& Mister

They lived in a house where the front door was always closing. It was on the corner with sidewalks in front of it that they used to draw on when they were little. There's something beautiful about us, her brother used to say. There's something so beautiful about us all. He took his beauty one day. He packed it in brown suitcases and left out the closing front door and the puddles of sidewalk chalk that the rain had left for him, an orange scarf stuffed precariously in his back pocket. There were no words in her mouth for a while, because she did not know the ones that would bring him back.

"And mister..." she would have said to him, had she caught him leaving. "And mister ..."

He had taken his beauty and ended up in a train yard. Too arrogant to go back and too sentimental to entirely forget, he was stuck somewhere in the middle. He was an artist, painting on trains and finding his reason in the lines that offered him none in return.

The paths he had walked were always marked with the way that she laughed. He was waiting for her at the train yard all of the time, watching the work of other train writers on other trains. He couldn't help but think that one of those messages were for him, from her, as if to say that she was still his little sister, missing him behind a closing door.

It wasn't graffiti until they decided that they didn't want to look at it anymore. It wasn't garbage until they closed their minds to all possibilities of beauty. He wanted to show her how beautiful they were. He was a short man, maybe in his mid-twenties with and he wore two hooded sweaters because one had too many holes to keep him warm. The paint looked cold in the shadow of the train he was painting it on and he slowly backed up in that way that artists do to admire their work.

He stumbled over his red bicycle, feet catching air and he landed on his side, looking up at the white words that were dripping. The train was the color of a sidewalk, almost, and the paint looked like white chalk. He remembered how they used to trace their hands on the sidewalks in white chalk. There had always been something for him to prove and he looked at the frame of his red bicycle and imagined her riding it down the streets, displaced her into his familiarity.


It was Wednesday, and it was the day that she was going to go and meet Co. Co, as in the way that people moved when it was raining outside. Co, as in someone that wrote on trains with her. They wrote on trains because he said it was the right thing to do. "Trains," he said, his hands outstretched over his own skies. "Trains, they go all over, and you never know who sees them. Maybe everybody sees them. But it's like a part of you, you know." He shuffled his feet. "Maybe it's like you're all over, too."

She rode her red bicycle down the sidewalks and felt the wind against her cheeks. Her hair was tangled and ran like rivers behind her, her gloved hands grasping the handlebars as if they were someone's hands. Someone quite familiar. She was a young, maybe seventeen or eighteen with a face like an empress and a peasant. Her hands were that of an artist's. They were stained, maybe forever, with the smell of hot oil and fried rice.

There are angels all over, she thought. The people were all in their coats, hands in their pockets standing against the fall wind. It was better to embrace things, she thought, throwing her head back and smiling at a woman whose arms were full of flowers.

It looked like it was going to snow, the sky a clean sheet of gray that seemed to be breathing everything in. She thought to breathe it in too, as she dismounted her bicycle and started to walk it across the crosswalk. There are angels everywhere, she thought again, brushing the holes at the knees of her jeans. She thought of how the material had once been soft and saggy at the knees until it had given way to skin. It gets to her sometimes, this notion of being an artist. She wants to be an artist, and she paints sometimes, surrounding her feet with newspaper. But she finds it more entertaining to lie in the piles of newspapers and start reading than she does to paint.

The crowd thickened and she turned into an alley and picked up her pace. She swung her leg over the bicycle and started to ride again feeling herself once again catching up with the wind above her, behind the buildings and in between the lanes of trashcans. The orange scarf that she had stuffed in her pocket before she left home was trailing behind her, like protest in the wind.

The old train yard was behind all of the old, dilapidated buildings. She thought to give them a name, her own name, names that she could mouth when she passed by them. But this city, she knew, it was a nameless place. Things were more romantic when they were nameless, fading into what is spoken and what cannot be expressed. That's what she loved. That is what she knew, the old train yard. Co. Co's name was never very important to her, because to her, he was always like a train. Trains never really had names, just places to go and people to bring.

But names can't hold anything but letters.

"Co!" she called, the rocks crawling from behind the buildings.

The train yard was nothing but rusty tracks. Sometimes the lights would come on somewhere farther down the tracks and they would hide like children, waiting for something to catch, waiting for the train amidst the ones that had stopped as if they had died. Everything was so rusty, everything seemed so still, but there was always something constantly in motion that she could not place.

She dropped her bicycle in the bushes and ran down the hill in her corduroy overalls. "Co!" She saw him duck behind a train, like it was some sort of game to him. She laughed and saw his sneakers beneath the train car. Running forward, she found him leaning against the train with an unlit cigarette between his fingers. She ran her tongue over her teeth and her hands through her hair and looked at him, smiling at him.

"It's nice," he said, shuffling his feet. "to smile at someone smiling back at you."

"It is." she said, stuffing her hands in her pocket as he dropped the cigarette to the ground.

He laughed slightly and took her hand. They ran towards the trains, the sound of traffic carrying from the city streets and through their ears. She pretended not to be bothered by it, thinking of trains. She shook her head vigorously as she ran, diluting the world into dizziness. He looked back at her, the messenger bag flopping lazily against his right leg as they ran. She stumbled because she was graceful and he laughed. There was sun in their eyes, and all they saw were the shadows of trains.

When they stopped, Co brought out the paint from his bag. The cans were stained with poetry that he had written on the sides because newspapers to him were sacred. The can he handed to her said "Freedom" in bold letters. She chuckled, opened the can and turned to face the massive body of the train, where the images of other train-writers fell gracefully, as if planned. She smelled Co's paint as he opened it started to paint in loopy, mysterious letters.

"Overlapping poetry." he said. "Sometimes you can make out one word, and only one word. That's why you only have to put the important ones in there."

"Co." she said, uneasily watching the paint drip from her paintbrush onto the rocks. "Co."

"Yes?"

"I don't have anything left to say." she said.

Co stopped painting and looked at her. They would have been painting trains for years, always with something to say. Even if they had nothing to say, they would never have admit it. He looked at her, and then at the paint on the rocks, and then back at her. She sighed and sat down on the rocks, tossing her head back and looking again at the breathing sky.

He had not painted anything for a month, just stood there with the cans full of paint and poetry.

"Life's just what we make of it." she said. "I'm clumsy and I'm not an artist."

Co didn't say anything, but he knew that it was time for her to go. Their house of closing doors was never big enough for the both of them, and he never really knew what to say when he left. He never knew the words to bring her with him. He never could write enough poetry or justify his art enough to make anyone see the way that he did. Rambling is always where the poetry is, but sometimes it's not poetry. Sometimes, it's just rambling.

He watched her go long before he had left, anyway. Co capped the can of paint and picked hers up, and it was unopened. She was never there. She never painted on trains so that he could see them, and she was probably married and never rode a red bicycle down to the old train yard. Cities would be unnamed because he had nowhere to write to and there were people he would always miss. He left her nameless because names separate people from their bodies.

Co picked up the can of paint and started to leave, picking up his orange scarf and red bicycle from the bushes and heading towards the back roads. It was a long trip home because he had no one to talk to. He stole one look back and saw her as she was, in her corduroy overalls that grew with her, tracing the outlines of his art on the train yard.

The sky opened up, and then she was gone, her mouth saying in loopy, overlapping words

"And mister, one more thing." she said, like wind. "And mister..."