A Letter To The City I Live In

689 total words    

3 minutes of reading

Tonight I will be your eyes and through me you will watch the moonrise and together we will be slowed and stilled and humbled. I will walk your puddled streets through traffic-roar and siren-wail, over mute pavement and stink of trash. I will climb the hill that is your shoulder, climb and climb until the buildings release their boxy grip and the sidewalk becomes a trail. Up there in a small park, balanced on a rock above your sprawling, glowing body, we’ll pull back our hood and look to the east. We won’t blink. We’ll hardly breathe.

Have you seen the color orange? Tonight you will. You will see it bleeding out from the orange of yourself, your grid of lamps and windows and neon signs. Pollution they call it, bad enough to wash out the stars. You will see a giant circle of orange inching up from behind the far ridge, a circle of orange larger and greater than me or you, than the ridge, than anything. At first this heavy, rising presence will be scary. We won’t like it, the way it makes us flutter, our attention beating against craters and dry sea beds, our eyes like possessed moths. We won’t like it, but neither will we turn away.

I’m telling you, this is going to be some night. If we watch long enough the moon will arc into the sky, carrying us with it, me right up out of my shoes, you right up out of your rebar and concrete and broken glass, cigarette butts, poverty, despicable wealth. Climbing, the moon will by degrees shrink and fade, fade and shrink, and then at last the lamps and windows and neon signs will glow bright again. We will return to earth, changed.

I’ve been with you for a long time now, City, four winters and five springs. It’s always good, always bad, always all kinds of things, all kinds of everything. But look who I’m talking to. You know you. You know what you’re about. The helicopters chop at those washed-out stars. The rapist goes about his awful business, polluted sky for cover. The newspapers arrive each dawn. The money is made and counted and counted again. The clock ticks over our heads and on our wrists and in our temples, as if the ticking were our very pulse. You know these facts. You are the pulse.

And you also know that there are children with innocent eyes and laughter in their mouths, children playing games. There are hawks nesting in pines above the playgrounds. There are gophers eating tiny flowers. You know it’s a mixed bag and that the moon—well, the moon does visit regularly, though of course it never stays.

City, enough. I can’t be your eyes. We both understand this. And you have no ears, so I can’t read you this letter. Really, it’s not you who needs humbling anyway. This letter is not for you. It’s for me. It’s for me and the people I don’t know, the people I never will know, the people I wish the best for nonetheless. We’ve forgotten the moon. We are screen-dazed and sad. We are lost in a small room, the walls closing ever inward, the computer’s blue light ghosting across our features. There is a faint electric hum. There is a wailing siren at the door. But the door opens onto nothing, and the door is locked.

So here I am, at the heart of you, surrounded, alone. I’m ascending the shoulder, perching atop the rock. I’m pulling back my hood. A mist in the air, my hair is dampening down, helmeting my forehead, and the moon is rising fat, fiery, an orange beast to crush the distant hills. Impossible, it would seem, to ever in a million years forget such a moon, such a presence. Impossible, but somehow we do.

Okay. Time to finish this letter. Time to say warmly, fondly, sincerely, best, yours, until we meet again. Time to be quiet, to forget time, to taste orange and watch and keep watching and swallow hard. And swallow hard. And swallow harder than before.

  • Leath Tonino

    Leath Tonino is a freelance writer. His work appears regularly in Orion, The Sun, Outside, and many other magazines. The Animal 1,000 Miles Long, a book of his essays, will be released in summer 2018. 

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