There’s a bird somewhere in the trees above the apartment whose song sounds just like a little crossing guard whistle. I have no idea what kind of bird it is. He whistles on his own time, like a little crossing guard, but it just so happens that the interval at which he whistles matches the interval at which cars go speeding by, speeding by way too fast.
There wasn’t anything to do back then, so we spent our weekends driving in loops. I would leave my house to go pick up Josh, and then Josh and I would drive up Route 19 to Wexford to get Cole. Then Josh and Cole and I would turn out from Cole’s neighborhood, left on Rochester Road to Anne’s, riding the ridgelines. Then the four of us would drop down from Anne’s house into the small, potholed back roads that run along the tributaries in the literal underbelly of the north hills. In Pittsburgh, all the main roads and all the neighborhoods are on the ridges, and so you spend most of your life on the top. Dropping down to the creeks, where the roads were named “Wexford Run” or “Reis Run” or some other kind of run, was like meandering through secret passageways in the castle or twisted wormholes. No sense of direction except upstream and downstream, no views except the green walls. The wormholes behind Anne’s house would bring us back to 79, and 79 would teleport us north to Warrendale, where we’d slide down the slopes into the creeks again.
It was a bounded infinity where we could continue in one direction and just keep popping up back in Wexford. There was no obvious curvature in the universe because whatever curved curved in some other unknowable dimension.
A Brief Metaphor
I told Anne depression was like a monster under your bed. You don’t see it but you know it’s there because it shapes your experience of reality. You can throw your covers over your head and pretend like it can’t get you in there, but you can’t ignore its proximity. And every night you have to return to your bed and go to sleep, so every night you subject yourself to its danger because there’s nothing else you can do. You sit there, imagining all the vicious and ham-handed ways it’ll get you, or you’ll allow yourself to be got. Or you’ll allow yourself to be got.
The hatching embossed into the handle was so fresh, so new, that it was sharp, and the metal edges bit into my hands. It was heavy. Honestly I don’t know how heavy it was, it probably wasn’t that heavy, but it was heavy anyways. And I felt like it wasn’t a gun but a bomb, or a lit firework, and that at any moment it was likely to go off in any direction or in all directions. I didn’t feel like I had control of it. I didn’t feel like it had control of me or anything, but that it was like a cat and I was like a person—I couldn’t make it do anything and it couldn’t make me do anything, but it could definitely hurt me.
Please take this away from me.
Sure, he said. It’s not dangerous; it’s not even loaded.
Okay. He took the gun and put it back in its little foam slot in its metal case.
It’s just for safety, he told me. Not for what you’re thinking.
He closed the metal case and put it away under his bed where it lived.
Back then we were still learning the roads, so we had no idea where the wormhole would pop us out, but when I think back I always know where we wind up, and all the turns are obvious because they’re not wormholes, and it’s not magic.
I almost hit another car at a traffic light today. My tires actually screeched to stop, and you hear the sound of tires screeching so much in film and television and so seldom in real life that you forget how big of a sound it really is. Somehow the overuse of the sound on screen never divorces its real life counterpart from the stakes.
Steven Genise is a writer based in Seattle. His work has appeared in Gone Lawn, Crack the Spine, After the Pause, and others, and he is the fiction editor of Cascadia Magazine. Sarah Genise is a visual artist based in a Phoenix, whose work has appeared in various shows around Arizona.