desolate

The Bus Stop, flash fiction

Ukrainian Village AugustThe worst is when the air is so light you cannot feel it around you. Nothing is breathing, and you get disoriented and try not to think of death. This happens to me as soon as I step out on the sidewalk. The neighborhood is quiet and fading today even though it is the ripe, middle part of summer when the greenery intrudes upon everything. I walk down the street alongside the promise of rain.

My plan is to go to a café and look for a job, the kind of job I told my sister I already had. Maybe a receptionist or an assistant of some sort. I don’t really know, but I have a hazy outline of what it will be, and that’s what I described to her when she came to visit yesterday. I told her about meetings and offices and working lunches so she would tell the family I am fine. I told her so everyone would know I am fine.

When I am a block from the bus stop I see it pull away. I watch this happen with no reaction, as if there’s a curtain drawn in my mind and I’m shielded from the reality of the world outside. I do not mind waiting, though, because I am in no rush. I have nowhere to be, and the red brick warehouse across the street from the bus stop is symmetrical and nice to look at. From this angle it appears to have no depth and is just a cut-out prop for paper dolls. I am pretty content with this view of the warehouse and of the cars going by, all peopled by little blurs of humanity. I think I just might be alright for a while until a moment later a girl rides by on a purple bike and I realize again how colorless my hair is.

A man joins me at the bus stop, and I immediately get the impression he is not waiting for the bus. Perhaps it is the duffle bag or the gallon of orange Kool-Aid he has with him. We stand there in silence for some time as a line of semi-trucks and work vans speeds past us on the double-lane road. Most people would have put on headphones, but I lost mine a few weeks ago. Besides, the weight of the sky makes up for the quiet. Will the rain start soon? I wonder if the man with the duffel bag is thinking the same thing. I wonder if anyone is thinking the same thing. When the bus finally comes I get on, but the man with the duffel bag stays behind. Perhaps he has not figured anything out about the rain yet.

On the bus I sit next to the window, towards the back, where I have a good view of the interior should I choose to look at it. A woman with a pink umbrella sits with her legs crossed, looking straight ahead. She is dressed too nicely for this bus and for this life, and I cannot bear the sadness of it so I opt instead to look out the window where a car is on fire amidst the weeds and the black top. The rain has just barely started.

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This Is Fiction I Swear: Part 4

Part 4: Some Vandals

Back porches

I guess that boy hasn’t forgotten me, the one from that rooftop that one time, so here we are again. I like the way he stands at the corner waiting for me. I like the lines he cuts through the space around him. Gray and green and blue and textured. Now we’re walking on Cermak past Halsted where the warehouses stand empty and cobwebbed.

We’re talking about where we grew up or something inane when suddenly I say “We should do something” and he says “Yes” so we find the side door to one of buildings, the one just past the tracks. He picks the lock, whereas I was going to go with my classic brick-through-the-window approach, but he tells me that’s careless so we do it his way this time. Fine. The dark is deepening so we should be alright. The air is damp and clinging to my face, but it’s alright. We’re too old for this, but we’re alright.

It’s everything I hoped it would be: scraps of metal and dusty windows and air as cold as a dry ice bath. I’m wearing these heavy rubber boots that feel great with every step I take against the cement floor, like power or something close to it. We’re checking out the space, kicking things around and touching the walls where racks of tools once hung. Or maybe not tools, maybe cabinets for filing or paintings of rivers. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.

I only care about the seven-foot windows letting the rest of the dusk right in where it can swirl around us and mess with our heads and our hearts. It’s definitely messing with mine. Girl, get your head right. He’s talking and I’m not listening so I go over to one of those damn windows and touch the tips of my fingers to the pane. It’s cold and cloudy and I can barely make out the industrial horizon to the south. Rusting train tracks with weeds spreading out like grasping fingers trying to touch all the colors and shapes of the graffiti-covered walls. To feel them for just a second…! Why doesn’t anyone think this is beautiful? I can’t understand it. Out there it’s glowing—dirty—but glowing.

Then I feel something like a burst of heat over my right shoulder. His hands are on my waist now, and his warm lips are searching my neck and turning my skin to fire and ice, and my brain to mush. Hello, how are you? It’s good to meet you.