Red’s Excuse

JAMIE HIBDON
JAMIE HIBDON

My friend Red was supposed to meet me the other night at the Auditorium Theatre, but in the end she never showed up, and I had to see Belle and Sebastian by myself. I called her after the opening act, and then again when I left, but she was out of range each time. If it was anybody but Red, I would have been worried. I finally heard from her at about two o’clock in the morning. I thought I was dreaming it, so I let the phone ring through. In the morning I read the text she had sent instead. This is what she had to say for herself.

“I really was on my way. I was taking my bike up the lakefront for a change & got off at 31st. I was waiting at the light there, at the overpass, with the onramps & offramps & such. While I was sitting there I realized one of the roads at that corner isn’t a ramp at all, just a street that comes down from the north and happens to end. I’d never seen it on a map before.

“First it just took me along LSD, and under the Stevenson, and then I realized it was headed into McCormick place. But there wasn’t any way to turn off, so I kept going, down into the dark. There were loading docks & drainpipes & tour buses. There was nobody around at all. It got colder & colder. I followed a sign for taxicabs cause I figured it would bring me out to the front on King Drive. But the road kept getting skinnier & darker. I couldn’t see the pavement but it felt incredibly smooth, like pressed air. At one point I heard train whistles. I kept looking behind me, hoping somebody would be coming to tell me off and turn me around. Finally I was in this giant cavern. Maybe it only looked big because there was shiny water all over the floor and I saw everything twice. But it really was like being inside a hollow mountain.

“In one corner they had piled up a bunch of roadblocks, in the other there was a Coke machine, & in the other, a single Archer night bus, the one that goes all the way to the airport. I got closer and saw it was a hunk of rust by now, covered in cobwebs. It must have been there for ages. & this is the weird part—Jesus was in the driver’s seat, sucking on a coffee, looking pretty burnt-out. I pulled up alongside him, real casual, pretending to fix my brakes. I was hoping he’d start the conversation. He gave me a cross look & said, ‘This is just like the start of a joke, right?’ & then he closed the door in my face.”

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