Moveable Cities

daniel ryan adlerThere are different ways to start a sentence. Just as there are different ways to live a life. For some time it was about the spires and minarets of temples on the sea, the ceramic tile of an ancient wall with bullet holes punched as a recent addition to thousand year old battle scars, white-haired men fishing on bridges; rickshaw runners and crumbling buildings; labyrinthine passageways with metal wares for sale; and cypresses and evergreens taking seasonal turns. Then I returned from the mountains and the cities, with memories of distant rivers, turbid and brown or milky and green, canals ringed with boats and fruit-bearing kiosks. Now I content myself on the warmth of a fire and the softness of a bed, Italian sparkling water bought for two dollars a bottle, and the sight of a ruby-throated hummingbird trilling sweetwater from the feeder with her tongue. Those muddy days of sea-salt and ancient castles silhouetted against the sky, cities of men long dead and famous with statues or monuments left in their name, that time will return, when this life of dishwashers and needlepoint reaches its course.

Look at yourself in the mirror and imagine sunken jowls where your soft jawbone curves; think about the depth of the lines on your forehead growing deeper; looking at your shiny hair and imagine it flat and white and imagine this face remembering and reflecting upon a life of missed opportunity and ended love. And think about all of the people you’ve ever seen and imagine them a hundred times over– for that is all of those you missed. And multiply them again by a hundred– that is the number who have live before you and felt the same desires and tediums you have lived. And know that your loneliness is like a vast desert city, with only the sun for protection and friendship. To be less alone, you have to cross a hundred miles of desert, two mountain ranges and a large lake they used to call a sea. You can stay in your mind to do this or you can travel by camel, or elephant, should you be so lucky. But remember that those others like you, the hundreds of sailors and tradesmen, the prostitutes and vendors, priests and kings, they have not left the mirror.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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