By, Ashley Ellen
He was planning to propose. He plans everything. Plans. It’s obnoxious. I thought about it for two days. The proposing. Well, actually, I stopped breathing. Then Sinatra calmed me down and I realized that what I’d been holding on to—-was nothing. Though he hadn’t verbally expressed his intent to become joint home dwellers and baby makers, I stumbled upon the evidence, on accident.
I found it in the drawer next to his bed, two nights ago, on Sunday, while he was in the bathroom. I was checking his condom supply, which had been inexistent for months. It was hard to make myself smile for that long. But I didn’t even have to. He simply, didn’t notice. He didn’t notice the paleness in my face or even its shape. He didn’t notice the puffiness of the lids that covered two wet, red rocks or even the vacant gaze of their orbit. He didn’t notice the sincerity of the homeless man outside his apartment building, bending into the garbage to scavenge a discarded takeout box. Nothing. He noticed nothing.
There was some black thing in the drawer. That was the evidence. I prodded it to see if it was alive. I looked around for a Kleenex, but saw none. I scrunched my face and held my breath, picking it up with two fingers, as carefully as possible. Ick. It was furry. It felt like some sort of velvet or something real expensive. My stomach began to clench. My tongue was getting wet. Really wet. Vomit was on the verge of projectile takeoff. I swallowed, setting it down on the bed, the black case, and stared at it for quite some time. I sulked at the light under the bathroom door. I could see his feet, unmoving. What the hell does he do in there, crotchet scarves? My eyelids were puffed up. My face felt statuesque.
I looked at the water spots on the ceiling. They made an interesting Rorschach pattern. Sort of like a bird, with no beak, or something. Maybe it’s a pair of cufflinks–in the case, maybe—-a money clip—-sure, a money clip. Please be a money clip. Rosary beads? It could be Rosary beads. He is a fucking Catholic. Not that I have anything against Catholics. I do enjoy their little rituals. I’ve always liked dipping my fingers in their holy water and dabbing the trinity all over myself. I like drinking from their bloody cup and everything. But I hate the fact that they consider that blasphemous or whatever they consider it, since I’m not Catholic. But I could be Catholic. That’s the point. I could be anything. I’m pretty good at everything. I’m like a damn sponge. I soak things up like it’s my business. I’m just not good at applying them. Practicing even. So what happens is—-every thing goes to waste.
I looked at the bright minus sign across the room, it seemed as if it contained the only light left in the world. Sighing, I released a million molecules of air within me until I nearly fainted. I squinted and pursed my lips, looking at the black thing on the bed. I touched it once more and flinched as if it were a hot coal. I waited for it to cool. I heard him blow his nose. I couldn’t be sure—-I picked it up and tossed it back and fourth in my palms, the case, then grasped it in one hand and scratched some invisible hairs on my chin with the other. I checked the sliver of tungsten beneath the toilet altar to assess if there was any time left before every thing went dark. There had been no flush, so I decided, there was some time, left.
So I pushed myself back against the bed, puffed a pillow behind me and leaned against it. I crossed my legs, like straight tooth picks. Then recrossed them. Then repuffed the pillow. Then sat up, cross legged. Then closed my eyes. Then looked up. Down. Out. In. The air was stiflingly thick. In my lungs. I closed my mouth. Filled my stomach like a balloon. Filled my chest, like a lion. I sucked in more, through my nostrils. Recrossed my legs. I was twisting so damn much I had made myself into a toy poodle. I stuck my tongue into the smooth curve behind my upper teeth and left it there. Inhaled. Exhaled. I meditated until I reached the place where time stopped.
After a blank moment, I slunk down, against the pillow, my back nearly level with the bed. I lifted my left leg into a vertical triangle and perched my right horizontally atop it.
This was it. The moment I had definitely, not, been waiting for. But, here it was. Crude as hell. The light beam basked before me, as eerie as the obelisk from 2001 Space Odyssey, but horizontal and the opposite of dark. I felt like I needed popcorn or Kit Kats or something, a drum roll. Something. The toilet flushed, once. I raised my eyebrows at his two dark stumps. Still unmoving. I reversed the cross of my legs, holding the black case in my left hand.
Then, like pulling a Band Aid real fast, as to avoid extended pain, I finally lifted the lid of the damn case with my thumb and forefinger, using the scientific carefulness and cautiousness that one would find necessary when opening a stinky, rotten, clamshell. The gravity tripled in the room, the air became dense and my mind began to spasm like a shored fish. Wow, I thought. Look at that. Some ring, pal.
