The Smell of Yesterday by Craig Dowd

It was close to midnight when he climbed from his grave at Fifty-Ninth Street, another policy sold. The mourners were gone, only a stray cat crying outside the corner bakery that couldn’t sleep; resurrections here are old hat. Fourth Avenue was pointing to the Narrows, cold and deep. In his absence spring had graduated to someone new, with fresh joints and time for verities beyond the two-hour commute. He crossed the street to summer, or maybe it was Spain, where a dense formation of figures dashed like a school of fish. The beautiful game is anything you want it to be. Then came the warning, a whack, as an errant volley thrashed at his hip. Driving every strike is a youthful wish, that the ball might rip through the net, tearing it apart. The stuff of myth. He hadn’t forgotten. The pitch was clerical black, the moon a wall-pass down the flank. Let her do the running for you, he thought. Let her show you the way. All day their hands had worked to build an empire that despised their bodies. Now every digit was useless, except to snag the shirt of a slippery mark, or steady their hips as they spun like roulettes. All was forgiven in the dark. Then someone yelled, Oye! and he heard against his boot the whisper of a ball, or maybe a kiss, whose lips felt like home. And he wondered is it possible to love something so deeply you don’t need to see it at all. What is this place? he asked, while the men danced the fast numbers, their cleats cropping the grass. But there was no slick remedy or saving grace, only tremendous joy, a split shin and a food truck on Sixtieth Street before the long trek south, only cold sheets and a sleepy wife who, when he shuffled to bed, said, Tacos? No, he answered, checking the clock. Just yesterday. In her laugh was the richness of New York. How was it? The swell of her belly filled his palm. Then a rap, the ferocious hope of a kick. Perfect, he said.

Craig Dowd‘s writing has recently appeared in The Galway Review. Previously, he was a longtime jazz columnist for the triCityNews, an alt-weekly in Asbury Park, NJ. He now lives with his wife in Brooklyn, NY.