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left with no one left

I was nineteen and wandering into another still emptiness of summer. Teenage girls from town sunbathed on the tarmac of the abandoned airbase. I crept through a gap in the chainlink fence and watched them from the high, dry grass. I thought I could smell the sun cooking their skin. They removed their tops. I masturbated. They would be gone soon--gone into other lives that would make their past seem imaginary. The radio seduced them to run for the West Coast.

I knew I would never leave. I had no life to move.

Soon the girls were gone. The radio was gone. Weeds conquered the tarmac. I spent the afternoons wandering around downtown, cooling my reflection under awnings of the antiques stores. It was too hot for people to talk. I watched the bus station. The bus pulled in twice a day. No one ever arrived. Someone always left.

I was ready for the house at dusk. My mother took pills to sleep through the night. I stole beer from the kitchen and played the piano, slow and sad like a sunset. I played piano and listened to people on the radio talk about UFO's. I knew it was time to go to bed, when it was time to close the window. Somewhere in the night, the heat left me. And the sleep arrived in the tide of alcohol and radio voices and reverberations of the now-silent piano still crashing through the house like a blind, wounded animal.

I went to bed. And I went away for a while--while I was asleep. I followed half-naked teenage girls into summer's FM frequencies of the West Coast. Or I followed ghosts into winter lighthouses of the north-east and watched the ships sink.

But I always woke up in my familiar, sunken mattress in the dusty town of my life and death--the town that anyone with talent, beauty, intelligence and/or ambition had fled a long time ago. I rose and lifted the window and waited for a transient breeze slipping through the sun's breath.

I was relieved once there was no one left to see how miserably I had failed at life.

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