This story, like every story, is a seduction. Se + ducere. To be led astray, away from the true path in error. So you must wander, errantly, deviate from the straight line of a life that begins when it began and ends the day of your death.
De + via is where all stories begin.
You are walking. You walk. You’re in the grid of a familiar place. Fifth, fourth, third along first, skirting alphabet city. You scan the streets as if they were written pages, as if combinations of letters and numbers could weave the text of a life. October morning. Sky a terrifying blue, everything possible.
You walk, one foot in front of the other. Ball of foot, arch, heel, grounding. Each step makes others (im)possible.
Yesterday, there was another world inside of this one, and another person spinning it all for you. Your steps rounded the rings of a labyrinth; you knew you would reach the center if you just kept going. You knew where to go and how to love. The end of the journey was legible in its beginning. You were guided by the concentricity of space; you were comfortable.
Now you look up at the autumn sky, very blue. You make images with your eye and hand. You become the seducer because you accept what others cannot. You let loss go, and it flows from you with the consistency of water. You feel lighter and more ready to stick to other things. Little by little you forget. You’ll make new forays. October is the month of beginnings.
The city stretches before you like a body. Watching coders and weavers, you learned to make legends:
You believed, word for word. You memorized and repeated the directions over and over, murmuring them on the bus ride like an incantation. The bus took you under tunnels, over highways and into wooded regions with pines and deciduous trees, leaves turning red and orange in the gold light of late afternoon. In case memory failed you, you copied down his words on the little map you always carry.
As you copied them, you remembered your first morning in his light-filled bed—he had gone at sunrise—and the step-by-step guide to breakfast written in his crisp hand:take two oranges from the bowl, hold over juicer, glass is there for you, turn on the button at the base of the coffee machine to warm, milk in the lower right part of the fridge, mug is next to coffee machine, baguette in the bread box on the counter, jam and almond butter out for you, plate and knife on the table, tonight at seven, Spring and Mercer. I’ll be there.
The bus ride took five and a half hours. You left at two in the afternoon. This is what you’d written, word for word, from the description he’d given you over the phone: House is 4/5 Mirabelle Lane. When you get out of the bus, cross the road, there’ll be a latched gate, diagonally cross the park, there is a fountain in the middle, on the other side, take a right on the street next to the park and cross a gravel and grass road, in one hundred paces, take a left onto a narrow lane, there is a vine of bougainvillea next to the house, there is a key under a pot of geraniums and a green door. I’ll be there.
There was a bus stop bearing the name he named and a road to cross where the bus let you off. There was a field. It may have been his park, but you noticed things were off. No latched gate, no fountain. You crossed the field diagonally, took a right on the street at the other edge. There was no cross street of gravel and grass, but the cement was crumbled in places on the road, so you thought, maybe, ok.
There was no lane. There was a street on your left in about a hundred paces, but no bougainvillea, no green door, no geraniums. You walked hours, thinking he’d meant one thousand paces, one hundred thousand. No way to reach him. You wandered into the darkness to the song of autumn crickets, found the park again, laid down on your pack and slept. You lay there for a day, then took the night bus from the same stop back to the city.
From Chinatown, you walk some. Fruit sellers come out of their shops and arrange things like dragon fruit, their pink wings furling about them. A giant’s flower bud, you think, and a word comes: credulous, how children are in fairy tales. But the sky is so blue, the day just waking up. You always knew, you now know, that you weren’t leaving for good. You had to follow (there are no untraveled paths in dreams) to see where it led. It led here. Here, too, the sky, the sun, the colors and smells, is a living error, a vital one, it is skin peeled away from the unreal. (The discarded, the dying into which we breathe.) You own now what you’ve often felt but couldn’t name: what is real is plural, mind-made, terrible beauty.
A cold thought pierces the heart – but only for a moment – medicinal taste in your mouth: By what unchanging index could you trace him? You loved his name, a very common name.
In your city textured by trajectories, by footsteps inventing, giving shape to space, you walk with a freedom you’ve never felt, path-making from A to D across the avenues. Your steps cross those of others, and you weave with them unforeseeable sentences, partly unreadable paths, in the vocabularies of established language, the ruses and design of your desire. You buy flowers, bright purple and persimmon, and for a moment you mistake yourself for the trace, high above, drawing its sure white mark across the bowl of blue.