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Danny Manning

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The Dangerous Summer
By Danny Manning
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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So where the hellís my hope, and why canít I just try?
You know Iíve lost a lot, but I wonít let this die.
I know Iíve got a friend up in the atmosphere, and another reason not to fear the sky.
No, not tonight.


4:30. I instinctively moved my hands to my tie for the thousandth time that day; the millionth time that week. Perhaps there should’ve been some kind of banner next to the copy machine with big, blue letters on it to commemorate the event, but that’s not at all what I wanted. All I wanted was the long, drowsy night that stretched ahead of me in the shape of a drink. All I wanted was vividness that fatigues, and tension that relieves. All I wanted was the weekend.


“Sir,” the bubbly secretary called to me from behind the warmth of a hired smile. “A Mr. Jason Ruble is on line one for you.”

“Oh God,” I said aloud. “It’s 4:30 on a Friday, what does he want?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know, sir, but his voice sounded less than pleased.”

“Alright, I’ll take it… Line one, you said?”

“Yes sir, that’s correct.”

“Alright, thank you, Susie.”

“Uh-huh – you’re sure welcome.”

It’s Jason Ruble on line one for me. How dare that man call me and tell me he doesn’t like his proofs? I slaved over a hot computer screen all day preparing those for him. I think it took me each precious hour to realize that I really don’t like my job. I’ve been measuring my life by the number of times I stare at the secretary and say to myself, Charlie, what are you doing with your life? I can see my years wasting away. They’re melting into the board room floor, and shrieking up at me. But I’m losing all their cries inside all the files I have to alphabetize. Sometimes I like to pretend they’re going in the “C’s” next to ”Car Specialists, Inc,” or that relief goes in the “R’s” next to “Ruble.”

I think the number one flaw with human existence as it is right now is that people cannot realize that their job is not their life. Work is the place that allows life – it is the place you are at when you are not living life. This office isn’t my home, but everyday I’m up to my necktie in computer keys and to-do lists. I sell my smile to clients, and talk a lot with the hopes that they’ll buy into me. Most of the time they do. I take charm from my checks on good days, and condolences from my contracts on bad ones. It’s probably wrong that I’ve come to have so much distaste for this 9-5 ritual, but as my hand moves to the knot around my neck for thousand and first time, all I want to do is live my life in the real world that exists beyond these white walls and fluorescent lights. I want to grab a glass at the bar with my two amigos, who incidentally also work there. I want to sell my smile to women, and hope that they’ll follow me across the town to my room. Most of the time they do. I like that.

“Uh-huh… Yes, sir… Alright, then; well I’ll try to get that to you by Monday, and again, I’m real sorry about that.” Hanging up the receiver, I breathed a sigh of relief. The bittersweet conversation had drained the last of the hourglass. “Hey Mike!” I shouted across the room, and looking up from the copy machine, my dear friend crossed the board room, walking like he was trying to jingle a song from the change in his pocket. He was about 5’5 – short and slender, with muscle utterly packed onto his body. While some people are addicted to tobacco or cocaine, Mike was addicted to dumbbells, which, I suppose, isn’t all that bad considering the alternatives. I’ll admit that I’m a little jealous. His body looks like it was cut from a slab of marble, and it wows women like tourists in a museum. And he knows it. And he loves it.

Mike never smiles – only grins. His teeth might surface for a quick moment, like a flash of lightning parting a bronze sky, but that’s about all. He makes a point of shaving every third day, as to achieve the charming ruggedness of a man that doesn’t care. Yet, the irony is that he does care. Very much. Probably too much.

“What’s up, bro?” he asked me, grinning and nodding.

“It’s 5:00. I think I’m going to suffocate unless we get outta here. You ‘bout ready?”

“You know it, man. Then we can get ourselves out of our work clothes and into our dancin’ shoes.”

I sighed again. “Thank God for the weekend, Mike. That’s all I can say.”

“Rough day?”


“Ahh…” he grinned again. “Well lemme call Kenny over here and we’ll get on over to The Purple Rose.”




The Purple Rose, huh?”


