Mel stood up. She took the plate with the half-eaten sandwich and pulled plastic wrap over it. “Let’s go for a walk.”
“Right now? I’ve been walking around all day.” I looked at the floor as she looked at me, her brows furrowed at me. “Alright.”
And so we put our coats on and walked down the stairs out of the building, into the night. The patches of grass gleamed with dew as though it were morning, but it was dark. It was not too cold. Just enough of a chill to remind us to be thankful for our clothes.
It wasn’t hot like it got during the summer. Not yet. It would be soon, I knew.
“So where are we going?” I asked.
“Going for a walk usually just means walking.” Mel, with her smart-ass remarks. I suppose they had grown endearing to me to some degree.
“Alright. Well then.” Nothing I hadn’t done before. Eve and I had taken many walks. We had walked all over the city. We had walked all over the beaches. We had walked from train to bus stop to sidewalk to apartment to diner. We had walked everywhere. It was unusual, though. These sidewalks were not inviting, despite their tiny little lawns and their freshly planted trees.
“Do you like this place?” Mel asked me abruptly.
“Yeah, I mean, why wouldn’t I?”
“I know Eve liked this place. I know you loved Eve. But do you like it here? Do you really want to stay?”
That reality, creeping in again. Demanding answers again. Trying to pull some kind of truth from me. Some kind of truth that I wasn’t sure of and that I didn’t want to think about. What was the point, anyway?
“Yeah, I like it here. There’s so much here. So many different pockets to learn. So many different ways this place makes a person feel. So many memories.”
“So you really do like it here. Even though there’s no weather and people don’t ever seem to age and sometimes it seems like people are so damn lonely and can’t do anything about it. You still like this place?”
“All places are like that, right? All places make people miserable. All places make some people lonely. It’s just the nature of it. Being human means sometimes, you’re miserable. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to leave that place. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t find happiness there.”
“I guess so. So you really like it here, then?”
“You’re starting to confuse me, Mel. What does it matter whether I like it here or not? I left, I came back, I’m here. That’s all there is to it.”
“No– that’s not all there is to it at all! There is so much more! There is going somewhere you really want to go to become someone you really want to be! There’s so much out there! You could go. You could go if you wanted!”
“With what cash? I can only go so far as a buck can take me. I can only go as far as I can hitchhike without getting killed.” In saying that, in admitting my limits, I realized that I did have wants. That I did feel badly about not being able to go. That I felt, in some small way, trapped. Perhaps it was not such a small way. Perhaps it was a small cage. Perhaps I was trapped in a place that felt small because I felt like I had so little room to move.
“I know. I know. That’s always the question. The logistics. How to get from point Here to point There? How to get ourselves out of this place?”
“You want out of this place, too? What about the diner? Don’t you love it there?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t mean us, literally. I meant us in terms of all of humanity. We’re stuck. How do we move? Most of us will die within fifty miles of where we were born. That was the statistic before, anyway. I wonder what it is now.”
“People area always leaving the place where they were born. Look at Eve. She was really, really far away. I bet a lot of people will die whole lifetimes away from where they were born. So to speak.”
“I wonder how that works. I wonder why some of us move and some of us don’t. I wonder why some people can just be happy here and why some people say this place devours them alive. It doesn’t need to be like that, does it? Every place is like this.”
“Every place is like this, and every person is different. That is how it works.”
“I just can’t figure out which one I am. I feel caught. Caught in between wanting to become someone else somewhere else, or to become someone else here.”
We were walking into the less-lit part of the city. The scent of stale urine reminded me of my first hours here. There was a wave of nostalgia coupled with a vague fear.
I wasn’t worried about this place before. The first time we walked down this street, I wasn’t scared at all. Because I was with Eve, or because I was on the edge of something new and thus had all kinds of endorphins running through my body. One of those. I wasn’t afraid.
This time, with Mel, I was. I was worried. I knew better. I had heard stories. I had read newspaper articles. I knew statistics.
I tried to speed up our walking. Mel tried hard to keep up. I kept walking faster and faster as though possessed. As though I had to just get out of that place as quickly as possible. But we weren’t that far from where we began.