uncertain cities

words and sequences of them by Rhett Davis


There were three young people in the parking lot. We were walking next to the water, it was warm and the air was liquid. We’d made a pact to wake up early and make the most of the late rising sun. And it was there, behind the pier, behind the masts, behind the abandoned smelter with its lights still strangely blinking. The moon was still up and the light was dim. One of the young people, a woman, screamed. I said they were probably just exercising. I didn’t have my glasses on. We kept moving. There was no way around, even if we wanted one. There was a bearded man and another playing hockey with something. The screaming woman was draped across the roof of a car. From the corner of my eye I only saw her sharp bones and angles. Do you want some of this, she said, and it sounded like chainsaws. I kept my eyes down and I made up a story about turtles. It involved me meeting a group of three turtles on the bank of a river the day before. Their heads were inside their shells, and I didn’t know how to talk to turtles with their heads in their shells. It wasn’t a very good story. As we passed, the woman on the car roof screeched good morning to you both. The men played hockey and moved unpredictably. I kept watching where my feet were treading and spilling turtle words, hoping we would look serious enough to be left alone. We walked past and followed the sunrise, and the clouds turned red and gold. Enormous rays of light tumbled out of the sky and onto the water where they were sifted and muddled into little floating sparklets of sun. 

Later we went to a cafe and we drank coffee and chai and ate bread-related products. The sun was up and there were low clouds and a smell of burning pine. I looked at the coffee accessories that were against the wall and the guy said I could touch them, but I didn’t, and he joked that I was very timid, which was true, but not because of that.