Yeah, of course. Is that a problem?”


No, no, it’s nothing, I just –“

Before I could answer, Kenny came trotting up in his ocean blue shirt and bright orange cargo shorts. “What’s happenin’, fellas?” and he slapped both our hands. The thing about Kenny, is that I believe that he doesn’t, in all sincerity, care about his looks – at least not in the way that Mike does. He shaves, but purely for the sake of comfort, and his hair is like a sandstorm on a golden beach. It is almost impossible for him to respond without first shaking the hair out of his face.


Kenny’s overall appearance bares a sharp contrast to Mike’s. When Kenny laughs, it is long and deep, and the whole office can hear it. He smiles like a warm light, and it is constant. You can hear Ken from a mile away by the consistent skip of the flip-flops they allow him to wear. He’s in the back, as far away from the clients as possible, and he therefore dresses as if the white walls of the office are a beach landscape. He’s the perfect guy, excluding of course his lazy lifestyle and optimistic self-absorption.


“You know, Kenny,” I said. “I still can’t believe they don’t make you cut your hair in this place.”

“Oh please. I practically own this company. They love me here.”
“And they don’t mention your dress either,” Mike chimed in. “It’s astounding.”

“Well brothers, luxury is worth what it costs.”

“Oh yeah? What does that even mean?”

He sighed. “I’ll explain it when you’re older,” and then lost it to laughter. Kenny was one of these people that were always smiling, and his mood amplified the office on Fridays. “So what’s up brothah’s? We hittin’ up the bars tonight or what?” he asked me, pretending to punch me in the shoulders.

Suddenly my mouth tasted like metal, and I could feel a sensation in the bags beneath my eyes. “Hey… What’s say we go somewhere new tonight, yeah?’ They couldn’t believe it. A small ruckus broke out around my desk, but only a small one.


What?” Mike broke in. “Charlie, what’s wrong with the bar? We’ve been going to the Rose for months – we can’t just abandon her.”
“Yeah, but that’s just it. I don’t think I can take anymore yellow barstools or dirty hardwood, Mike… How ‘bout the Elephant?”


The Elephant?”


Wait, which elephant?” asked Kenny.


Let’s go check out the White Elephant tonight,” I told them, trying to conceive a command, rather than give a choice.


The night club? Are you serious?”


Whoa, whoa.” Kenny flipped his hair again. “Don’t you guys want to check out the poker game at the boss’s place tonight?”


Ahh… I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ve never been too great at poker. I think I’d probably get taken.”


Where did this crazy club notion come from?” Mike continued.


I don’t know, I just… Ugh…” I couldn’t explain it. For some reason I just felt like the bar would be lacking something. As it stood in my mind – the dirty colors and the flawless drunks – I knew that I needed a change. I needed a change. “I need a change, man. I suddenly realized I don’t want to spend another night arched against the counter, waiting for the buzz to pass through. Let’s go try something new, boys… What have we got to lose?”


A small silence broke the air around us, but only a small one, and we sat around my desk while moments unknown slipped by, eyeing each other and thinking hard. Thinking back, it was quite the pivotal moment – Jukebox Jane and her team of whiskey sours vs. the exciting unknown within a digital dream for hours. The bar vs. the club. The old vs. the new.



I say we go for it,” Kenny spoke up.

Yeah, yeah… I suppose we can try it,” said Mike.

Finally, finally. The weekend was at our fingertips, and they tingled with audacity. “Oohhh, yeah,” I crooned, and then made my way for the exit, bowing and bidding Adue, adue, adue, to the leather chairs and white walls.

