A Durham Story / by Brian Howe

Last night I was alone on Parrish Street, waiting. I stood under a streetlamp, yo-yo-ing. It was very misty and cool. Out in the country, the storms had felled trees, but the city just looked washed. Eventually, a couple came walking down the other side of the street. “A guy with a yo-yo,” the woman exclaimed, half to the man and half to me. “That’s so Durham!” She seemed really thrilled. I smiled agreeably and we exchanged some jokes about a sitcom called “That’s So Durham!” The couple kept scrolling by, never breaking stride. The yo-yo cascaded down and reeled back up, went out seeking and brought something back. Suddenly it felt like a fishing line in my hand. The dark street always flowed between us but Parrish is not wide. We wished each other good night as they passed out of sight, and a conclusive roar of “I love Durham!” came echoing down the block. This random connection was strangely vivid. I had brought my yo-yo with me to impose some buoyancy on one of those days when a lot of weightless moments had somehow accumulated into an oppressive ton. But it wound up fishing open this other door, too, and I was inexplicably glad to play a role for her: the friendly local eccentric (what could be less threatening than a guy with a yo-yo?), the serendipitous urban vantage. It felt good to slip out of my perspective and perceive myself as a feature in a tableau—some rare city bird, an image with a thought buried somewhere deep inside, a no doubt dramatic to behold silhouette yo-yo-ing in a circle of light on a dark, empty street. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I live in Chapel Hill.