slept on the
streets of every city that I ever lived in. I never plan on doing it. I
never plan on doing anything like it, it just happens. My mind is
barely tethered to my body sometimes. I get up and search for
something. . .
In Alexandria, I just used to goof off all night long with my friends, who I have not seen or heard from in many years. This was fitful sleep, as the group moved from park to park like a pack of dogs. Some stayed awake and some slept until the morning sun, rising slowly and veiled in the Potomac's mist came up and sent us all scurrying home to beds in our parent's houses.
In Avignon, I spent the night drinking rum and listening to music with a friend. This rum was old and brown, spicy but not spiced. I am a gentle drinker. I can honestly say that I don't get along with everyone that I know, but I am true to myself; when I look back over my life I can say that I have done the right thing more often than not. When I drink I become more agreable, more patient and more relaxed. I have fought while drunk but I have never started a fight (and I have never lost a fist fight). This night, as I slipped the warm and comforting mantle of a rum drunk on, my thoughts turned to a sweet girl I knew who lived outside of the walls. Late in the night, after my friend and I had drunk ourselves half blind, I set off to find her. I never did. I fell asleep on a bench in a rough neighborhood and slept until the morning, deep and untroubled. I woke up in the morning happy. As I made my way back into town, she rode by on a moped. She stopped and smiled at me, but didn't say anything. I got on the back, and with no helmet, she drove me into the walls of the ancient city. We seperated and eventually I left Avignon.
In Charlottesville I woke up in a cold sweat and got on my bike and rode up and down the hills, through the red lights whose only function at that hour was to control populations of ghosts moving through the sleeping city. . . I rode until I didn't know where I was and crawled into a pine thicket. As the sun came up the crows went crazy and their chanting woke me up. If your medicine is not very strong, you probably don't belong.
In Rio de Janeiro, I made a mistake. I left town for a while, heading inland and later towards the islands and colonial cities of the Green Coast. When I came back, I made too many assumptions about too many things and didn't have a place to sleep. I held my knife close to me and went to Urca and slept on a bench. The vague odor of human waste closed around me in the hot, humid night. At every shuffled footstep I would wake up, not with a start, but with one eye and a clenching of my fist around the Opinel. The moon was full and bright above me, and I tracked its movement across the sky in quarter arcs and hours. As the night went on and the streets became more and more empty, but more and more dangerous, I drifted off into an uneasy sleep. I dreampt of Virginia and fields at the feet of our Appalachia, the Blue Ridge. I dreampt of a dark haired girl I used to know who walked through apple orchards with me, who blew me kisses as I walked out the door and who I lost. Finally, the sun began to come up and Christ, from high up on the Corcovado, beamed down over the whole city and faced me from across Botafogo and the bit of the bay that stretches between that neighborhood and Urca. I put the knife away and drank coffee and juice and ate eggs.
In Richmond, I prowled around town like a lost wolf in order to find trouble, which did its best to avoid me. I drank and smoked too much and flew off the handle and had to leave. I snuck out of my friends house and roamed the city. I walked east, drawn by a dark force and dark personality. I walked toward the river and slept on a park bench. When I woke up in the morning there were joggers moving past me. I sat up and after a few minutes of looking at the ground, I saw an arrow head, which I picked up and rubbed the cold out of. Someone carved this bit of stone and something launched me that night and we met.
I love my cities. I wander through them and I know all of them very intimately. I lived in some longer than in others but they are all mine and I belong to all of them. They are not immutable and neither am I and someday I will pass into dust and they will not be long behind me.