Oh, yes. I unlocked the door to my car, and sped off toward my home. It was just that time of night. The city was ceasing to be a cold and dusty tomb, but was instead transforming into an explicit light show. The sunset wrapped around me as I burst through my door, heading straight for the wardrobe. Outside my window, and array of colors danced like fire atop the horizon. The clouds manipulated themselves into turbulent spills of crimson and orange, sweeping the sky. The shower was warm, and the business man melted right off. It was just that time of night, where the ugliness and lifelessness of the day-to-day was melting in the back of my mind like the clouds were in the back of darkening sky. I was progressing past blue skies and neckties, and life felt like a flashing marquee for the pleasure of my youth. The razor slid down my chin. It was just that time of night where my worry lines were getting crushed beneath my smile lines. Shiny shoes adorned my feet, and carried me off toward good fortune. I was going to turn my flesh on, and make it glow all over, and it was going to feel so good. The wrinkles in my forehead couldn’t battle the earnest promise of a night on the town. This time of night was perfect for the heart and soul.


As the sunset subsided, and the colors of nighttime began to extinguish the fleeting fit of daylight, I met my friends at the nightclub: The White Elephant – a rather strange name, I suppose, but breathtaking nonetheless. The club stood like a gargoyle, looming over the city. The way the town was geographically orchestrated, the edifice stood just in front of a suburban neighborhood, looking down, so to speak, over the middle and lower classes. In addition, this club was itself the classiest of all of the town’s electric nightlife. If it was sleazy and shallow inside, it was at least a little more dignified. At any rate, it was a level above the grimy bars we were used to, and that was a good thing.



Inside, the massive boom beats sent tremors through me. It was a dark, dark room that was brilliantly lit by leaping lasers and bodies in motion – dirty, dancing torsos beneath a white veil of intoxication. The aroma of tiles and sweat bounced up to me. I was a stranger in the shadows, setting my sights on the silhouettes of the dance floor. All around, lust-driven couples and fun-filled mobs danced this way and that, feeling up and groping down. “Now this is a party,” one of us said. There was a white-hot connection burning through everyone in the club – a stream of energy that banded them together like a solar system, and I wanted in. The boys followed my back as I strode swiftly to join the universe.


I stepped through half-second spotlights toward the electric bar, and my hands, with minds of their own, gestured to order a drink. Thus Friday night found me leaning there.


Yeah… So much for not spending another night at the bar,” said Mike, touching up his spiky hair.


Man, we just got here.”


Alright, take it easy. I’m just saying, you’re the –“


Wow!” Kenny came strolling up with a look of wonder jazzed across his face. “This place is intense!” he yelled much louder than he needed to.


Charlie, you really think you’re gonna find some girls here that’ll go home with you?”


The thrill of the chase, remember?”


Everyone’s paired off.”


Hey, hey, there Mike,” Kenny said with a smile like a sunrise. “I know you’re not doubting the skills of my man over here,” and he shook my by the shoulders.


Cut that out, Kenny.”


Well hello, Mr. Negative.” He was still shouting. “Say, have you seen my good friend lately?”


I chuckled, and then took a sip of my icy drink. It burned on the way down. “Just gimme a minute to adapt to the scenery…” Something was off. There was some flaw in the night – some thorn prodding sharply at my insides, and getting sharper all the time. It was a secret that I could not obtain. It felt like the secret to life.



Suddenly Mike let out a low oooh from his leather throat. “That one’s got eyes for me.”


Kenny giggled. “Well then go hit her up!”



Alright Charlie… Tell me if I’m doin’ this right.” He and a brunette, two outlines silhouetted against the dance floor, looked, then laughed, then disappeared into the jamboree. As for me, I turned my back on him, and leaned against the bar… thought about ordering another drink, but decided against it.


So many people have fought so many battles trying to discover the secret to life. I remember when the secret to life was in the hands of my 8th grade sweetheart. That is, until it was in the bottom of the bottle. It was in lollipops and ice cream cones until it was in the bodies of faceless women. The secret to life was in Saturday morning cartoons, until time ruined that. Now I didn’t know what I wanted, and my head was in my hands. The thorn in my insides now felt like an old nail.


Alright, bro,” yelled Kenny as he slapped me on the back. “I’m gonna go do a little exploring – maybe I’ll meet you back here in a few?”

