uncertain cities

words and sequences of them by Rhett Davis

Fumes

At night, someone parks a car down our street. They park there for a long time and play loud music. I can’t tell what music it is. I just hear a beat, a thumping, over, and over, and over. It’s not loud enough to be bothersome, but loud enough that I consider walking over to the car and knocking on their window. Consider, but would never do. After a while, the car drives away. I don’t know what or who they’re waiting for. Are they dropping someone off, or picking someone up? Are they meeting someone? Is it a drug deal? Is our quiet street just a convenient place for loud music and waiting in an idling car? Sometimes I smell the fumes through the window. Or, I think I smell the fumes. It may be that I have imagined the fumes, that I have willed them into being to justify my pseudo-conservationist rage. All the while glimmering on a laptop, poking at a goddamn phone, both raging with toxic, otherworldly metals and magic, envenomed glass. It is quite possible, now that I think of it, that I have never, in fact, smelled any fumes. It is similarly possible that this car does not exist. It could be that the music is coming from a rowdy neighbour a few houses down, and the car that I imagine parked there has already been and gone. I haven’t actually seen it. All these cars and people and houses outside my door, all of them causing noises I associate with other noises. All of them being, doing. It could be that I have imagined them all. That I am in my dark room in my dark house and there is no one else and there is nothing else and outside there is only infinite dark my eyes cannot parse. That were I to stand up and open the door and take a look I’d be swallowed by the relentless, all-consuming absence of every single thing. How strange to then create a reality from this darkness, where people sit in cars and play music and leave their engines idling for too long. How astonishing that I can sit here, tired and unread, and believe that people are, and do. I’m tired. The music has stopped again. The engine, if it was an engine, no longer idles. Whether a car remains or has left, I can’t say, and I’m not about to get up to check. Whether it’s night or not, it’s time to go to bed.