We leave the meeting and walk down Pearl, me and Noel, pronounced "Nole." The Legion Post is all floodlit, like a perimeter, but closed. Nothing else on the block but the tanning place, a neon palm tree ahead in the dark. People actually get browned at night, but I never see them, only the guy at the desk in the weird entrance light like a strip club cashier.
Nole and I talk about learning, him folding and unfolding something in his hands when I glance over at his face like you do when you talk to someone, letting them know you're listening. Then I don't look for a while.
"I've got a lot of noetic knowledge," he says, and I don't know what that means, but I nod, and he's one of those who doesn't look at you when he talks, so I watch him not looking at me, and it's just like, you know. Yeah.
So I look ahead, but know he's fiddling with his mouth now, and I go "uh huh" to something and look at him again and a limp handrolled cigarette hangs from his lips. Like a magic trick, presto.
Neither one of us drives right now. We're taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, he says. He's on the train, I'm on Franklin close enough to walk to the meetings and my sponsor's apartment.
Take it easy. Nice to meet you. He's shorter. We shake hands.
At Allen and Franklin and the gay bars, a police car on the sidewalk. But there's nothing. I imagine cops are chasing me. Or bad guys. Something. I think about getting away. Zig zag. Sprint. But that guy exercising on a beach listening to an iPod that got hit by an airplane. Wonder what he was listening to? I scratch, feel the knife scar on my neck. Something runs under the dumpster, back out. Jump. Those kids off the bridge at Cornell, the headline said a suicide epidemic. The guy beside the World Trade Center, with his arms wide on September 11, flying.
The bodega's gray compressor, for the cooler inside, is caged up outside behind a grate, shaking and roaring. I stumble on uneven pavement, not watching.