An old bird flies over an old road, as a man drives west through the countryside. He drives to a town that is unremarkable, neither large nor small, and its signpost lies face down in the grass.
As he drives, the man sees no cars, nor bicycles, nor vehicles of any kind. He drives down a street with no lines, and he sees no unbroken windows nor intact doors.
He turns on the radio, but no stations are nearby, so he hears no voices, nor music. No lights illuminate the buildings, and when he rolls down his window, no scents stream from the restaurants.
His view is a sea of gray asphalt and brown-boarded windows until he comes to an overpass at the edge of town spray-painted with the words:
what makes space a place?
Somewhere else the bird flies over a patch of woods as a woman runs along a trail. She has run it many times, for different reasons: sometimes for time, sometimes for clarity. Today she runs it for memory.
At the end of the trail, where the dense forest transitions to a neighborhood, sits a house. It’s a modest house, where once a man with a cat lived. In the woman’s youth she smiled when she saw the old man working in the yard, and she laughed when she saw the cat darting between the fence posts. Today she will see neither.
She is out of breath when she reaches the trailhead, but she realizes she does not want to linger near the house with no man and no cat, so she pushes herself on as the dirt trail gives way to paved sidewalk, and the house is nearly behind her when she notices the words beneath her feet, written in chalk:
where do places go when they change?
Away from here, the bird flies over a man throwing pieces of glass and concrete into a dumpster. He stands where there once was a school, but soon will be something else.
The man was not here when the school was, so he does not know the building or what was in it. He did not learn here, or laugh, or cry, or fight. He did not say goodbye to one life here, and hello to another. He did those things elsewhere.
Rock and glass crunch under his boots as he walks, and when all he sees is stone and debris he can’t imagine that anything ever happened here until he notices the old wooden desk with the words carved into the grain:
is where i’m from still there now?
The old bird sees none of this, or perhaps all of it. On it flies, gliding over the winds of time and space.
Ben Lockwood is a Ph.D. candidate in the Geography Department at Indiana University. He studies a lot but doesn’t know very much.