It was the smell of Toni’s shoes that made me point at the drainpipe and say “she’s down there.” Her sister, a notorious drunk at only 23 had been babbling in panic. She ran down the slope, tumbled, toppled into the wet ditch. She waded toward the drainpipe where Toni and I spent so many nights hiding, wondering if snakes or rats were with us and if that were some kind of good Chinese zodiac sign.
Toni would call after work and say: “OK that sucked, come get me. I’m ready to stare at the moon thru a bottle of Skyy.” A stop at Hi-Times and I’d show at the place she waitressed and always, her feet breathed out the damp smell of leather and wet leaves. We’d crawl into the pipe for an evening of imagined moonlight and echoes against cool cement that were never answered.
The sister pulled herself from the sludge and looked up at the pipe then shouted Toni’s name. First came the feet, then the pretty head of hair with eyes that looked at her sister, then bent deeply at me as if to say: “how could you?”
There were no more nights after that. I moved to New York where it always smells like damp cement and gases wanting to escape and even on a good night, you might crane your neck and catch a glimpse of the moon. You stay focused on what’s down here, what brought you here, not what’s left behind, until eventually you just forget the moon altogether.