Solitude of Sidewalks – a short story by John Ian Bush

Part One


I’m in the grocery store eyeing the blond on register nine, I think I’m in love for a minute, then I realize, or rather remember, that I’m an emotional fool and I leave, embarrassed, and head to the deli.

There I find a brown headed angel in a hair net; heart shaped face, doe eyes, delicate gloved hands slicing meat. I stare for a while, then she notices, she meets my eyes and smiles, I smile, then walk away to the frozen goods.

What a shame it is that we don’t live in a world where one can be honest about their admirations. What a shame it is that I can’t walk up to the counter and tell that brown haired angel that she is a brown haired angel, then walk away without shame. And that blond at register nine too, I’d tell her the same.

I’m walking down the sidewalk outside the store now, it’s empty. No sound but the sound of no sound at all. No light but star light and street lamps. No movement whatsoever, besides my own and my shadow’s below me.

I have that feeling that you can only get from empty, quiet, carless streets; that feeling of soothing cold pavement under my feet. The feeling that the Earth is somehow at peace, so you are at peace with it, and by extension, at peace with yourself. That feeling of beautiful, silent, solitude and present mind that you only find around blacktop under street lamps. You have to love solitude on sidewalks.



Part Two


I went into a bar to piss. You have to love the smell of dive bar bath rooms. The stink of piss is so strong in the air you feel like you could cut it with a knife, it’s thick like butter. Now I need a shower.

Here I find more angels: angels in tight jeans and tight skirts and shirts, they’re all drinking, some are drinking while sitting in stools, some are doing it while laughing with friends, some while playing darts and pool, so on.

Watching these women, and the men drooling after them, I have to say, I understand the allure of the one night stand. Experiencing someone else’s naked beauty without being weight down with their added bull shit. I don’t blame anybody that doesn’t want to deal with my added bull shit.

Now I’m back on the sidewalks, back to the feeling. I love the feeling. I’m at peace with everything and everyone when I have this feeling, and if somebody walked passed me right now, man or woman or what have you, I’d be liable to smile and kiss them on the forehead. Why? Because this feeling makes me want to kiss everybody on the forehead. What a world we’d live in if we all loved everyone and understood anybody and wanted to kiss every forehead? I wish for such a place.



Part Three


I’m walking home now, it’s late. I’m passing a laundry mat, it’s closed, yet the lights are all still on. The lights in laundry mats are never off, they’re like  North Stars for the bums and the beggars, and me, and the likes of me; those of us who stumble around in the quiet streets hoping for that feeling, hopping to kiss the foreheads of angels.  I hear now a train. I’ve heard trains my whole life. I’d wake up from sleep in my youth and hear one blow it’s horn, and  I’d be comforted by it, and I’m comforted now.

I see now across the street at a gas station, which is still open, three men in blue jeans and overalls, all bearded, all smoking tobacco and talking, breathing cold white breathes into the vast thin cloud of cigarette smoke. Their faces are visibly greasy and tiered. That’s American. American is greasy faced bearded men smoking in front of a gas station.

I’d join them, but I don’t have an invitation.

I’ll stick to the sidewalks.

There’s a young woman behind the counter in the gas station, I can see her through the glass door and big windows. She looks bored and somewhat sad. She’s bent over the counter and staring at her finger nails or knuckles. She has thin, yet kissable lips, a light shade of pink, no lip stick. I can tell all of this from a distance, it’s probably my imagination, I guess. In my imagination, every woman is an angel with kissable lips from a distance.

On the highway I find cars, but I’m still gripping on to the feeling. The traffic lights are beautiful at night, how they reflect off windshields, and roads, and windows.

I go now to the movie theater, it’s also closed, its lights are also still on, another North Star. Everything’s closed and most people are in bed and warm by now, as for me, I’m glad I’m not, I’m glad to be among sidewalks and North Stars and Angels in hair nets and tight jeans and shirts and behind counters in gas stations and behind register nine.




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Modernist writer and poet.