It's always later than you think it is, clouds tumbling down the mountains like unruly children, while across the valley someone sings a Hank Williams tune, something in a minor key, maybe "Alone & Forsaken," and the old and infirm keep watch and wait for a good death, if they can find one among the tangled second-growth woods and rushing streams on the floodplain. Oh children so full of promise, look away, for this world's beauty can only be glimpsed in those strange scalded moments when you find yourself weeping for no reason. You don't want to turn into stone like your elders.
It's always later than you think it is, so loudly clap your hands and watch the grackles explode upward out of their eve's necklace toward the stars. What dreams, what nightmares, they carry away with them. Run shouting toward the river and see the mallards fly off, skimming the surface of the water with their clattering wings. They're making you a promise. "Listen, we will always be here." Then they disappear under a bridge.
Stop and dip your open hands in the cold dark current. The river whispers through your fingers, "I will be your constant friend even though I'm running away from you." You can make a prayer if you want to, but water will remain a mystery, like your own blood. Prayers won't illuminate anything at this stage of the game.
Look at your image in the water and marvel at the way your body has changed. That pale face, those beat-up hands, that flabby gut, those chickenshit legs. Think of all the beings you have been. Damn. And now here you are, in a damp motel room listening to the plumbing in the walls and the slamming of car doors out in the parking lot. You hear someone light a cigarette in the stairwell and start talking on the phone. Everyone here is younger than you but it doesn't matter, darlin, no one is keeping score. They're waiting till the storms pass so they can get back out on the street and hike downtown. They going to remake the world of which they're made.
Hell, you came here under your own volition, wanting to tap into the hipster's highball energy, older but not necessarily wiser, still scratching to get under the surface of things, still picking at your scabs, despite the fact you've never been alone and forsaken. Your friends have made sure of that even as they made a life for themselves. It was you who sought solitude, you and a few kindred souls who made no distinction between the high and the low, between this world and the world to come. You have no clear notion of whose love sustains you. This is Austin but it could be anywhere.
It's late. Under a leaden sky the traffic crawls down Congress. You look around but there's no other way to go for now.