I nodded to him. Who was he going to find, and what was he going to say to her? And most importantly, why did it matter? People talk a lot like earthquakes – most of the time it’s just a big fuss over nothing. There’s no rationalizing, just relentless rubble and empty frames. Some people just carve such a path with their words, acting on the purity of the present, leaving behind faulty pieces of metal and memory. If Channel 7 ever announced the end of the world, Planet Earth would be in uproar, but not these people – they’d be too distracted and self-absorbed to realize anything.


This is the kind of feeling I’m realizing I get when I listen to Mike and Kenny woo girls, and it terrifies me, because I know I probably sound the exact same way. The human language is magnificent, yet when wielded incorrectly, it is unfulfilling. Many wield words like a weapon and speak sincerity like a storm. Charm can spring up from a meaningful foundation, and it is flawless. I like that. Those humans are not the ones of whom I speak. The subjects of my rant are those who are driven by salty, seedy pleasures. Many wear it beneath a charismatic mask of utter dishonesty. Yet the line dividing the two is as thin as the hair standing still on the backs of women’s necks. Perhaps even more troubling, however, is that the line drives even slimmer in the mind of the individual. I love those two boys to death, but their words for women mean nothing; it’s all a bedroom endeavor.



I don’t think I’ve ever been truly afraid of sleaze until tonight. It started today in the office when the bar just sounded unappealing. Unappealing, I suppose, because the same women are there every night. The faces change, but that’s all. The bar just didn’t feel like it would fulfill, and so I wanted more. Yet, here at the club, things didn’t feel much better. The energy was enhanced, but validation still floated around like the debris after an earthquake.



This is just the way a crisis gets started. It began as a small flaw in my night, and now my insides were being crucified. Panic was in my fingernails as I began to claw at the bitter end of my rope. I felt so disturbed by my un-enlightenment, unable to wrap my hands around a solid image of that which I truly wanted. I looked from woman to woman; from each colorful tattoo to each soft-soled dance shoe; from angels to devils and from sirens to saints. Things bubbled harder and higher inside of me… And that’s when I saw her.


I moved my hands through my hair. Her glance was heavy. In the middle of a dance floor that blew lights past me like short bursts of wind, this woman stayed frozen like a flame, illuminating her spot. She moved her body like a weapon. I was suddenly filled with the urge to knock drinks past my lips; to ingest the kind of courage that only comes in cups, but instead I pressed on across the dizzy floor with hot noise in my ears. I didn’t know what I would say to her, but I felt like I needed to… For the sake of the secret.

“Hey there, girlie – where you dancin’ off to so fast?”


Is that difficult?”


I’m sorry?” I said as I leaned in. “Is what difficult?”


I find it amusing that you would put that face on for me. I was asking if it was difficult to wear all the time.”


I could feel my insides twist on their nails. We were connected by our eyesight with each other. We were a focused stream of energy amidst the mass amounts that bounced around us. “You’re suggesting this is all a façade?” and listened hard.



Who are you?”


The name’s Charlie. Pleasure to meet you.”


That’s not what I asked…”


What are you talking about, babe? You’re like a paradox.”


You’re like a parade.”


”A lot of noise about nothing. A charade celebration.”


Wait, I don’t… What did you say your name was?”


My name’s Lady Luck…” she said with a sly grin.


Well I guess that would make me the King of Hearts, wouldn’t it darling?”


Hm. You kinda look like the Joker to me.”


Ouch… How ‘bout a drink to warm up that icy, cold heart of yours?”


Oh, you wanna buy me a drink, huh?”
”Yeah, I suppose I could pay.”


I don’t know… I’m not sure you’re a very safe bet.”


With each word I was taken aback, yet each line hooked in me further. Whoever this girl was, I had never met anyone like her before, and I was captivated. Absolutely captivated. I hadn’t felt nervous in so long. “Why don’t you take a gamble then? You might get lucky.”



I am luck, honey.”


Then I guess you can’t lose.”


A placid stare painted onto this golden head shook slowly at me. “I’m intrigued by you, Charles…”




Damn you… Her eyes like glass. Like a two-way glass mirror. She saw me. “You’re like a man with a great hand, exploiting his bluff, and ruining it.” She saw me, and I felt that I was finally starting to see the truth in the reflection.


