The Undocumented Places – #1, Harpo’s Bowl
Harpo’s Bowl had a unique geography, meaning that no sound could carry within its high, curved, basin walls. You could stand in the centre and yell so hard that you bled, and hear nothing but the blood rushing inside your ears. People went to tell their secrets. Some, things they couldn’t even bear to hear from their own lips, birthing free in a warm, silent exorcism; some, frivolous worries that others would scoff at, but that burned their cheeks all the same. Margo TiVoed all the Kardashian shows, Heather hadn’t cried when her mother died; James was attracted to pubescent girls.
Others went just to scream. If you screamed like you really wanted to — needed to — those times when life seemed to be goading you into it, people would call the police, but there in Harpo’s Bowl, you were free to let it all hang out. Visitors would politely wait outside for others to finish what was, in truth, a deeply private ritual. Geoff’s wife had cheated on him, twenty years ago, and then countless times since. This was no whispered secret; he screamed a double-decade of cuckold’s frustrations, rockstar dreams that had flattened out into a long, endless road that stretched off into the black; a sour lump seething with resentment from the passenger seat.
“It’ll be cool,” Jonah had said, “We could take pictures!” Like she often did, Tess had tagged along. BFFs for life, they’d often go urban exploring, a grown-up reconstruct of how they’d played together as children. When Geoff stepped out, both found themselves casting their eyes to the floor as he blundered past, red-faced and wearing a strange expression of acceptance. Inside, Jonah and Tess stood back to back, each admiring the striking natural curvature of the slate; each having that moment’s panic one feels on their first time in the bowl, where you can’t hear your own breath and feel you must be suffocating.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you,” he said. Then they left Harpo’s Bowl, and went back to their partners.