It’s your size. You fit within the squeeze, take the narrow on like it belongs to you, like Camac is your personal arcade of gendered sketch clubs and daytime twinkle and the red balloon of a hibiscus bush too wide for the walk. A poodle’s piss.
Nobody out ahead of noon, ahead of you, and where Camac breaks, it breaks south and you break, too, down Manning, past Sartain, toward the narrow hush of Quince, where the only way to be civil as a stranger is to amble the proper center of the street and keep your wings tucked in, which is to say, Do not be a tree, rushing your reach across the bottled glass, sudsing your touch against the locks, the windchimes, the birds that avoid the barbs, the mouse running parallel to Jessup. Do not be a tree.
The purest angle on it all is to count the doors by their colors (lime, apple, cherry, saffron) and to forgive the bike lashed to the No Parking sign and to deliberate on love according to the merits of the window boxes and the degree to which their stems and blooms and greens rise up like reverse curtains to shield the people who belong from the people who do not, which is, in this moment ahead of noon, still and only you.
Though, now: Here is a man painting trim. Here is an interior designer ridding a first-floor room of a couch someone upholstered in a wholly separate Victorian age. Here is a smoker in a T-shirt: Rage Against the Machine. Here is the sound of a toilet, flush through the mic of the sewers. Here is the proof of the ivy that once bunched itself against a white brick wall and held like a skirt out of fashion until something, you decide it was a storm, tore it free. You are lost now. You are fidget within the squeeze, leaving the narrow of these streets, widening your wings now, riding high and aloft on Locust Street.
National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart is the award-winning writer of more than three dozen books in multiple genres including Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River and Love: A Philadelphia Affair. She is a teacher of memoir, a writer of essays, and a book artist. Her new books are Consequential Truths: On Writing the Lived Life and My Life in Paper: Adventures in Ephemera, just released from Temple University Press. Find her at bethkephartbooks.com and bind-arts.com.
Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #44.