by D.C. Logan
The conference lasted three days. I took an additional two
for myself. Hadn't been to earth since the end of the war,
and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. You would
have told me to do that, I know. The city isn't what I
expected it to be. There's a pattern to it, but a veneer of
complete randomness overlays everything. The streets are
set out on a grid, except for a few. The stores and
restaurants are open late, except for a few. The people are
generally in a hurry to get from one place to another with
no time to waste on a colony tourist, except for a few. So
the random and the fixed can coexist. The pattern lends
predictability, the random energy--the entire place reeks
of energy. It seems loud and confusing when set against my
I brought along that shirt you gave me. I excused its place
in my luggage by calling it a nightshirt, and wrapped it
around a glass bottle for good measure. It's worn to
softness now--both in color and texture. I'm not tolerant
of needle and thread, but I've repaired the small holes and
tears in the fabric. Odd how in both life and in fabric it
is easier to mend a tear than to fix cloth worn to threads
by age, care, and contact. I wear it to bring me comfort
when I need it. A silly thing maybe, but I find that it
helps. Or at least I tell myself that. There's little
difference between the two views really. I wear it close to
my heart as I try to sleep each night.
I slept in this morning. First time in weeks I've been able
to do that. I still have to set my suitcase and a few books
on your side of the bed so I have something to bump up
against during the night.
It doesn't always help.
I didn't want to stay at the hotel any longer than I needed
for a shower, shave, and a comb through my hair. The sleep
brought with it a clarity of mind I forgot I possessed. The
shower was strong and very hot. I lifted towels from warmed
racks; the mirrors in the room were all fog free. I didn't
even nick myself with the razor--a first since you left.
I'd been marking myself with a badge of blood every
morning. I could call it a poetic strike, but the truth is
that I just don't care what I see in the mirror any longer
and it's made me careless with sharp edges.
You'd enjoy this hotel I think. It's got lean good looks
and strong design. There's art in the curve of the atrium
walls and in the placement of the sculpture and lighting
fixtures. It's impersonal and professional, and I don't fit
here--though I can appreciate the view.
It's a beautiful day on earth, full of the light that draws
artists from all of the colonies down to this rock. I am a
product of my upbringing; I find the sun too bright,
glaring. It highlights the imperfections of the buildings
around me, throwing each crack and mark into sharp relief
against its shadow. I feel inferior under this light. I
can't hide from myself here. I miss my gray indistinct
colony light. It hides more. Still, this is different, hard
and stunning--like this city.
There's texture everywhere. It breathes in the people and
the languages here, patchwork-paved surfaces, building
sides, glass, and scents from every doorway. I got used to
the prefabricated monotony of home. Here the city is not a
backdrop for the life living on it; it is a parade. The
variety is overwhelming and wonderful in its confusion. You
would love this--so much here to see, to touch, to
experience, to analyze. Always something to busy your mind.
You said I never learned the difference between loneliness
and being alone. I understand that now. You taught me that
lesson. Here I am completely alone in the center of a city
among millions... completely alone.
I found a shop a few blocks over from the hotel that sells
used books. Remember that copy of 'Wind and Shadows' you
were looking for? I found it. Bought it in fact. Cost me a
fortune. I didn't know then why I did it, but I do now. I
even asked about that other book you were always searching
for, but the man behind the counter looked puzzled before
admitting that he'd never heard of it.
A man pushing a food cart gave me directions to the
cathedral. It was a longer walk than he told me it was, but
worth going the extra distance--such height within, such
care of construction, a place for pausing. I don't remember
how long I sat there, simply absorbing it all into my
bones. I felt better afterwards.
I bought lunch in a plastic bag and walked it to a nearby
park. No grass to speak of, just stained and cracked
pavement with a few trees behind iron guards. Still,
there's more sky above this patch of ground than the other
spaces I've walked through.
The food was protein, little else, but was compensated by a
hidden treasure of a bakery I found a half block away. I
bought two pastries, intending to take one back to the
hotel. But the first one lost its flavor after a few bites.
I carried it back to the park with the hot drink I'd
purchased alongside. I sat for a while just thinking. Fed
the remaining pastry to an unusually bold squirrel. Didn't
feel like carrying the other one and shoved it into an
overfilled trash bin along with the half-finished drink.
I watched an elderly couple walking together, neat and
orderly only as such with military backgrounds or a lot of
free time can be. Both were tottering alongside a rattling
cart with small-portion packages in only the top basket and
I thought, painfully, that that will never be me. Ever.
That I'll never have anyone to share that with--the living,
There was a day you'd be walking alongside me, telling me
to eat the rest of my food, encouraging me to explore my
day, enjoy my vacation, lending meaning to my observations.
I hear your voice in my mind, and I'm doing the best that I
know how. Unsure if it would meet your expectations. I'm
trying. Doing the best I can at the moment.
Life hands you a random number of perfect days.
This was a perfect day, save for one thing...
You weren't here to share it with me.
Wish you were here...