Did he even know me at all? Not that I could blame him, I suppose I’m not the easiest person in the world to understand. The center of my forehead was all scrunched up, appearing as if there were a permanent lure, strung with fish wire to the side of my nose.
I imagined some awful monotone man named Tommy Shane Jr. telling him, “Now you’ve got a friend in the diamond business.” I could see the two of them, exchanging phone numbers, like buddies, pounding fists, giving each other those man-bro hugs, it sickened me.
The thing honestly looked like some fucking upside down pyramid that was bound to stab you in your sleep, or strangers, in the eye. I stared at the wall and then at the slit of light that was becoming an emaciated fracture in my consciousness. How fucking long does it take? I hadn’t even heard the sink.
I bit my cheek and looked at a dusty photo of myself in a glass frame that reflected the nearby glow of three red numbers that were twenty-six minutes fast. I had set them ahead, out of boredom, while waiting for the toilet to flush a second time on a previous occasion. I circled my eyes around the room. Every thing in it was causing the fish wire to tighten. The walls rotated to the right, while my body laid fixed in space, flaccid. Why—why this—why now—why me—why? Why, why, why, why, why? I wanted to scream. I sat up and crushed the pillow into my lap, then my face, then I threw it across the room and collapsed onto the bed. I looked at the wood floor, which now appeared to be covered with water.
The bed seemed to be some nauseating merri-go-round, turning in an agonizing spin counterclockwise at a rate slow enough to instigate insanity. I slid to a sitting position, and wiped slippery salt from my cheeks. I picked up the black case and stroked its silky white interior. I didn’t want this. I needed to leave. I was not going to live the rest of my life unhappy. Leave. Leave. I tried to lift my legs, to get off the bed. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. My legs were tons of marble and my eyes were stained glass.
Why the hell hadn’t he, I don’t know, carved it out of wood, or had it poured by monks or—gotten it woven out of bamboo by an African medicine man, or something, or made an origami one, or found some antique Celtic one—or—or—his dead Grandmother’s one or—even a damn pretzel—or—or—something—anything—anything—but this—were those—hearts engraved on the side? Some wet thing hit my arm. How fucking much did he pay for this hideous damn diamond nightmare? He really didn’t know me at all. Why did I ever think he did. Why was I here? Why was I waiting? What happened to Mr. Makes Me Laugh? Mr. Thinks I’m Adorable? Mr. Let’s Do Something Crazy Tonight? I suppose now he’s all Mr. Realistic, Mr. 401-K, Mr. Let’s Get You A Nicer Coat, Mr. Please Don’t Embarrass Me. Would he ever come out of there? Just fucking flush!
Then I flushed. Convulsed. Salty water gushed into space until the room was half full. It was deep enough to swim. I blinked and some of it drained. I sniffed and tried to wipe it up with my sleeve. It was useless. I swallowed. Maybe I could drink my way out. But someone pulled the lever and it all slipped away. Down the toilet. Down the drain. Through the pipes and out the door, into the ground and off to some far off place, much lonelier and darker than here, but who cares, no one cares. I flipped. Breathless. Then, I closed the fucking velvet case and threw it in the drawer.
When he came out, he sat down on the bed, picked up a GQ Magazine and read it for an hour. I stared at him for sixty-one minutes. He never looked at me. I hated him.
I touched his shoulder, “I, um,” but he held up his hand, finishing the sentence he was on. “Seriously, can you not spare a second?” He shushed me. Then without looking up he told me he had a surprise. He flipped through a few pages, then looked up at the wall and told me he was taking me somewhere special on Wednesday night. He told me to wear that black dress, the one with the deep cut back he had bought me on his trip New York a few months ago. He said he’d pick me up at seven.
Then he got up to go to the bathroom, again. I looked at the room one last time, apologized to the fake plants, or maybe to the non-existent real ones. I walked over to a case of books that hadn’t moved from their shelf in years, appreciating the careful dusting that Carletta gave them each week. I lifted one, a vintage Great Expectations, I flipped to the end, where a sweet note with my name was signed, but had probably never been seen by anyone else’s eyes but my own. How ironic, I thought, quivering. A salty drop of water splotched on the ink, then another, as if it were raining indoors. The green and gold book of heartbreak, with its sun-stained yellow pages slipped into the air, collapsing in a homicidal death onto the floor. From the bathroom, he shouted, inquiring if it was possible for me not to be a klutz while unsupervised and stating that he’d appreciate a little more respect for his things. In an effort to not be heard, I clasped my hands over my mouth, which quickly became drenched with despair. I threw my bag over my shoulder and slid through a crack in the door, without saying goodbye.
