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Wild Awake

Wild Awake

Titel: Wild Awake
Autoren: Hilary T. Smith
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up the phone.
    I stare at the address I’ve just written. Columbia Street is all the way downtown. My parents still won’t let me drive a car by myself because of Sukey’s accident—though they’ll never admit that’s the reason—and it’s easily a half-hour bike ride away. The idea of going is so absurd, so completely and totally out of the question, it stuns me temporarily. My brain flops like a fish at the bottom of a boat.
    I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t.
    But screw it. It’s for Sukey. I grab my house key off the counter and go.

chapter three
    I wheel my bike out of the garage and hop on. As I pedal down the street, my stomach tingles like I just ate a whole bag of Pop Rocks. I can’t explain how urgent this feels. How breathless I am, not even counting the hills. As I charge up the bridge that crosses to downtown, I can hear the clinking of sailboat masts in the marina below. Ahead of me, the glittering angles of downtown beckon dangerously, like a drawer full of knives. I barrel through the intersection as the light turns yellow and glide up the store-lined street.
    In a way, I feel like I’m going to see Sukey herself, not some questionable acquaintance who drunk-dialed my house. I imagine her standing on the corner, waiting for me in her zebra-print jacket and jeans.
    Hey, Kiri-bird , she’d say. I hear you’re in a band .
    It’s just me and my boyfriend , I’d say modestly, although Lukas and I aren’t officially dating, not yet.
    That’s rad, Kiri. You got a demo for me?
    In my imagination, I’m finally as cool as her, not a pathologically chirpy ten-year-old who turns red every time she drops an f-bomb.
    Look at you biking around at night , she’d say with a mischievous tilt of her chin. You’re turning into a little badass .
    As I pedal down the street, I can almost smell Sukey’s hair spray on the breeze, catch a whiff of her strawberry bubblegum. Around me, the city blocks peel away like pages in a book I’m rifling through to find a single, highlighted sentence. But when I pass the Woodward’s building with its giant red W lit up with yellow bulbs, I slow down and skid to a stop.
    Here’s where things get tricky.
    This particular block of West Hastings Street marks a not-so-invisible boundary between downtown proper and the seventh circle of hell. Keep going past the big W and you’re in the Downtown Eastside, a place to which every creepy metaphor has already been applied: It’s the urine-smelling haunted house in the city’s squeaky-clean carnival, the one demented fang in its professionally whitened smile. Not a place you want to be after dark unless you’re scoring heroin or shooting a Gritty Documentary.
    Not a place I expected to be after dark, either. Wasn’t Columbia supposed to be a few blocks back?
    I keep riding east, pedaling so slowly my bike starts to wobble. I can see crowds of homeless people ahead, thick knots of them. From a distance, they almost look like nightclubbers: the same unsteady motions and drunken shouts, the odd woman in a short skirt and smeared makeup lurching down the street in high heels. I don’t want to keep going, but somehow my bicycle carries me forward, its tires whispering against the pavement, until I’m stopped at the intersection.
    While I’m waiting for the light to change, this dude on a rusty kiddie bike pulls up next to me. He’s wearing an old jacket with faded green sleeves. He has sandy yellow hair and caved-in cheeks, and he looks like a cadaverous duck.
    “Nice ride,” he says.
    I fiddle with my gear charger. “Thanks.”
    “Got a smoke?”
    He grimaces, gives his bike a kick-start, and wobbles through the intersection against the red light. I watch him go, trying to quiet the alarm bells clanging inside my chest. Don’t freak out. He wasn’t going to hurt you . The light changes to green. I start to ride through, but instead, I make a ragged right turn and pedal up Gore Avenue into Chinatown. Somehow, the sight of the red lampposts makes me feel safer, as if the Chinese dragons carved into them can protect me from the freak show going on a block away.
    By now it’s past dark, and I’m mad at myself for coming down here without looking up directions first. I thought I knew where Columbia Street was, and I was sure it came before Main Street, but now for all I know I’ve been riding parallel to it this whole time.
    Should have called Lukas . Should have tried Mom and Dad. Shouldn’t have
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