How To Be There

David Aloi

"Not any more than usual," he responds.

Ask: "Any trouble feeling alive?"

 "I work on it everyday."

Look down at the table, at your hands folded quietly. Think about hope and then think about hopelessness. Then ask him a question that has nothing to do with anything but is perfect for this moment.

Ask: "Did you do something new with your hair?"

Pull your mug up to your lips even though you finished your tea a few sips ago.  Look at him look at his watch.

"Well, I better get going, it's getting sort of late, the time goes so quickly."

 Say: "I know what you mean." And synchronize the lift from your seat with his. Pull on your shirt jacket and put your hands into your pockets. Walk with him towards the door and approach the exit before he does. Remember the will you had when you walked in, so strong, so ready to help out, such virtue. It's still there. Feel it as you open the door to leave. Stand with him in front of the coffee shop. Shuffle your feet to delay the parting. Look at your feet when you shuffle them. Think of how impressed you are that these shoes lasted as long as they did and how they are still kicking and then laugh at the little joke you just made and commit to the fact that if you need to buy a new pair, like if this pair can no longer withstand the elements, you will buy the same ones. 

 Say: "I'm going this way." And point to the left

"I'm going this way," he says and points to the right.

 Say: "I'm glad we got together, if even so briefly. I'm happy we can talk."

"Always," he says and puts his hand on your shoulder and squeezes it. "I mean it."

Shake his hand and give him a hug. Gauge the length of time in hug position by how long you anticipate before you see him again. Make the hug short.

Say: "Alright, well-" and notice that it's just chilly enough to see your breath shoot out into the air. Keep exhaling. He is just as surprised as you that it is cold enough for this. He does this as well. Realize the small white puffs of clouds form into thicker puffs when you both do it. See how when you both breathe, the clouds keep growing.

 Give a goofy salute goodbye and begin walking in your direction. He begins walking in his. At about fifteen yards, turn around and shout goodbye again but shout it with his nickname. He raises his arm in acknowledgement. Notice how his shadow grows taller and taller as he walks away

A job well done.

Keep on in your direction. Make a list in your head of all the things you have to get done tonight, this week, a few short term goals. Feel your eyes so wide but tired, pupils so dilated from the caffeine. Approach a corner at a red light and wait to cross the street and regret not saying that thing about the bullet and tap your foot lightly on the curb.

 The slide was red and slick and long and full of friction. You took turns with the other kids, each of you waiting to be shocked by the static of your seat. You howled and laughed as you slid down and you felt the fuzz beneath you, like dragging your feet across a carpeted floor or rubbing your head with a balloon-this electricity happening, and you never understood how it worked but just that it did, and when you came to the bottom of the slide, your positively charged tiny body chased the other kids to poke them so they could feel the shock, too. And you howled and laughed as you did this.

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