Sparkle Street Press

December, for Carla MacDonald

One night after work, more than thirty years ago, in Cleveland, I took the Rapid Transit train downtown, a Friday night in early December, that’s how I remember it, right after work, in the dark. For some reason, maybe by mistake, I took the train to 25th Street instead of downtown. I was going to the record store, Record Rendezvous, where Jimmy Jones presided, maybe it was payday, and after mentally paying all my bills and figuring and refiguring my budget for the next two weeks, maybe I had an extra twenty to blow. I could usually manage to buy a record or two every couple of weeks. Anyway, I got off the Rapid at this deserted station, this deserted platform across the river from downtown, and it was snowing. I was a little lost but not completely lost, because I could see the Terminal Tower across the river, through the falling snow. I was just lost enough. And since I had nowhere to be that night and didn’t have to work the next day, which opened my imagination or dropped my defenses against it, and since I was accountable to no one, I started walking toward downtown. I must have dared myself to do it—just walk there—and started walking down the hill toward the river. Not that it was a long walk or anything. It was a challenge to routine, to the idea that I had to get right home or explain myself to anyone or to myself. It was a challenge to established routes. And so I made my way downhill and then, in the dark among the weeds, I found an unused road along the river, and I followed it. The snow was falling in big flakes and ticking into the weeds, and through it I could still see the Terminal Tower. I was lost but not too lost, and because it was Friday and payday I was free but just free enough to know it. I think of this as the time of Sandinista, the Clash record, but it could have been a year later. I don’t remember what I bought at the record store, I don’t remember being there, I don’t remember downtown or by what bridge I crossed the river. What I remember is walking on a road that wasn’t quite a road, through tall dead weeds, with the Terminal Tower visible through the falling snow, in the early dark of a Friday in December, having what turns out to have been one of the happiest nights of my life.