He ceased as I turned back, my spine to the long, narrow street whose aromas itched my nose and watered my eyes by firewood, making my heart pulsate—I was unsure if I was awake. I couldn’t remember how we got here, from New York City to Middleburgh. I only remember stumbling to the car with the stench of Waverly’s Diner still on my clothes. I could smell him too. The lines of autumn air leaking from his veins into the night sky that became lost as I opened the car door at our destination. A fragrance, a house, history plucked out from strands of my hair and tips of my teeth. Cinder and cider were wrapped in autumns death and aging trees that lined these village roads which we walked alone under the darkness of Halloween lanterns swaying from tree branches.
Past the houses and behind the crooked trees I knew there was a creek, which my ears couldn’t hear but my imagination knew it was there, so the rustling of the cold water on the rocks still echoed through my mind in real time. Visions of crimson leaves dying in the dirt danced through my eyes – like astral projections bleeding from my capillaries and into the sky. Philip walked ahead from house to house with a solemn smile and a bag of candy, tossing me one piece every time I said “Trick or Treat”, allowing me the opportunity to relive a childhood home my parents stripped from me with lies that I would return when they knew I never would. He stretched out his arm and unfolded his hand, waiting for me to grasp his fat fingers so he could warm my frigid bones. His hands were warm and the lines on his palms felt like the rigid edges of dry tree bark.
I followed him everywhere. I trailed these silent streets behind him, counting the colonial houses I once dreamed about owning, envious of the way the candles flickered on the windowsill. He said I was too young for him to kiss me yet, but I felt his fingerprints through the candy wrappers and imagined his tongue tasted of tootsie rolls and the film of Percocet left on my teeth. We wandered for miles, past the historic schoolhouse and Catholic Church, down Main Street, turning right at the liquor store where I had my first kiss when I was seven, before stopping outside of the yellow house I grew up in. I stared ardently at the marigold glows of orange lighting on my porch, combative against the distrustful silver moon. I couldn’t help but sigh and remember the nights I spent frozen in bed wearing snow pants and three pairs of socks because my family was too poor to afford heat.
Under the scent of burning wood and dust in the Halloween air, I realized suddenly this wasn’t where I wanted to be. He didn’t have to ask where it was I did want to be, he already knew. So we found a diner to make our own and gorged on corned beef hash until we were forced out onto the streets by a closing sign.
He tells me I almost passed out on the sidewalk, and that I begged for The Moody Blues on the car ride back to the city.