Recovery and RehabilitationJessica Langan-Peck
Miles and I walked the long way to the restaurant so that he could see the neighborhood a bit. I pointed out that the Laundromat we used to go to had closed, and in its place there was a new coffee shop called Grounded. Next to that was a fancy deli that sold craft beer. It was bitter cold, early January, and he wasn’t dressed for it. His wool pea coat was not heavy enough, he had his arms folded in front of him, his head, with its curls that were thinning, was bare. I walked a few feet away from him, talking about this street, about the way that it was changing, had changed, since he had been here last. “Things are just popping up overnight,” I said. I listened to my own voice in the wind.
A friend of ours was getting married, a winter wedding with dark flowers and lacy long sleeves on a dress I’d helped her pick out, and here was Miles flying in from wherever he was on location in Nevada. I’d like to see you, he’d said. I shrugged my shoulders against the phone. It had been a long time. The radiators in the apartment were a clanging chorus. When I told the bride to be, Angie, about it the next day she looked into my face for hints that I was lying about feeling okay. She was the same person who, right afterwards, had led me by the hand through the garden she’d made on her roof deck. There were pots and rectangular window boxes and raised beds of all shapes and sizes, all filled haphazardly with carrots and radishes and lettuce she’d grown from seeds. "Look at these little guys!" she said, and I followed her and nodded and asked her if she thought one could die of this. "It’s possible," she said.
When we got to the northeast corner of McCarren Park, he stopped. From across the street, I could see stacks and stacks of discarded Christmas trees, piled up against the low wrought iron fences and against the actual trees in the park, the maples and the beeches.
“Look at that,” Miles said. “This is where they come to die.”
I crossed and he followed me into them. Up close, they were fragrant. There were spruces and white pines, sharp needles and long, soft spikes that hung on or turned brown and fell. There were small trees, the kind that sit on tabletops, and there were ten- or twelve-footers from high-ceilinged lofts and old single-families. In the dark, the trunks still looked wet. The ground was all needles. We touched the trees softly. We walked through them, single file, and they were piled almost to my chest. We let them brush our coats. I breathed in through my nose and I wanted to crawl in amongst them on my hands and knees, the fallen needles sticking to my palms, and sit for a while. Miles had his back to me, had one hand up to his forehead like an explorer, looking over the tops of the tree piles at the few streetlights at the edge of the park. He was shielding his eyes from their glare, noticing, I knew, the cinematic way their thin bodies were pale against the dark of the trees.
Miles chose a cheap sushi place because he said he never got to eat sushi where he lived now. There was an unlimited free saké sign on the way in, and we drank and drank the starchy alcohol while we waited for our food.
“I always feel like I’m drinking liquid rice,” I said. I swished it in my mouth before swallowing.
“That’s just because you know it’s made from rice.” Miles had his elbows on the table and his chin on his hands. He looked at me. “You need some sleep.”
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