Flare Up

  Finger your loose tooth as you balance on the catwalk 150 feet above North America's second largest lift bridge that connects the Keweenaw peninsula to the rest of Upper Michigan. You're up in search of a way into the tower that is lit with strobes to keep low-flying turboprops from flying into it, which they'll do and which they have done, the tower that you think holds the controls to lift the bridge or lower it again. The wind is fast up here, as fast you think as light moves, so you read in your middle school textbook on physical science, the class with Mr. Laitala who sleeps with one of the girls in your class and sees her in the locker rooms during assemblies when both of them should be displaying a more productive school spirit. You've lived your life below this bridge with its set of lights and its control tower that looks like how you think a disco club might look; from below you think you see women swaying, enclosed and warm. Some of your friends jump off the main level a hundred feet into the water below which you won't do because you've seen what the surface of the lake is like when you hit it from such a distance. You've seen your older brother's broken arm purple like the only eggplant you ever saw, when your parents brought it home to spice up dinner. Finger on the tooth that's been reliably mobile in your mouth for the last month—not wisdom teeth but the product of some rot, some gingivitis that could have been prevented by more rigorous brushing, some eating at enamel after too many Bottle Caps candies and candy cigarettes you buy to pretend you smoke, and that you even light because you claim you like that burnt crystal sugar taste. Feel it safe within your mouth for now but loose—like you're safe within this place but loose and renegade, above the traffic that moves in lines below. You consider moving the pylons that stretch across one lane to indicate construction so they cross both lanes and confuse drivers through the metal rain and through the surface of the lake. You are up here, your argument more powerful than theirs. You drop coins and spit and do the usual sort of thing people do when they are so far above the road. You plan to pour a can of sawdust down with your friend Jerry on a windless day and light the column so it all flares up and is a testament to some adolescent urge for fire and to make a mark a scorch a tome a line of flame a ton of energy on the newly painted and just-renovated world that you don't matter to just yet.