A Letter That Was Never Sent
by Nicholas R. Perego
B.- I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while, I’ve been in a bad way and had a time finding the right words. It’s Sunday, and this evening marks a week since I walked into Tennessee. I was going to head out sooner, but it looks like I’ll be staying a spell here in Chattanooga. It’s still bitter cold in the city but I’m faring just fine. I bought some new socks from a thrift store in Corinth and still have a fair stock of whiskey in my pack. I find it harder to move on than usual, for better or worse. It’s a strange place, this town nestled in a bowl at the feet of the Appalachians, but it has magic in its guts, I’ll give it that.
I remember a couple of hours after arriving I saw a young couple holding hands and leaning against the iron banisters of an old blue walking bridge. The boy had a heavy lock in his free hand with their initials and a little heart penned across its face, and proceeded to lock it with a dull click to the railings. Those kids just stood there a while under the lamplights, watching their breath curl and vanish, and then with arms laced, walked off towards the sound of a band striking up on the far shore of the Tennessee River.
That seems to be what this town is, a scene for lovers where the music plays just for you. It’s a slow and easy place, all in all, full of nooks and crannies for ruminating and kissing pretty girls. I’ve been sitting in the park for the better part of the morning and from my bench I see the mural churning; a sky peppered with little wisps of clouds traveling lazily north. A troupe of pigeons strut through the grass in their stained grey suits, picking at peanut shells without much concern for anything at all. A riverboat drums along as a calliope pipes out some frenetic number. I’ve often wondered to myself what sort of deranged animal created such an instrument. I’m sure you’re aware, but I wonder about a lot of things, and most of them are no doubt just as pressing as the origins of steam organs. An old man approaches me for a cigarette and we get to talking about Chattanooga. He tells me he’s lived here for 51 years, the last six of those on the street. He says he remembers a time when you could set the river on fire, and how the mountains were just silhouettes of giants behind a curtain of haze. The whole business choked him up. “We still have problems just like everybody else, but it’s nothing the people can’t fix. I’ve seen this place come out of a real bad spot, and now it’s the prettiest thing in the world.” I pass him the bottle and ask the time. He takes a swig, looks at his bare wrist for a solid minute and scrunches up his nose, “About that time, young blood.” I figure he knows what he’s talking about.
People start to head home from their Sunday strolls, and the man and I part ways. I take a sip of strong drink beneath the branches of a young oak and watch the sun start to slip behind the mountains. I suppose its time I slip out for the evening as well. I hope you’re taking care of yourself, cricket. I’ll send you an address to reply to soon. Give my love to everyone and keep your lamps burning. -N.