By David Licata
Stephen Miner sat crossed-legged on a Persian carpet hunched over New Jersey. His right index finger slid vertically along the map down the F axis, his left horizontally along the 7 axis until they met. Lifting his hands, his nine-year-old eyes had little difficulty finding his hometown, Leeville. He wondered why it was written in smaller letters than its neighboring towns, towns he had been driven through–Englewood, Fort Lee, Palisades Park, Tenafly, Bogota–all clustered near the pale blue Hudson River, all near a red line that was the George Washington Bridge. He liked the George Washington Bridge and thought that more than a single thin line should represent it. When his mother took him into New York City to a museum or a play she drove on the bridge’s upper level and when a large truck rumbled by it shook their car and his mother gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands but he liked it. He usually saw people walking across it and sometimes he asked his mother if they could walk across the bridge one day and she always said yes, they would do that someday.
He flipped through several pages of the musty atlas and stopped on North Carolina. There were the Outer Banks, the strip of islands where he used to go for two weeks each summer before his father died. He flipped back several pages to Hawaii where he was going to surf big waves. To Arizona, the Grand Canyon, where he was going to raft down the river. To California, to walk through redwood forests. All places his father had told him they’d visit and things he told him they’d do.
He turned to the back of the book, to the main index, to the Ls, and found five other Leevilles besides his Leeville. Florida, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, and Australia all had Leevilles. There was also a Leesville, Louisiana.
He looked at each Leeville and he knew they were all different. Leeville, Florida was warm year round, Leeville, New Hampshire cold in the winter. Still, he wondered if they were the same, too. As he stared at the word “Leeville” in Washington State, he wondered if a boy there was looking at an atlas this very minute, wondering about the other Leevilles. Did he wake up in the middle of the night, grab his blanket and pillow, and sleep the rest of the night in front of his mother’s bedroom door? Did he wake up before her and listen for sounds that would soothe him (her feet shuffling, the bathroom door opening, water running)? Did the boy in that Leeville live in unexpressed dread knowing that no matter where he was in this entire book, his mother could die at any moment and he’d be alone?
David Licata is a writer and filmmaker. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Literary Review, Word Riot, R.KV.R.Y., Hitotoki, The New Purlieu Review, Sole Literary Journal, and others. His films have shown on PBS stations across the country and screened at festivals all over the world, including New Directors/New Films (curated by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA), the Tribeca Film Festival, and dozens of others. You can find him on the web at alifesworkmovie.com.