Hayward Fault Line Winner
Joe's fingertips trail slow down the back of Gabri's neck, lending
credence to every articulation of vertebrae. Gabri closes his eyes and
whispers their names.
Axis. Epistropheus. Prominens. . .
The naming takes him back, to steam evaporating from the cup of banana
leaves, the heat of boredom, confinement, the humid weight of plaster
pinning down his arm. A world away, but there--here again now--the
relentless afternoon rain spitting down contempt on a tin roof, and at
the foot of the bed, Gabri's ghost father, shoulders not yet stooped
under the weight of disappointment, reading to him from the sticky
pages of Gray's Anatomy.
"You would've made a shitty doctor," Joe murmurs, watching that same
ghost. "I can't see it."
Not far off a whistle blows, the pitch rising as the train lumbers
closer. Gabri leans up so he can see beyond the soot-streaked window
of their rented room to the platform across the way.
When they'd asked him why he jumped, Gabri told them he believed the
wind would have him, carry him away from Corcovado, thin arms spread
wide. He had repeated the words until they'd released him back to his
mother's arms. Thirteen years old then, just old enough to name the
desperate caution in the way she held him after: how she would release
him only with the creaking effort of resolve.
Gabri twists, turning so he can see Joe's eyes in the vague rectangle
of gray gaslight cast across their bed. The sheets are scratchy and
reek of bleach. "What did your dad want you to be?"
Joe's laugh holds the far-away sound of gulls pitching over the
Carolina Intracoastals. His breath hitches and the tip of his fag
flares, then dims, like the red lights on the x-shaped cross that
signals the trains. "I'm not sure. Happy mostly, I guess."
Gabri thinks of asking if he is, but knows all of what an answer can't
hold. There are things they would never be able to tell each other,
save incompletely. Nostalgia exalted, repented, forgave.
This place they've found themselves--he and Joe--is new; a third
continent consecrated with thin hopes.
Whenever Gabri goes home now, he goes to the beach alone at dusk and
watches the great blue herons fly. Gruff, inelegant as their wings
spread, lift. They don't believe in the air. They don't believe in the
Another train whistle sounds and Gabri closes his eyes. It's 11:05.
Almost time to go. Almost, but not yet.
First published: November, 2006
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