On Monday, I tried talking to him on the phone. I was staring out my car window at a red circle. “Have you ever noticed that you can’t see stars during the day?” He said yes. “Have you ever thought about why?” He said no. “Have you talked to Carletta about her son, Jon Jon, today, is he doing okay?” He asked me who the hell Carletta was. “That’s the name of your cleaning lady, asshole.” He told me not to be so harsh. He told me that wasn’t fair. He wrote the checks to Ace Cleaning, not Carletta. “Did you find a book on your floor?” He said he did not know what I was talking about. “I’d like it back.” He repeated that he did not know what I was talking about. “You are not Pip.” He said I was fucking insane. “I am Pip.” I hung up. I could not take another word. That was Monday.
I looked at the clock. It was Wednesday. Well, it had been Wednesday for two minutes. So I contemplated if what I was remembering was today, or yesterday. And I suppose it was yesterday, because now it’s today. But I guess it’s always today if you think about it.
At work, all I had noticed were hands. Now it made sense why everyone stayed at a distance. Like there were some imaginary glass between us that would fog if we stood too close. I shatter that glass quite frequently. I want to know these people. It’s so hard to get to know these people.
And today, all I could see was fog on the inside of the glass. I was surrounded by condensation. I needed a fucking squeegee. The sound echoed like a phone booth. But in this phone booth, the minutes were limited to numbers and quarters and local calls, but no one noticed because their hands were tied with permanent reminder strings.
As soon as someone was about to become human, they’d look down and see the ribbon and hold up their hand as if to say, “Oh, you know, I forgot, I have something to do. It’s really important.” Right. My ass. People were depressing. These were the kind of people that would see a helpless elderly woman getting stabbed and think someone else was going to deal with it. They were really busy. I didn’t ever want to be one of those people.
I walked past Bill, who still didn’t know my name, even though I had worked there for eighteen months. I took the elevator down four floors. I said goodnight to Jamal and Freida who worked on Tuesdays. Freida told me to look up, honey, it’s gettin’ better all the time. I smiled. The gravity lifted a few percentage points. I waved goodnight and walked out the door.
I looked around for homeless Joe, who sleeps on the bench on Fourth street. He was a priceless pinhole story, like Carletta and Jon Jon. I had saved half of my sandwich for him, but he wasn’t there. I hoped his absence meant he had found a shelter for the night. I didn’t want to think of the alternative. But then the alternative was all I could think of. And I stopped. I stopped walking at the edge of the cement. Alternatives had filled my eyes. I was seeing them everywhere. An alternative sidewalk. An alternative route. An alternative solution for energy. An alternative form of transportation. An alternative reality. An alternative life. Something bigger was calling my attention. Something immensely bigger.
I looked up through the translucent atmosphere that had turned its lights down for the night. Night. That was time when its mirrors were glassy windows, giving up their sky blue and releasing a trillion and a half shiny pinholes. The darkness gave me the illusion of weightlessness, as if space were right here next to me, but the atmosphere would not release its breath. The gravity was permanent, but the air was light enough to forego its pull, swirling inside, forming natural disasters, and beautiful gusts of wind.
The birds dared not fly at night, uninhibited; I thought, perhaps because of an innate fear of shattering the atmosphere’s invisible periphery that sifted the sands of time; then, I thought, that’s impossible, nothing sifts in this is hour glass, this is a sphere—-there is no time.
I squinted a serene smile into the sky’s eternity as it winked its light years of stories back at me—-attesting that we were both aware that no one else really understood. We hoped that one day they would. But if not, that was okay. As long as we noticed. As long as that was okay for the two of us, that was enough. We could make it one more day.
I stood at a red light on a vacant corner of a tall reflective city. I was mostly on its edge, at least outside its wind barrier, well, very much outside of it actually. I hadn’t even broken its tunnels. This was the pay lot district. Each block out from the center of the wind tunnel had a daily rate, seventy five cents cheaper than its predecessor. At the starry news pinnacle in which I was departing my late night work, the rates were five dollars per day–if you were early. But the five dollar lots usually fill before most people start their eight hour shift.
I worked a different eight hour shift. It began sixty minutes before the evening rush hour. When the five and six and seven dollar lots were full, I parked at the heart of the metropolis where the lots can run rates of fourteen dollars, per day, however, if I drive into one of those windy cement parking caverns, its ramps run me two dollars less.