Who are you?” I asked her.


She laughed. It was cool and deep. “I asked you first.”



No… I’m not ready to show my cards yet.”


Hmmm…” Sly and beautiful. “Then why don’t I raise you?”
”You’re gonna raise me?” I asked behind a grin.


Just a little… I think you’ve got a shot at stealing the pot.”
”Yeah? I don’t know – I’m not sure I’ve got enough luck on my side.”


She eyed me deeply, and I could feel her gaze, like the tip of knife tracing my insides. Then abruptly, from out of nowhere, she turned the mood of the conversation. “So what is it you think you want from me?”



“You know... What do you want?”

“What do I want?”

“Uh-huh.” Just as she was beginning to open up, she became sly again, and ventured to pry me further.

I hesitated, but only a little. “Well, I’ll give you three guesses… What I want starts with a drink.”

“Like a parade,” she said to me. “Very, very much like a parade.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Luck, I didn’t realize we were playing 20 questions.”

“What do you really want?”
“Let’s see… I’d like to know your real name.”

“I’m callin’ your bluff, Joker. I’m raisin’ the stakes. That’s not you want.” Her gaze maintained.

“It isn’t?”

“Nope,” her grin as wily as ever.

I had nothing to say. Nothing to say. Nothing to say…

“My name’s Natalie,” and she shook me by the hand. “It’s a pleasure to have met you, Charles.”

I tried in vain to stop her, but she swam like a white whale into the swarming crowd. The dancers swallowed her like a body of water, but she went purposefully, leaving me with one last line to choke on. Before she disappeared, she called out to me, and said, “The party lifestyle’s gonna kill you, you know.”


What a paradox. “You’re like a paradox,” I whispered after her.


I rendezvoused with the boys shortly after. They were at the bar – Mike with his hands wrapped around that brunette, and Kenny with hands wrapped around a rum & Coke, both smiling.


Mike, who had been locked in a deep conversation about God knows what with his brunette, broke the scene. “Hey you guys, I want you to meet my new friend here. Her name’s Betty.”

She shot her frail hand toward me. I recognized Betty immediately. Of course, I’d never seen her before, but she was like a template filled out in different colors. She was the same woman – the same make-upped face that drank too much and swore to sound cool. This one in particular was slightly different, only because she was a teller at a bank and was a single mother. Regardless, she till burned in the melting pot of my memory with the rest of them. In her little blue blouse, she spoke with a voice that was higher than the clouds about people that were lower than the dirt – her rude, rude customers, her mischievous son, and even her friends that had put on too much weight recently. We got to hear all of the stories, and none of us liked them. Mike was the only one that made himself believe that he did.


I took a look at my surroundings: the bouncing belly of an ignorant beast. I reminisced the night, listening to the words of Mike’s ditz, and the laughable valor of Kenny’s wisdom. I thought about the broken copy machine, and the endless ticking of the analog clock above it. I thought about the 9 to 5 knot in my neck. Lady Luck, Lady Luck. She was right. What I wanted did not start with a drink. It did not end with a pillow. It began with an adventure.


Turning my head, I just so happened to see her again. “Oh man, oh man,” I said aloud. I saw her body, showcasing itself to the LED audience, and I was sweating. My palms slipped down the glass as I grasped it for one more, and butterflies flew dizzily around my stomach, colliding into one another. The dizzy lights did nothing to ease my tension. It’s now or never, I told myself. No girl had ever made me nervous before, yet now my jaw trembled with a thousand words I couldn’t speak. Closing my eyes and brushing my hands through my hair, the pure, white call of adventure said my name. It didn’t sound like an old record in a jukebox. It didn’t sound like a repetitive techno beat. It sounded like two silhouettes against the moonlight. As I charged forward, with my sincerity in hand, she looked at me. Her fingers flew through her golden hair like eager hands digging for treasure. Our eyes met. So blue. “Let’s escape,” I said into her ear.

Two gaping, glassy eyes looked up to me, and her lips trembled with a thousand words she couldn’t speak. Finally, she whispered, “Alright.”

