Original photo taken by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash
Friday, October 14, 2022
It’s a 45-minute walk until arriving at a gray brick building with three arched entry fronts. Between each motorcade of buses and Avantians requesting RyderCars, shadows expose sweat drenching Gus’ armpits, soaking his black polo. He pulls us closer to the entrance of Capitol Parish Union Station. While heading underground for the GTube’s SouthStation tracks, we enter the wake of our 26th hour without food.
Upon arrival to the newly established restaurant and lounge, Beets of SouthTown, Nwaka, and his lady-gal sit at a table for five.
Each SpacePad above our gold-shaded tabletop lights up as we take our seats. Across the dining room area, a revolving belt of drinks and one server make their rounds. With food on the way and gracefully able to sit with our backpacks off, I turn to watch the happenings outside the restaurant’s window.
Construction signs and yellow cone barriers are positioned around a Caterpillar loader. An Excavator dumps excess loads of broken gravel aside the front street curb. Next to it, a pothole is sidestepped by a worker. Hard-hatted men yell as cars detour around the site to ensure the flaggers are signaling appropriately. The block’s sidewalks are undone, and the next street over is closed, making it clear what our tab is funding.
Nwaka grabs us all drinks from the belt. While setting each glass of water on our table, he presents a question amongst my kin I care less to answer around.
“Ahliko, is it Mahan? Is that a township back up north?”
“You know he used to run off alone. Probably ran into some folks,” Gus responds.
“You sleep loud and crazy, boy,” Nwaka says.
“When? On the plane? What did I say?”
“Mumble jumble… But you kept saying something about my hands, ma’ hams, ma’ some shit…”
“You know he read a lot at those camps. Can’t imagine there’d be—.”
“Let your boy speak,” Nwaka interrupts, exposing his palms to Gus.
Preparing to respond with a frog in my throat, it turns out to be the moment awkward becomes my middle name. “It’s hard explaining Mahan. Why do you care?”
Remi’s pondering face plants above her crossed arms on the tabletop. Through my chair’s armrest, I lean back, glowering through the air below. It’s also the moment when a kid must explain his imaginary happy place around his big sister.
It, too, is under construction.
Meanwhile, Gus warns Nwaka, “Listen, man, just be careful where you show those credentials. We got through customs alright, but the bank got suspicious.”
“Brother, we won’t be here long. Too much peopling going on in these towns,” Nwaka responds.
“Where would you go?”
“You mean we? Let’s head to their public library. We can fly back out in the next couple of days.”
“No. The moment we leave, we’ll spend our lives on the run again. Are you afraid of these people?”
“I’m more afraid that they’re afraid.”
“If it weren’t for the woman at the bank, we wouldn’t be eating here.”
“Good for us. Now let’s keep moving while our luck is high with these people.”
“She was black.”
“…even a dead clock strikes correctly twice a day, brother.” Gus remains silent but continues to stare through Nwaka’s eyes. “You want that two-year struggle guarantee, don’t you?”
“You sound sick and addicted to struggle,” Gus says.
“Shut the entire fuck up. Your head will be looking down stupid in no time. You settle these kids here, and by high school, you’ll be speaking to them from the shadows of your grave.”
“You horny toad, you don’t get it, do you?”
“No, you don’t. We didn’t take the money to have it spent in a drudge-heavy city. This isn’t our final destination.”
“Don’t you ever call me out, boy. I have these two to protect, so what good does it do to keep them on the run?”
“You’re stuck in your foolish Fulani ways. Get a heart. Be free.”
“Come again? You know these two can hear you.”
“And so can she,” Nwaka says.
As does a portrait on the wall, she remains silent—yet sits pretty. It’s not just the embarrassment at Beets, but our food comes late. Beta trialing Server-Bots roll pass as Nwaka’s words deviate our readiness for a plate’s setting. Chiming China drowns out the frustration of simmering steaks steaming across our nostrils. Nwaka’s voice attracts glowing smiles of nosey dining Avantians, who’re oblivious to how we’ve come off a dirt road, flying time machine, robotic taxi, and a train to understand one thing.
Everything we encounter will have its passing. Nothing lasts forever. Except for the experience of one thing—for me, at least.
Budd’s unsure when Rigil journals this. Maybe two months after Rigil watches his nomadic best friend from college commit a tragic oops above SouthStation’s tracks? This scene drives him to string these insignificant moments leading up to the happenings beside tracks two and three. Or he cares to let you know he’s an asshole. His attitude’s how he chooses to protect his solace—a mystical happy place he abstracts in flight to TheDistrict’s Port Avanti airport. That’s the territory of states along our Atlantic Coastline where nine states conform. West coast sounds next.
As of today, the places he writes about aren’t found on the internet. And America seems to be experimenting with new ways of well-being for thriving citizens. So, he’s writing decades from tomorrow.
Anyway, back to Rigil. This disruptive refugee. Aloof to his trauma.