Almost Independence Day


The deaf girl- this tall boy said her name was Heather- she was gone by the time we got there. But that didn’t stop us, no one could stop us, couldn’t stop any of us from walking across the closed freeway, emerging from our homes in a trance, taking steps that took us closer.

One by one- sometimes in pairs- we made our way up the soft soil of the bank and the idea of getting as close as we could. Hearts fell out when we spotted her, alone in the blue, and now we knew shame. We were standing on the crest of the hill, staring into the Loquix River, rumbles and rapids tamed and metered, and still somehow unaware.

A Chinese man leaned over, squinting his eyes and wiping his brow, dwarfed by the trees above his head. Their branches intersected above the riverside, sticks of glass, forming crosses at complimentary angles. The crowd had gathered and we were part of it, we were all part of it, but there were no words and nothing to smile about. It was all about people we never really knew: a new community in the cool twilight. Down in the surf was Heather- or just what remained- helpless, agreeable to the flow, victim of the running, gnawed by snarling white, her yellow turtleneck inflated, full of water and lost forever, the light hiding some of the bruises. The girl was just exhausted.

Up and down the San Francisco Bay, way across the harbor, I take a glass of beer on a bright night, while Heather bends and loosens through endless streams and curls, slower each time, to infinity and pure surrender. And I can hear the fireworks.

I can hear the fireworks. I can hear them echoing…

Across the harbor I could hear the blind people delight at the lights in the sky, the crowd shouting out, way up and down the line, magic in the air: a celebration of ignorance. Way up and down the line, cheers in atmosphere of holiday, and her body turned in the water, drifting, bobbing, over the fall, dropped like a good idea, like a letter, slipping away before we ever knew, never needing an explanation. We all lost that day. We all lost everything.

And I can hear them calling, all the way from Oregon, where everything happens, where Heather comes and goes.

She doesn’t hear the fireworks or see the stars: she just had a swim. Across the harbor, up and down the line.

Way up and down the line…

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