June 2, 2010


The asphalt was cracked down the long center and spottily filled with tar, a jagged black line through the parking lot. She walked that line as a child, arms straight out to her sides, swaying, tentatively stepping one foot over another. It was the only repair the city had done in fifteen years, that tar patch; the lot was rife with similar damage, splintered and cragged in places, chunks of pebbly asphalt turned up and over. She ran her fingers over the tar, and looking closely as she did, saw fractures throughout, felt them rough against the grain of her fingerprints. It was an illusion, the rich smoothness of the tar, like cooled – once molten – rock. When she was a child it was a hot vein through a barren waste. She could feel the heat through her jellies with each lingering step, careful not to fall to one side or another, an inflated concern that evaporated, along with the unspoken rules, as soon as she stumbled.
A year ago Pam’s sister found her sitting in the lot, alone and in the dark, lit by the streetlamp above. Her sister spoke sharply and Pam complied, shuffling back to the apartment, taking what she needed and playacting regret. That was the last time Pam left by herself. Tonight would be the last time in another year.
But not for another hour or so. The sun crowned the sparse treetops yet, and it was too early to dread her sister’s long walk to the lot. The night would be cold and whisper chill before long, but she was dressed nice and warm, and tucked herself inward, hugging her legs tightly against her chest. As the light waned, she would watch the long black tar line slowly fade until the lamp above her clicked, preserving a segment of the crack in a circle of fluorescence.

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