In The Wilderness
Kyle stepped over a nodding junkie. Then another. Took the stairs instead of the elevator. You get cornered in there. No light. Gotta stay in the open. That much he learned so far in the city.
Kyle was Midwestern. From Indiana. Fond teen memories of summer drive-in nights. Best friend lived in a trailer court. Portable village where kids ran amuck and parents lounged in lawn chairs. Down the road, corn fields. Barns. He really liked the rotting barns, looked like they would implode. He sat inside them for hours. Watched the sun set through timber cracks.
Other than that Kyle hated the Midwest. Planned his escape from 12 on. Everyone so fucking provincial. Proud to be narrowed. Afraid or envious of everyone else. Forced smiles. Fake laughs. That's how you lived till you died. Fuck that. Seriously fuck that.
His best friend was smart, secure. Walked confidently. Won instant respect from everyone. Why he liked Kyle Kyle couldn't guess. Kyle was a loser. Timid. What he knew he kept to himself. What he hated stayed inside. Maybe that was it. As much as he resisted, Kyle was as Midwestern as the rest. A narrow kid with big thoughts, but nobody knew. Except his friend.
Kyle talked about the city sophomore year. His friend rolled his eyes. You're not going there, man. Crazy. First time Kyle saw his friend afraid. Whenever the city came up, his friend shot it down. Looked at the ground. Rubbed his boot in the dirt to wipe it out.
But city thoughts kept Kyle alive. He read the city's Sunday paper in the school library. Spread it wide on the table. Movies he'd never heard of. Books not taught in school reviewed. Tall buildings and rush. Thinking action concepts nonstop. His friend was right. Crazy. Beautiful.
Long walk to his temp job on Wall Street. He didn't mind. Warm fall weather blue sky over the buildings. Started early, took his time, took it all in. Had to wear two pair of gym socks to fill the oversize wingtips his grandfather once wore. Only nice shoes he had. Same white shirt everyday. Two ties every other. His hair was growing out after three years of Army brushcuts. Shoulder length when he went in. Now just over the ears.
Down the canyon to the mass of close buildings at the city's lower end. His building was the last one before the water. All glass. Clean. Revolving doors consuming and spitting out people in nice clothes. He worked in the copy room, 35th floor. Did massive Xerox jobs. Collated reports. Color coordinated market projections. The guys he worked with had been there for years. Crude fast talking group. Picked up on this rube first day. Hey Iowa, why you here? Hey Kansas, stop staring at those buildings outside. Pull that corn outta your ass. Play us some banjo.
Kyle took it smiling. Worked as many hours as he could get. Weekends too. Rarely saw his roommate and just as well. Shared a one-bedroom in the middle of smack central. Filthy vacant lot next door lined with addicts. Buckets on ropes go up with cash, come down with white packets. Most of the apartments were shooting galleries. One across the hall from their place. Junkies pounding on that door all night. Shouting. Begging. Crying. Scoring then slumping in the hall. Every morning at least two or three laid out, drooling on their soiled shirts.
Kyle got used to stepping over them. Crazy, like his friend told him long before.