My wrists and ankles were always on display. That was the tell. The current kid’s legs tapered down to a kind of wide stump. There was enough sleeve for five noses. They had hair for three sisters. We had Sears jeans.
The city was our Roanoke. We went back after a long, hungry hejira and looked for signs of a lost life. The wardheeler Powhatans had finished their work. There is a look to a brick building with no windows. An accusation in it. Why did you rake the clay from its slumber in the river in the first place? Force it into a heartless mould and fire it, to sit one on top of another, chained together, to reach for the wan sunshine, now just a monument to entropy. For what? For this?
The women decorating the doorways slouched like squid but looked hard as hydrants somehow. Their eyes competed for attention with the empty windowholes in the triple-deckers. I was certain if I looked right at them I’d lose my soul. I had a soul. They gave it to me on Sunday. I wasn’t using it just then and so it was ripe for the taking. I looked at my shoes and walked on.
The staircases all canted into the well. The railings all had ideas of their own about how much you should depend on them, so you hugged the spidered walls. The wallpaper was entirely made from the scrolls of a dead civilization, glued to the wall with hope and held on now by sheer stubbornness. Just like the people.