names

This is Fiction I Swear: Part 14

Part 14: A Parting Shot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sometimes the papers don’t tell the stories we need to hear. They tell us about robberies and murders and corrupt politicians but they don’t tell us about boys with light hair who try to steal your souls or about girls with nice smiles who lie to your faces. They don’t tell stories about us. So I tell them. Sit down and listen. Lend your ear to the one who might cut it off.

The sky is lilac for some reason tonight and strange spaces are opening up between the buildings. I can’t think of any good words to put down in this letter so I stop where I am, I stop with what I have, right in the middle of the sentence. She’ll get it. I fold it up and put it in an envelope and drop it in the rusted box at the corner. Then I jog across the street at the red light and continue down 18th. I’ve got ends to tie up before I go.

Past the park I used to cut through in nicer weather. Past the trees they planted in September. Past shops and cafes and everything that has been bought and sold, bought and sold, like you say. Find something that hasn’t been! And I can’t.

I can’t think of what I’m going to say to you because my mind is full of your earliest memory. You told me about it once, about sitting on the floor while your parents argued in an apartment off Lawrence. About yellow lights and floorboards and the smell of Chinese cooking. It sounds sort of nice to me. It sounds like being underwater while the world explodes up above: only muffled noises reach my ears and it all seems far away. The water holds me and flames can’t touch me. Nothing can touch me.

I stop in front of your apartment and look up, way up to the window that lets a pitiful amount of light into your living room. Even in daytime. Wait, is it your living room? Or maybe your bedroom? I have to think. I’m going over the layout in my mind, getting all tangled up in the rooms and the corners and the walls and the floors when I hear my name.

-Ana.

You’re standing in the open doorway looking like a storm is about to hit. You know why I’m here. I ask politely if I can please come up, and you step aside and let me pass: up the creaking stairs, three flights, cobwebs above, below, and on all sides. Your door is open when I get to the top so I walk in and set down what I’ve brought. I promised to return it weeks and weeks ago. It might have been months but here I am finally and you don’t look mad that I’ve kept it so long. You look like you’d rather never see it again, like if it would keep me from saying what I’m about to say you’d have it buried deep underground where no one would lay eyes on it until the end of time when the earth turns inside out and all things hidden come to the surface.

-How are you?

-Fine.

-Is it ok if I leave this here?

-Sure.

The dishes are dirty in the sink. There are clothes everywhere and a few cans of soda on the table near the couch. You’re staring at me while I look around the room in all its chaos. They say a system needs chaos. They say it wants to be in disorder, that it’s more stable that way, and I’d like to believe them.

Finally I look up at you and you take a step closer to me, challenging me to say it. Go on, I dare you. I part my lips to speak and you step forward again. I’m forgetting everything and I have no idea where I am or if it’s hot or cold or if I’m moving or standing still.

You put your hand on the back of my neck and lean forward so our foreheads are touching. Eyes closed, we hang on, for how long I cannot say.

Advertisements

This is Fiction I Swear: Part 9

Part 9: The Daily Herald

standees sign

A most excellent kind of panic attack. If you’re going to have one, have one like this.

I’m leaving work after the first shift a little after five and the time changed a few weeks ago so night has been slinking in for a good half hour. I exit the building through the back door and see the sky to the west is a million different colors: black, indigo, blue, purple, pink, gold, white. It’s so beautiful it hurts. But it keeps hurting and I wonder if the pain is from something else, like the cold biting at my neck where I forgot to bring a scarf. Like the knowing how close you live but how far apart we are.

I walk on and the pain only gets deeper, only gets sharper, until my breath is coming in short bursts, barely filling half my lungs. Oh god I want to stop or pass out or die or something but its Sunday and the streets are almost empty and I’m sure in the morning my body would be mangled and robbed so I keep walking for five more blocks while the fear seizes me completely—

And then it evaporates.

And then I’m back to drinking too much coffee and buzzing so badly it’s like I did a couple hard lines in the bathroom of Bar Deville. Not that I’ve ever done that. Must make analogies less specific! And one day I will but right now my phone’s going off and I’ve got some place to be. It’s Graham who has agreed to meet me at a café near my apartment to talk about things because he needs a game plan or something.

I don’t like this café, but I don’t like many cafes so it’s nothing personal against this one. Actually this one is better than most because it’s mainly neighborhood people and construction workers getting coffee instead of the usual flannel-clad crowd working on their Mac Books and not tipping the staff because they’re “poor” because they have all these loans from liberal arts school. For christ’s sake.

Graham is already here sitting at a small table against the exposed brick walls. He’s got a drink in front of him and looks up immediately when I walk in but doesn’t wave or anything, just looks at me in that sort-of nervous, sort-of intense way he does. I sit down and he says Hey and slides a newspaper over to me before I can say anything. My breath gets caught in my chest when I see the headline on page 4, the local news page:

Bicycle Collision Leads to Two Arrests in Bridgeview

You must be kidding me. That fucking girl in a beret! I snatch the paper to read the rest of the article which goes like this:

Two Bridgeview residents, Ana Kasic and Michael Devin, both 23, were involved in a bicycle accident late Friday night that turned violent and led to the arrests of both Kasic and Devin. The crash, which took place on 18th Street just west of Racine, appears to have stemmed from some personal, possibly romantic, conflict between the two. It is still unclear how the collision occurred because both parties lay blame on the opposite side. Devin says Kasic pushed him from his bicycle, while Kasic maintains that Devin harassed her while she was riding and caused his own fall. Law enforcement got involved when two officers noticed the pair arguing loudly in the middle of the westbound lane. The argument seems to have turned physical only after the officers arrived on the scene. Devin suffered a bloody nose from the altercation, and Kasic had scrapes from the crash. Both were released from custody within hours and neither side pressed charges.

I look up at Graham who’s staring at me, waiting for me to say something, waiting for me to explain myself. I know he’s fixating on Michael’s name. If it had been anyone else! But it wasn’t. It was you. You and your—

But before I can finish having that thought, the one I’ve had so many times it’s become like a heartbeat, I see my landlord’s truck pull up to the stoplight outside. He’s on his way to my place there’s no question about that and I have the money! I’ve got to give it to him! I tell Graham I will be right back—right back, I promise!—I just have to do one quick thing. I think I said half of this on my way to the door because the next second my feet are pounding against the cement to catch up with the truck.