.

Discuss the weather. Discuss work. Discuss things that lead to jokes and joke about things that lead to reassuring nods and then a laugh. Oh, see, now she's talking... yes, very well, turn to her. You have reason to look her in the eyes. Oh, and she's a freckled one is she not? Most certainly. Like a child in a sandbox, the sun beating down on every kid around you, and that girl with the dark hair and darker freckles hanging upside down (what is a jungle gym anyway?) and smiling and flicking her tongue through the hole in her teeth. Don't feel bad about not remembering her name--you were a child, and kids don't think about each other the way you're thinking of this woman now. But, there was something. An impression of a future that has left you reeling. Powerless you are not but susceptible? And how.

Did she just laugh? Laugh! Chuckle at the very least. Can you imagine sitting with her at the booth beside us? Next to her, holding her hand, the smell of her perfume (and hopefully not your cologne if you'll listen to me for once and not wear the acrid stuff) filling the space, wafting and billowing around while discussing more than trivial status updates. Or maybe discussing the most trivial nonsense imagineable. The point, of course, is that it would be discussed by the two of you. "The two of you", now isn't that a nice thought?

... Jesus christ, man, you're such a woman.

Pizza's here, so's the second pitcher of beer. Joy, and indulgence that you can induge in. One slice, two extra hours on the machines. Second slice and she's had her second glass. Did you just finish off your fourth? Pig. Drunken pig. Oh, how she laughs. My suggestion to you: learn to write sonnets. It will be a useful skill when you move on and realize this one's out of bounds. Keep it in the court and you'll find yourself a nice cheerleader to keep you company. Oh, man, remember the cheerleader. In the short shorts? Who was that, Maria? Or Steph. It might have been Steph.

The names, man, the names. Don't forget your names.

The hour draws near, and it's sad. She's sad. I can take it even if you refuse to see it. Corporate secretary living with a retail monkey? She can't be happy! Logic and life draw us to wants of extraordinary proportions. We're faulty but really what's wrong with wanting great things? Life is short, and as far as we know it's the only one we have until the sack of flesh we call a body decomposes and returns from whence it came. Things we have to do... people we have to love. Responsibilities we don't need. Weights. He weighs down on her and it will only hasten her descent into a life of mediocrity and despair.

Well that's interesting, isn't it? When's the last time you were happy? No friend, not content. Happy.

Cool night. I love it up here, you know. You should move up here. L.A. wasn't like this. The high desert wasn't like this. The shack by the side of the road up in Eureka was definitely not like this. This is something else, and I say enjoy it until you get sick of it. Find yourself a roost and feel what there is to see. Hear the end of it and then you can say you've truly lived. Brush yourself against dirty walls and woodgrain bars. And wish, hope, that somehow she'll be with you. Holding your hand... whispering "you're acting like an idiot" in your ear. Cool night, and she's right beside you. No need to feel alone.

Dismissals, goodbyes, and the pleasantries of life. Shake his hand again, firm again, you're the man and he's mush again. Hold hers gently, and wait, the lovely doth draw closer. She draws herself in for the cheek kiss. She smiles. She breathes... like any other woman. She breathes like she does. You damn yourself by elevating her to the top of the pedestal. You relegate her to "goddess" and now the simplest interaction sends your chest into a flurry. What if she was old? Sick? Missing an arm? Would it matter to you? You can say "no" all you like and she smells so damn alluring. Perfume. And her lips are... where was I? Lips. Pretty lips and warmth.

Lingering!

The shuffle back to the car late at night. The midnight routine. No one out, no one else to justify your existence at this moment. Right now you're all alone here, bud, and there's no way to avoid that fact. Tomorrow you should call Kristy and go somewhere. Yea, I know. It's just Kristy. I just won't stand to be around you and the after-seeing-her mood. At least Kristy will keep you distracted so I can relax for a while. Kristy with the jangle and glimmer of necklaces, bracelets, and rings, and that long gorgeous hair. You know, long hair? That used to be your thing. The trees again, see how they wave as the sea air batters them.

Well if all you're going to do is sulk in the face of logic then I'll just stop trying. Get in the damn car.

Turn the key. Reach for the knob in the same place it has always been. Ah, fate be damned! Tonight's one of those nights when the your car has declined to cooperate with your attempt to escape and get on the road, where you feel safest. Constant motion and the sound of wind blowing past the car have always been a comfort for you haven't they? Pull the knob all you like, but the electrical's still out of whack. Those lights won't be coming on for a while so just stop fussing about with the wiring underneath the dash and sit upright. You know, you really should have gotten that fixed a year ago when it first became a problem.

Rest your arms on the steering wheel and lay your chin on them. Stare out into the wisps of fog rolling by. Don't you dare think about light. Stare into the darkness. What do you suppose lingers out there? You're not unique, hardly a soft little snowflake, and one of over six billion irrational beings on this planet. It certainly would be plausible to imagine that someone, somewhere, is sitting in the dark staring out across an empty street and accompanied only by the faint glow of street lamps, empty apartment windows, and the wispy fog. And who knows, perhaps that person is also a believer in safeguarding the soul against vicious and malicious assaults by the heart. Oh, now, I didn't say that just to get you started on "feeling"! Keep staring into the darkness, yes, good... keep staring into the darkness.

When you're ready, turn the key and get the engine going. It has been a long while and if you drive long enough in that darkness the lights are bound to come on again. That'll get you home tonight. Of course if I know you, and I think I do, you won't have the lights fixed until they shut down for good.

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