Nothing to Fall For
“Hey,” one of them says. “Dare you to lean. See? Like us.”
Keep walking, I tell myself. Just—keep walking.
“Bet you can’t lean this far,” the other one says.
“Bet he can’t. Bet he thinks it’s dangerous. Bet he thinks his coffee will spill out of that cup of his, that he won’t hold it in.”
“Of course I can lean,” I say. And down the drain they go, years and years of people telling me to walk past the barn girls, to avoid them.
“Let us have it then.”
I stop. A man next to me gasps and picks up the pace and pulls his hat down low. A week earlier, that would be me. But this isn’t a week earlier. This is me walking out of the house where I lived for ten years and Alana, with me for three, is keeping the house and she’s keeping the dog. So that’s that. I stop. And I stare.
They’re real leaners, these two. They lean some more, and you want to jump up and hold them before they hit the ground. Or look for the trick, a rope maybe, that’s keeping them slanted like that.
As I look, my shoulders dip and my chest dips and there I am, leaning, further, as they clap and hoot, further, as they dare me, until there’s nothing to fall for, no mystery to the ground, further, and I don’t get the straighters and their hurries and their fears, and I sidle up to those two until someone passes by and I hey him: “Dare you to lean. Like us.”
Federico Escobar grew up in Cali, Colombia, and after living in New Orleans, Jerusalem, and Oxford, spent most of the past decade in Puerto Rico—Hurricane María included. He has published short stories and poems, as well as academic articles and translations, in both Spanish and English. His literary work has been published in Cabinet of Heed, The Phare, Bending Genres, Passengers Journal, Typishly, Tulane Review, Revista Eñe, and others. He currently works in education.