We looked up at the stars together, sharing the rest of our pack of cigarettes. A pile of cigarette butts and spent matches grew on the asphalt next to us. We looked out into the city and saw some windows still on. Bright signs which broadcast the owners of the buildings. Corporate names were flung at us, large companies with enough money to have their name be on the top of the building. The signs were not built into the buildings, though, the way so many of the older buildings had names etched into their stone thresholds. The signs were impermanent. They could be removed and replaced if the economy toppled and the company with it, or if the company decided to move onto a taller building in another part of the city. They built from glass and steel and concrete. Brick and mortar just could not be built as high, could not hold the weight of as many stories as they wanted. Brick and mortar also could not weather the earthquakes that come to this place as well, either. The other buildings could sway and remain together. They fought each other for domination. The taller ones loomed over the shorter, older ones. The people below would be able to look up and see how high they loomed from down below.
Eve smoked her cigarettes with long, steady drags. She savored every breath they stole from her. I could feel her lungs expand and contract as she sat against me. I could feel the bones of her spine through our clothes. She was always so thin. It was strange, considering her appetites. I remembered her hunger then. In the middle of the night, after we had gathered our pile of refuse and decided it was time to go back downstairs to our apartment, her stomach growled ferociously, filling the stairwell.
That happened often, our forgetting. We were so often walking, seeking, looking, that it was easy for us to forget ourselves. We forgot that our bodies needed nourishment, too. Our eyes were so full. Our hearts, too. There was no shortage of exploration, of wanting to find more, of wondering what there might be down this street or that. And, yes, there was also the truth that we did not have much money. We did not talk about it. There was a mutual understanding that we had to be careful, that we had to be frugal, because our dreams would not be fulfilled if we indulged in the pleasures which people who let their dreams sit far from them allow themselves to indulge in. Their pleasures were not our pleasures, anyway. And we knew that. And we were not jealous.
We went back down the stairs, careful to lock our door. We passed through the lobby again, the attendant giving us a nod and telling us “Be safe.” The security guard was different then. The nightshift had begun.
We walked out into the night. We looked left and right, wondering where the nearest open shop would be. The lamps here were not the low, golden ones of back home. They were tall and cast a blue-green light upon the street. We propelled ourselves down, southward, wandering. There was hardly anything to be found. Our hunger subsided as we walked. We passed closed shop after closed shop. So many of them seemed nearly abandoned.
We found ourselves once again on the theater-lined street. There we finally saw people lined up for food. A taco stand, still brightly lit, alive with the chatter of people who had just left a show or a bar. The scent of grilled meat and warm tortillas and freshly chopped onions wafted through the air and our hunger reawakened.
A few dollars later, warm bundles were in our hands, wrapped in foil. The curb invited us to sit. Our first meal in our new city. The empty street was our banquet hall. The traffic lights were our centerpieces. There were no rules of etiquette to observe. Only to pull back the foil and fill ourselves with the first of many burritos we would come to devour on late nights with nowhere else to go.
It was a pleasure. The air was cool and became quieter as the crowd that had been there left. Some walked to cars which drove off to other parts of the city. Some walked to their bus stops and waited for the few lines that still ran in the night.
We had breathed in the ocean, we had found a room, we had filled our bellies. We did not ask for more.