e drags the bike up to the edge. It’s about twenty feet down. Enough to end it if you wanted it bad enough. The sun’s a bloody thumbprint. Smearing down, down.
Rooftops now where there used to be trees.
He drops the bike in the dirt. A child’s toy, even then. A museum piece, now. The frame barnacled in rust, the milk crate cracked with age. His kids had never bothered with it much. But he had never bothered much with them either. Even less as they got older. Drifting like icebergs or galaxies. He held them in his hands, swaddled in blankets, kissed their skin. But he could never feel close enough.
People make promises they can’t keep. Politicians, presidents and prime ministers. Human beings, too. I love you. I will never leave you.
Afterwards, it was all science and misunderstandings. We would never hurt a boy, they said. All we had were walkie-talkies. But he remembers looking down the barrel of a gun. Monsters in plastic suits. A child’s imagination, they said.
The promises broken.
I’ll be right here. That’s what it had said. The man in the moon. It had pointed at his head. Right here. And then it left him anyway. Never came back. Never phoned.
For years, every time he got sick he wondered. When a pain would hit him out of nowhere. Were they still connected like two tin cans and a string of twine. When he was lonesome. When he farted.
But then he saw the scans. The doctor didn’t notice. She slipped out of the room to take a call and he flipped the file open. Held the glossy sheets up to the light. There in the center of his brain: another small planet in orbit. Growing.
The moon is rising. He picks up the bike and sits on the seat, rocking back and forth on the wheels, kicking dirt down on the rocks below. He pulls the red sweatshirt down over his gut, puts his feet on the pedals. His knees are so high he’s practically fetal.
For years he’s dreamed of flying through the sky, swimming through the milk of the moon. Now he’s falling through space. That glowing finger jabbing at his head. Not a lie, a threat. An invasion. I’ll be right here.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.