At Claudia’s House

Freshman Year

Flickers of orange from the cigarette on the porch. As the cloudy day turns to a dark starless night, the man disappears, but the orange continues to dance its up-and-down waltz.

From mouth.

To air.

To arm of plastic chair.

And then back again. All day and night, he sits.

***

I pick the chips of paint off the window as I wait for Claudia to finish her shower. It is a new friendship, untainted by the slow murky drip of time. This is my first visit to her house, and I now understand my parents’ warning to “be safe because she kind of lives in the projects.” I continue to stare out the window at this seemingly nice old man on his porch. He looks happy in his white t-shirt and cut off jeans.

Sophomore Year

The man is replaced by a frail shadow of himself. A cap now adorns his bald head, and the cigarette dances to a much slower tune.

The night comes again.

This time, the glow disappears with the man. It seems he has gone to bed early.

***

Claudia and I get ready for the Homecoming dance. Both of us wear some form of black, white and red…the easy-to-be-sexy colors. I help her straighten out her natural Boricua curls, and we have the usual exchange of words, but they somehow feel slim, fractured. As if they have been sucked dry and broken by overexposure to the air. “It’s nothing,” I think. “We’re just tired.”

Junior Year

The plastic chair still sits on the porch, now manless. White and whispering, the ghosts of families and inhabitants of old roam around its crumbling exterior. It is as if the house knows its time is up. Like the man on the porch, it has given up and will soon surrender to the silencing of the old Nashville.

***

Claudia and I are friends. (What I say to most people who ask)

Claudia and I hate each other. (What I say to the people who know me best)

Claudia has changed, and so have I. She has started caring more about her appearance in every sense of the word. Always wearing those high top shoes and the tightest jeans. And that eyeliner that took 12 erases and repeats before it came to the perfect bold, black wing. This is where I began to stray. I continued to wear the same old combat boots with the same makeup procedure I’d had since seventh grade. But there was a newfound confidence in those boots and the Covergirl eyeshadow. Then, Claudia began to build herself up, higher than all of those around her so that she could survey her tiny kingdom from above. And I was travelling (escaping) further from her reign.

Further.

Further.

Until I was gone.

Senior Year

Flickers of orange from the artificial flame lamps outside the freshly constructed brick home. Three small steps lead to the modest door of the enormous home standing behind it. No one is home, or at least they do not seem to be. The windows are black against a starless night, and they are energy efficient.

New house.

Old house.

New house.

New house.

Old house.

New house.

New house.

New house.

Claudia’s house.

***

And I am back again

Quiet at Claudia’s same old house, as we are unaccustomed to speaking with the new versions of each other. The clock is louder. The floor creaks more violently. I know that I have grown, but so has she. Claudia is the same girl she always had been. Stripped of her wings and pulled off of her pedestal, she is the same Claudia I’d always known. I just had to look for her underneath the shiny newness of reality.

***

I walk over to the house across the street, where the old man used to sit and the porch used to sag. Even the dirt in the ground looks new. Still, underneath all of it. Miles deep. I feel the orange glow cascading over my fingers as it travels
From mouth.

To air.

To infinity.

Unreal

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