Meghan Austin

Recently I accidentally moved back to a city I had never liked. A friend of mine was moving there. It will be amazing, she said. We could go hang gliding every day.

I must have broadcast this decision widely because several friends of mine met me at the independent bookstore, one of the largest in the country, and the only reason to move to this city. The bookstore was so big, it was divided in sections and rooms based on different colors, not just primary colors but secondary colors and colors that weren't even colors, like gold and silver. Several clerks had disappeared in the stacks in recent years. Now they had their own union.

Maybe my friends were at the bookstore independently of my arrival. There is not much else to do in this city I have never liked. These friends had often complained that the world seems to revolve around me during certain seasons, spring and summer, and sometimes fall, to a lesser degree. They realize this is not a choice; it has something to do with personal magnetism and my physical appearance, with the reasons they chose to be friends with me in the first place. At a later point in these magnetic seasons, they remark that I am the worst and most selfish person they've ever met. "You hate it here," one of my friends reminded me.

But there was very little I could do at this point.

Was there? Had I quit my job? Where was my pet iguana?

I did not have answers for these friends. They grew more impatient with me as their coffee dwindled, and one of them reminded the others of a previous appointment with a fourth friend who I've never heard of but assumed to be my replacement. “We’ve got to go.” As they walked away, one of them speculated that I’d never owned an iguana.

“I owned an iguana! It’s name was….”

I wandered around downtown, trying to find a specific burrito restaurant. They are not called taquerias in this part of the country. I walked three or four miles. I wanted to walk more, but I could not cross any bridges for supernatural reasons. It started to rain so I went home. The left side of my body is made of sugar. I didn’t want anyone to know.

I have no immediate plans to go hang gliding and neither does the woman I moved here with. In fact, we are probably not even dating. It is probably too windy here for hang gliding. During the war (which war?) giant balloon hangers for zeppelins were built near the airport, but it was too windy for rigid air ships. I assume zeppelins and hang gliding wings (is there a real word for those?) require the same lack of wind (again, is there a such phenomenon? A lack of wind). Most of these questions could be answered by the internet. Life was more interesting when there were more unanswered questions.

Why I moved back to this city. It began when I did not get admitted to a PhD program which I also did not apply for. I assumed God would take care of it. My friend was admitted but decided to wait for a year until I was admitted. Half of her body was made of sugar. If I touched her, we would both crumble. I didn’t want to touch her. God has a stupid sense of humor.

My friend was crying when I got back to the motel. “You have friends without telling me.”

“I didn’t know, and besides, they hate me. I brought you a burrito.”

“I wanted tacos.”

She locked herself in the bathroom. I spent the afternoon looking out onto the highway and thinking about a woman I knew in our former city who had once clasped her hands behind the headrest when I was in the back seat. Her girlfriend was driving. I suddenly understood why she had done this.

Meghan Austin lives in Chicago. She has work in Failbetter, The Mississippi Review, and Wigleaf.