Drinks. Of course there were drinks. We were at a bar, Zampano and me. He was drunker than I was. He was always drunker than me, except when he wasn’t. He said to me that he found a secret in the steel.
He was a steel-worker, and he told me that the pipes were under the ground, waiting and growing. Steel workers like him didn’t build buildings. They merely placed the girders around the place where a building ought to grow, and let the pipes and wires reach up like creeper vines. The carpenters came and hid the places where a building grew from the eyes of men.
We were drunk, Zampano and me. I pounded his big hands. I told him he was drunk. He told me he had only begun to drink. Then, when we were drunk. I mean when we were so drunk not even the bartender that knew us, and had known us for years, and knew our mother’s maiden names, and knew all the stories we told when we were drunk. Not even she would pour one more drop of liquid into our cups. She reached into our wallets herself for the money, and we trusted her. We didn’t begrudge her any tip she might take from us. Because we were drunk, and she deserved the money.
Then we slept in the back of my van, right there in the parking garage. It was more expensive than a motel, but we were in no condition to drive home.
When we woke up, we looked out at the steel city, and all the beautiful buildings that had grown like metal trees between the water and the mountains.
We were miserable. We puked next to the van. We cursed the day we ever drank a drop, and cursed the man who poured alcohol into his throat, and cursed the men that drank to pass the time between nightfall and daybreak.
Zampano started crying before I did. His sobs were dry and quiet. His contorted face gazed down at the floor of the parking garage. He said his dead wife’s name.
I looked down at my hands and closed my eyes.
The crows watched us like black pigeons. They cawed sometimes, but I didn’t understand a word they said.
The last time I had seen my wife, the crows had already eaten her eyes. A tentacle of vine had drawn a line across her naked, grey skin.
Her name was Julia. She was thirty-two when the night creatures plucked her like a fruit.