Crossing over the drawbridge into Gary. What used to be a river seeps and bubbles through what used to belong to the Culumet Indians. A blue sign on the bridge indicates that it’s the Culumet River. It looks like pavement in waning light. We bump over the rickety, rusty old thing into Gary. The bridge rises behind us to keep the sadness out.
Gary looks like a thousand cigarettes stuck into the ground, burning and burning, making the people sweat and tear at their necks. Smog gives everything two shadows.
I breathe in that Barbie Playhouse, that steel beam, that copper wiring. I feel that PVC pipe coat my lungs.
On greasy crumbling streets, we pass a sign welcoming us to Future City. When, exactly, will that city arrive? Puddles of oil. Puddles of Mud. Sometimes just holes.
People crowd into little bus stops with heat lamps. Sitting under the hum of fluorescent bulbs and picking at the gum under their seats, they wait for it to grow dark.
“Why do I live here?” they ask with their faces. “Why do they live here?” I ask with my face fogging up the window.
“It’s…a…perfectly…fine…place…to…live,” Dad says, his hands white on the steering wheel, trying not to breathe.
A red, white and blue sign stands out from the black: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!
Everything is pale and dirty. Everything is Wal-Mart and Olive Garden. Every river is lined with concrete. Every lake holds Chicago’s trash.
Every mother passes under that sign and shakes. 19 year olds are blown into a thousand pieces. Soldiers are turned into boys.