The autumn air outside the club was like a cool breath after a laugh. It stood still and watched our movements as we jetted down the street, hand in hand, running toward nothing, and running toward everything.

We flew across the city and looked down at everyone from our great height. We saw the all the adolescents sleeping their lives away, and all the couples lying on their respective sides of the bed. I held her in my arms, and it was glory, glory, glory. We inhaled the night, and swept across the streets of the fancy neighborhoods, zigzagging through back yards and hopping over fences. Pointing to one particularly monstrous abode, I clutched her hand tighter and whispered into her ear, “Let’s live in one like that,” and she squeezed back.

Slowing my pace, I carried her along with me toward the house. It was a tall and wide shadow, pricking the dark, blue sky. Like a monster in the black, it was threatening, but intriguing nonetheless, and I felt I had to conquer it.

“What are you doing?” she asked me.

“There…” I said, pointing my finger to the side of the house. Placed perfectly along the wall of this beast was a beckoning, 13-step, silver ladder. It was on its side, half-way buried in the grass, and the glint of the moon beamed off of it – it looked like a lucky star, just at our fingertips. “What’s say we get a better view of the city, huh?”

“You mean you want to climb?”

“That’s right, Lady Luck. This place is Cloud 8, and I just found the stairs to the top floor.” We looked at each other for some while. The autumn air went into our bodies, and was like silk around us. The only sounds were cars in the distance, and I lost myself in both her amazing oceans. We didn’t kiss. Not yet.

“I’ll go first…” she whispered. Reaching down into the grass of the unknown, we each grasped the heavy ladder in both hands, and it made a sharp noise as it struck the wall. “Oh no… Oh God, what’ll we tell them?

“Relax. It was just the wind,” and I winked at her. “Now go on up, and I’ll hold it for you.”

When we finally made it to the top, it was breathtaking. The city lights were strewn together like a huge bed of fire – whites and reds and subtle blues. The great expanse of land was bathed in an awe-inspiring perfection of pristine energy. Best of all, the full moon stood gloriously in the sky, keeping watch over its million tiny treasures. All was silent.


Oh my God…” she whispered. “It’s so amazing here.”


All I could feel was the glory of the moment and the eternity of seconds. My flesh was on fire, and life zipped through my veins in warm shots. We stood tranquil for many minutes, letting the moments stack together, until I could no longer take the stillness. My body was a burst of energy. “Let’s dance,” I said, and I moved in a swift motion to the tune of lovely obscurity. She hesitated for a moment, but then feeling the vigor, followed flawlessly. It’s a ballroom, baby, and the thin, ecstatic torsos we possessed met each other in the silence of the starlight. Our limbs moved in ignorant obedience to the fabricated music of our minds. The song was perfect, yet I’ll never hear it again.


Oh baby,” and we danced, danced, danced. Our bodies were volcanoes and our bodies were the stars, and we were living and breathing and pouring out the kind of energy and heat that I know Orion himself would have been jealous of. I know that if we had been in the sky, we would have been dominant constellations.

I took my hands back, and, still moving my feet, began clapping. “Oh baby,” and I clapped my hands some more. “Oh baby,” and I stepped lightly. I was singing the lyrics of my perfect song. I was singing in the perfect pitch for that perfect night, and it was the perfect picture of passionate bliss. “Oh baby, oh baby.”


Oh, oh, baby.”


Clap, clap – clap. Clap, clap – clap.


Oh darlin’”


Oh sweetie.”


Clap, clap – clap. Clap, clap – clap.


It was completely ridiculous, and absolutely delightful. It didn’t matter if the world ended the next day. Tomorrow or not, we had that rooftop. I was clapping my hands, and dancing till the sunrise. I was biting my lips to her long legs and blue eyes. “Oh baby. Oh baby.”



I stepped this way and that, until our perpendicular bodies stopped to face each other in perfect symmetry. I suddenly put my feet flat on the ground, and rushing my hands to her face, found passion in her lips. They were rich. I can’t tell you how long we stood there for, but my heart beat louder than the ladder against the wall, and her skin beamed brighter than the full moon watching us. This is it, I thought to myself. This is it. This is life. Our trembling forms made one great figure, and it was the perfect palindrome that spelled out the glories of existence.

