A VIEW FROM THE CITY by Elliot Alpern

I see the backs of your shoulders—there you are, right there—on a bench by the harbor, where it’s windy, and where there’s a nice clear view of the monster ambling toward the city. 

“Hello,” I call out. You look each way, left and then right and then left again, but not behind, and so I jog lightly to your bench, take the seat beside you. 

“Hello,” I say again, this time a bit breathlessly. 

“Oh,” you say, “hey, I thought I heard your voice.” 

You look the same. And that’s with some years, a different haircut, a sort of quiet glow that didn’t use to be there. But all of that’s garnish—you look exactly, exactly the same. 

“It’s crazy,” I say, and then I look out at the water, so you can’t see yourself in my eyes. “They’re saying he’ll make landfall next month.” 

“I heard that too! Yeah. I guess we’ll see. How’s your parents?” 

“Fine.” 

I think you do genuinely want to know how my parents are holding up, or at least my mom; I know you’d been close. Maybe closer than we were, me and you, maybe even me and Mom. But, I’m sure you understand—I can’t give you everything here. 

“Good,” you say. 

Maybe two, maybe three miles out into the ocean, the monster attracts a looney-tune halo of seagulls, and he walks slowly—no more than a few steps per day—but he does not rest. His is a beeline path, an inevitability by all accounts, straight for the busy heart of the city. 

“I quit smoking weed,” I tell you, and immediately, I want to snatch the words back out of the air, stuff them right back down my stupid throat. 

“That’s great,” you say with a smile, nodding, “that’s fantastic.” 

“Did you—”

“I always hoped, you know. I just think that’s really, that’s just, great.” 

“Right,” I say. 

A helicopter buzzes out over the harbor, banking sharply out toward the big guy. There’s always so many on this side of the city, now—they like to keep tabs on him, I guess, or maybe they just don’t want him to get too lonely out there. 

“Did you and, uh, Mark, did you guys figure out what you’re doing?” I ask. This is the hot new question of the summer. Do you know what you’re gonna do? And, do you? Does anyone?  

“We’re leaving,” you say, only you say it with a weight, and an anchored rhythm, like you tried to say “I love him” and spoke the wrong language. 

“Why?” 

“Well we can’t stay,” you say, “obviously.” You look out at the monster in the harbor, and I look out at the monster in the harbor, and he keeps walking. He always keeps walking. 

“And Mark says he’s not worried about finding something, even if it’s just running, you know, IT somewhere.” 

“I’m sure.” 

I am. Mark was nice the one time we met, and unfortunately rather sharp, and I remember most that he possessed a deep interest in curling. I couldn’t point you to the nearest rink. 

“Do you think he’ll keep going?” I ask. 

“Where?” 

“Past the city. Through it, just, keep on walking. Right on through the heartlands.” 

You sigh. I’m sure you tell yourself, this is why, right here, this is it. This is what you couldn’t take any longer. 

“I don’t know,” you say. “Who knows. Maybe he’ll hang out on the beach.” 

“Yeah. Anyway I hope it goes well,” I say. “Moving sucks. But, on to better things, which is always good.”

“Mhmm.”

You look like you want to say something else, and you do, you open your mouth to tell me, but the monster makes that sound—that annoying, lonely yelp, pitching up after a short while, like some stupid question, always the same one, over and over again. The monster so absolutely, impossibly immense, that we can hear it all these miles away, here in the city. All of us, we can all hear it getting louder, every day. 

You and I could’ve left it there, on that note, in the unanswered silence. 

But. 

You can’t. 

“And I’m due in the fall,” you say, eyes glittering. Which, of course, you didn’t have to tell me. I could have found it out on Instagram, or Facebook, like people normally do now, or through my mom, obviously, or I could have lived my whole life not knowing, could have died not knowing. Just fine. 

“Whoa,” I say. “Congratulations—that’s amazing, I, uh, I’m sure. That’ll be wonderful.” 

A pause, the only time I remember wanting that monster to ask its dumb fucking question again, but it won’t, and so we have to sit in this quiet, and the breeze. Since I can’t possibly say more about that. 

Another helicopter buzzes past, this time inbound, a long fat day of monster-watching, I’m sure. There used to be birds in this park, quite a lot of them, but I don’t think they like the down-wash.  

“I’m gonna have to get going,” you say eventually. “Do you want to walk back, grab coffee on the way? Do you have anywhere to be?” 

“Nah, you go ahead,” I say. “Tell Mark I said hi. And, you know, hope the move is smooth. Hire movers.” 

“Oh we will,” you say. “Be well!” 

I’ll be well. She’ll be well. I don’t particularly think we’ll see each other again, and that’s alright. And she’ll have a nice full family at Christmas, now, and that’s alright. And the monster is going to walk right over this city, asking its question to bleeding ears, and I don’t think I have an answer for him, really, I don’t think anyone will. And that’s just alright by me. 


Elliot Alpern is an MFA candidate in fiction at Columbia University, and a founding editor at No Contact. He lives and writes in Manhattan with his wife and their intern, a young dachshund.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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