b a l t i m o r e

baltimore // analogues 

I think of you back in Baltimore as I fly over Arizona.

Arizona is hued in red and checkered; below the plane the seams are fissures, weasley furry green. Sprouts between gridlines. I can feel its dust on my shoulders like a breath.

It could be the desert, it could be Kentucky.

We drove through the hills outside your city, falling down around us like drapes over a woman’s curved body and like a zipper sailing through the horizon we were golden, we were quiet, you didn’t say much but asked me if this is what Switzerland looked like.

I said yes, like Berg Am Irchel or the countryside around Quebec. All the cows past Baltimore were flags and they twitched and chewed and flickered as we passed. They’re all the same, wide sinless eyes like black sea pearls.

The plane plunges into white and for a moment I’m blinded to everything but my existence, the worn navy blue leather of the seats.

I forgot beyond Phoenix lies the sea, it cuts across the window like a geometric interruption, a blue triangle slowly eclipsed by my brother’s sleeping head. In the furious sunlight shadows move over his cheekbones, his eyelids slide into crescents, neither of us sleep with them closed, his adams apple a sort of coastline. I am frightened to remember that I am older.

Arizona is in the brick of Baltimore.

The city flanks itself up on elbows of peppered red, burnt clay brick and rusty metal, working men and men talking to themselves. Off the train it was raining, some homeless man counting quarters asked after you. “I like this city,” I told you later, “It reminds me of Philly,” and you said, patting your nameless dog, “I love it the way you love something you just want to take care of.”

A sock like a waving mitten is tied to your windshield where the wiper broke in some storm on the way to some party. Away away from your city the drive bristles around the car; the pines like Cape Cod, the grey sand reminding me of an LA beach.  On our way to the campsite we talk of giraffes. Your ex-girlfriend left you an almost life-size stuffed giraffe you keep in your room. “I hate it now,” you say, lying. Your shirt is either grey or green, your eyes bullets or marbles. “How does someone just dissipate?” you say, and drive and drive. “How do you just say how are you?” A calm landscape out the window like that from a plane. “Like I used to know you,” you say,  “All of you. Now you’re just, anybody.” We let your bitterness slide under us with the car’s passing shadow.

“It’s 75 degrees,” you say, “Feels like 80.”

I have a coffee. “Could have made that,” you said. You talk about how your new job is so much better than being a barista. You became an actor. “I can’t even picture you doing that,” I tell you. “Oh yeah,” you say. “I make a pretty good asshole.”

On the flight to Hawaii I think of the countless visits I’ve already paid in my head. I’ve been there many times. Every rock will be the same but different. The men, will remind me of other men. Nights spent walking, walking, walking. All the trees I have already seen, the fires that have already burned. And later they will unfurl and morph in my dreams of recollection.

At the campsite your tanned cousin adopted from Taiwan strums a guitar and sings atonally with his whole heart. He is a mere and precocious seven and fits into his pale, blue-eyed mother like a flute or a sapling from her home. The challah we eat soft and golden as morning clouds.

Curled around the lake was a highway, the fraying string of a child’s yoyo. We dipped slowly into the water like pH strips and pretended it wasn’t there, ignoring the hanging green exit signs in the distance, the stream of cars floating beyond us instead we discover a chest of aquaflorei swirling. Serpents or seaweed. The lake is still and cool as glass and it shimmers. Smooth and topois, gorgeous as sunset.

We could be anywhere. We could be anyone. We arrive back in Baltimore.

Summer is a flimsy and flaking space of time and we smiled at everyone like shy school friends and they smiled in return, watching your small buoyant cousin shout and play, the city melting around him, a wavering backdrop, he could have been our brother, he could have been our child.