We had lost the gorgeous element of air between our lips, and instead found the thrill of life, and the excitement of its adventures. It was your classic scene of passion. Two bodies wrapped up in each other, completely absorbed by the romance of the always-appropriate full moon. I pictured us standing there, and couldn’t wait to see the credits rolling. By the looks of it, this was the end scene where two intense lovers, who had fought valiantly for each other, were finally connecting in their long-awaited moment of blissful harmony.

Finally, out of breath, I kissed her on the forehead, and buried her in my arms. We made our way to our backs, and lay still, revering the night.

After some moments, she asked with a sly grin, “So… What do you want?” Golden fingers danced like the tarantella up my arm as I counted the strands of her hair. I remember when the secret to life was in the hands of my 8th grade sweetheart. I remember when it was in lollipops and ice cream cones and bottomless glasses at The Purple Rose. Who would’ve ever thought that the secret to life is full of all those things? The secret to life is just burning up in the hands and hearts of humans that can never stop, and can never lose it. They can never gain it. The secret to life is that there is no secret.

“A lot,” I said. “There is a lot that I want.” Glory to the man who thinks he’s found it and woe for the man that stopped looking. There are thousands of unrelenting epiphanies to be had until death takes us. In the meantime, we’re allowed to awe at it. The secret to life is that there is no secret. Only honesty.

“…such as?”

“I don’t know, you know, I just… Want… To live my life.” The secret is wrought with burning desires and brilliant landscapes, within and without the human body.


“…I want to live fast and breathe even faster, and get married and live in a big house with a giant roof.”

If it weren’t for pain, there’d be no such thing as pleasure. A revelation is hard. I think I spent so long in the heat and self-absorption of the summer that I forgot about the fall. The air was cold – I could almost see my breath, and it reminded me that everything was good – that there is hope in the grand investments of little, significant adventures like dancing on the roof.

Silence, but only slightly.

“You’re like a poet,” said the sonnet in my arms. But I’m not a poet, I’m just honest. I’m a lyrical concoction of flesh and desire from one of Shakespeare’s plays that he wrote about a life he never got to live. That won’t happen to me.

You’re like life,” I then told her..” The secret to life is nothing, and it is everything. You must discover it – that is the secret.


We lay on the roof of a stranger’s house in a neighborhood beyond my reality, far, far away from The White Elephant, and even further away from my leather chair and striped neck tie. I pulled her tighter into me. Never give up, I though to myself. Never give up.


By and by, the sun began to rise, and we sleepily made our way back across town, holding each other for warmth. I let her wear my coat as I escorted her to her apartment. The morning was a translucent blur of gathering heat and flitting memories. When we got near her door, I let her go from my arms. I had to let her go, kiss her once more on the forehead, and watch her walk away.



I don’t think I’ll ever see her again as I did in that moment. As she walked slowly away from me, leaving only satisfaction to separate us, I couldn’t help but call out her name one last time. It was a beautiful name, and it soared from my mouth. “Natalie,” I said, and she turned around. She had her hands buried casually into the pockets of my coat, so that the slender sleeves made a solid connection with the rest of the jacket. It was warmth.


As the morning sun pasted her shadow against the brick apartment behind her, it was completely apparent she had been up all night. Her hair trickled down her shoulders, and it was beautiful. Right now it was tired and disheveled, and it frayed about in the waking memory of long hours under the moon. It made me grin. The poor tired woman – her eyes were two spots practically stained on her face. The bags under her eyes had buckets under theirs. But in the burning break of daylight, we were both so blissful. We were both so honest. I could hear those first birds chirping and those few cars passing, and I could smell the steam already starting to rise over the city.

“Yes?” she asked me, and began to crack a grin. I knew that fragments of the night we had just had were mixing and meshing in her head – the roads we ran through, and the roof we reveled on. It was perfect. It was all so perfect.

“Sleep tight.”

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