Prelude Op. 02 no. 21 - Second Draft

On the windowsill of a hotel room overlooking Spring Street, she sat, with a blanket on her lap for warmth and a half-lit cigarette resting on the ledge like a swimmer on the edge of a diving board, its embers burning a little too quickly—she’d been in a hurry to light it and held the flame too long, not to mention the wind—her white knuckles splotched with pink from gripping the ledge too tightly, nails chipped on several of her fingers, sitting with no shoes on, looking or scanning, rather, hoping for some kind of sign, a spiritual cue card with big block lettering telling her to jump or go back inside to think things over a bit longer, just once more until she was absolutely certain this was what she wanted despite, in the last few months, numerous close-calls at traffic intersections and subway stops; not to mention in the kitchen, at home, next to the knife block; her heart threatening to beat through her chest as stray hair blew wildly in her face, which made everything flicker as if she were constantly blinking, continuously staring at the street lights and apartment windows on buildings erect in skyline competition, observing private lives through public windows, or just tracing shadows if the curtains were drawn—a behind the scenes look at everyday life—beginning to cry softly, her tears falling down to the sidewalk where pedestrians mistook them for a leaky AC unit or damaged drain pipe, some tears pooling in her lap’s blanket that she had taken from the room’s linen closet, made of fleece or imitation fleece or some other synthetic material that was itchy and beige, her legs crossed underneath the blanket and left ankle moving in tiny circles as she shifted her weight slowly forward—the cigarette having been blown off the edge at this point, its descent cutting through the air like a slalom, landing in the hedges outside the hotel’s main entrance—still carefully balancing to keep from slipping prematurely with palms still clamped to the ledge as the phone began ringing; weeping—refusing to turn her head in acknowledgement—as she tossed the blanket inside almost causing her to slip, the blanket landing softly on the carpet near the hotel bed, just in front of room 20’s television which was broadcasting an old episode of Jeopardy; still seated or perhaps more accurately, perched on the fenestral precipice, now blanket-less and uncovered, slowly turning toward the ringing that was surely just the clinic, or her husband, or therapist, or her mother; just another inadvertent reminder of a once joint triumph turned solitary defeat, and still weeping as she felt where her bump had been, now just a smooth reminder of a precious loss, listening as Alex T***** shouted excitedly between the telephone’s chimes, feeling less and less afraid now as she edged closer and closer forward, her feet touching the brick of the hotel’s facade just below the windowsill, looking down at people looking up at her, when the ringing finally stopped.

Originally published in Monkeybicycle: One Sentence Stories as “Prelude Op. 02 No. 21”


Nocturne Op. 12 no. 20 - Second Draft

Press your foot down. Hard. 

Just before the top of the hill, there will be a moment when you can’t see beyond the road’s curve. Wonder if the world waits for your ascent before it materializes, like a half-dressed lover behind a peephole.

What’s that saying? If a tree falls?

It’s a Mid-Atlantic July, the time of year when warm fronts migrate from the Gulf, northbound on saddled trade winds. Through the open window, the air is humid and heavy; you struggle against its weight; you could bite it if you wanted. Drive along winding roads that bisect farmland and observe fields of grass and corn converging towards boundless forest.

Homes out here feel accidental and offensive, like an intrusion on sacred land.

Cows are silent and sleeping as crickets chirp amidst the static of rushing wind, passenger-side, a threnody for the dying day.

The sky is dark enough for stars.

You never bothered to learn the names of any constellations and sometimes you wish you had, especially when women ask.

Drive a little further until the gaslight lights up your dashboard, still more suggestion than distress signal at this point. As you pull into the station, feel the air around you and take note of its weight. The smell of gasoline reassures you, burning in a way that seems almost musical. Grip the nozzle until you hear the handle’s click and trust that it’s better to hold on to some things.

Check your wallet for cash.

Before you close the driver-side door, catch the scent of something fragrant and sweet.

A spice factory’s not far from here, and nighttime gusts ferry exotic odors to undisclosed locations such as your own.

Tap your turn right-turn signal and look both ways before merging back onto the highway.

Just a bit further now and you’ll reach your turn.

Rural back-roads laugh at Mid-Western Geometry; asphalt contours in polynomials of at least three degrees.

Take the next turn a little too quickly and brake. Hard.

Past a certain hour, crossing the road’s centerline seems forgivable, a nocturnal privilege. Follow the flashing yellow bars, and pretend you drive a rail car.

It’s too late at night to be afraid.

Don’t worry. You’ll be able to see headlights from incoming traffic so long as you stay awake.

Nighttime clouds have a backwards quality to them; they whisper of morning rain. 

On the other side of the line, find the freedom to be outside, unrestricted, without limit or bound.

As you oscillate between that which divides, remember to watch for crossing deer.

Remember.

Out here, time is not your ally. 

 

Originally published in Newfound Magazine as “Nocturne Op. 12 no. 20”