Gilbert Road

I woke up lazy Saturday, my potential trip to Payson slashed by budget cuts at my fiscal year close, and I spent the 6am hour outside and inside, briefly, at the kitchen sink, cleaning out my hookah from Jerusalem. I decided to be healthy and skip breakfast, instead opting for sweet mocha-flavored Arab tabacco and herbal essence siphoned through a glass vase of ice water and a long hose up into my lungs — and held tight — exhaled into the cool valley air overlooking a perfect Mesa morning.

My hatefullness of the heat has gently decomposed into an apathy and I no longer dislike Arizona but instead find myself quite happy, even though in the back of my mind I briefly take trips to the east coast, and decide that I’ll explore there next as the west coast has grown old to me, for now. I put The Wallflowers on the outdoor speakers, and watch the sun finish its rise above the Superstitions, and the haze comes through the pathwork clouds gently, although it is only a few steps away from the gray glare that might require sunglasses.

An hour later I am speeding down the US 60, on my way to south central Phoenix for four or five hours of overtime to make the money that is needed to buy bread and eggs, but with a short stop planned at my lover’s place of employment to say hello and add iced coffee to my veins. A mile before my exit, a piece of silver — something — is kicked out from the car in front of me and I cannot avoid, lest making friends with a concrete wall or an eighteen-wheeler. A split second later my car jerks to one side and my already broken mirror scrapes the beige wall of the freeway, and I almost overcorrect with a sharp jerk to the left as my fender briefly comes under the cargo to my side, before a happy medium is found. Pieces of my tire rattle then shoot out from underneath my car and I see them in the rearview.

My spare is flat and the tow truck on the way, and I call my friend in Los Angeles to kill time, and he is quiet. He tells me that the night before last, his friend, Dave, fought to make his torso free from the burden of life by laying his head on the railroad tracks heading out from the ship docks in Long Beach. My friend went to drive to the spot but only got as far as the bridge of the 710 going over the channel, and I tell him I know the place. The bridge I am now standing under at Gilbert Road doesn’t seem as threatening anymore, and my problems not as bad, but that is the typical response.

I don’t want to understand his pain in the City, but I don’t tell him that five years past now I still can’t stop and walk past the apartment complex at Gilbert & Brown and not think about those who didn’t have the choice to live, who had to die by another’s hands because it was dictated. You killed once but robbed more and they eventually caught you in Los Angeles, at the same crackhouse hotel where I had a knife held to my own throat once, pressed against a wall, but you befriended here in Mesa and took from others what you could not earn for yourself, and stabbed and bled the one whom you took it from. And it seems to be a yearly tradition, again, five years now, that every autumn or winter I run into your dad at Wal-Mart and he pretends it’s all okay. Todd, I can’t bring myself to tell him that it’s all okay, because you and I both know it never was.

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