I stood through at least six white walking men and seven blinking hands. A red glow bathed my cheeks. Of all times to be following the law, this was sure a pointless one. But I wasn’t really trying; I wasn’t even paying attention. My eyes, instead, were parallel to the bright, infinite nothingness that wrapped itself around every part of me. Its endless black face was eating me whole and I had no choice but to swirl around at that moment with the rotation of the bizarre bubble that I accepted as my home. I accepted it all—its silly politics and scare tactics and behavioral patterns and currencies and start times and theories and social codes and even its goddamn mating rituals, though skeezy and animal-like, were accepted, by me. And, because I accepted, my feet were planted sturdy on that man-fucking-made cement that had given its own grassy foothold no choice whether or not it would see the light of day again, but do any of us really have a choice? Yes, I thought. I brought my head back down to earth and obeyed the white man across the street. I followed him all the way to the other side.
A squirrel was having its way with a pile of garbage to my right. The only other thing that moved in the whole city was the wind, which had given life to a smiling plastic bag that floated past me with calculation, like an inattentive jellyfish. Then, the squirrel leapt at the happy bag, ending its dance as it began ravaging the yellow smile on the ground. As I passed, the squirrel squatted in place. He sat, stunned beneath “Have a” and above “nice day.”
The face of a bright red clock on the thirty second floor of a fifty story building told me it was the first hour and eleven minutes past the start of the morning. My head felt vacant. My body was numb. I stared back at the glowing white man, beckoning an answer, a direction, anything. He held up his hand to me. He was supposedly protecting me. Maybe he was waving. But by his complexion, he seemed cautious.
When I entered the wind tunnel, the streets only spoke English. They told me to walk. I understood. I obeyed. I walked. This place was depressing. It was too quiet. Every thing was closed. Doors were closed. Shops were closed. People were closed. I was the only thing that was open. But there was no one around that wanted hospitality, at least, not now.
I walked all the way to the cold ramp of concrete and descended in a metal box several floors below. I was hoping to have a chat with another lonely soul. I felt like giving encouragement, but, maybe it was me that needed some. Unfortunately, the glass pay-booths were empty. Apparently, the parking lots’ late night conversationalists had been replaced, over the weekend, with automatic credit card machines that didn’t even have the decency to robotically thank me.
I drifted out of the city and floated along the sleepy highway where melancholy lanes surrounded me. It seemed so silly, but at that moment I actually wished for traffic. Unable to close my mouth any longer, I began to hold a one-way conversation with the radio, but damn Franky came on and started talking about that funny thing called love and I got completely depressed.
“Franky you’re no fool. I’m the fool. Nothing makes me happy.”
“Don’t sing sweet somethings to me, I am a sweet nothing. No thing. Not a thing. Fucking things.”
“But maybe. Maybe this isn’t it. Maybe it was, but maybe it wasn’t. Love, I mean. Maybe it never was. You think?”
I looked out at smoke stacks that resembled three monsters at the edge the river. They puffed like sad cigarettes.
“You want to know why it’s such a damn mystery? It’s probably because–no one can find it.”
I turned on the defroster and streaked my hand in front of me, removing a smudge of cloudy wetness from the windshield.
“I’ll never settle Franky. Never.”
I had made my decision. I knew the answer all along. I didn’t want to kiss him. I never had. There is no spring on Jupiter or fucking Mars. It was over. Everything was over. I wasn’t going through with it. It. I was not going through with it.
I turned right, into my driveway. I exhaled half of my air into my 1994 Ford submarine. Franky had stopped his silly romantics. A radio announcer with a British accent came on and explained that tonight was just one of those nights that the city needed Sinatra on repeat. “For all of you heartbreakers out there, don’t forget that people are people. People, like you.” I felt guilty. It wasn’t his fault. He was just as hopeless as me. We weren’t so different.
A jazzy ballad started up. I half-smiled. “Oh Franky, you dog, you. I’m not mad at you. You’re just human. At least you’re man enough to admit it.” I looked at my yellow apartment. There was a tree outside my window, dabbled like a Serat painting in every shade of green, from jade to emerald. On it, dangled one or two cider hued leaves that hung like happy suicide bombers, strapped and ready.
With my hands full of stupid things that I thought were daily necessities, I looked down the quiet street. “No one else is alive,” I thought. They were all sleeping. Just then, a man wearing a top hat turned the corner with a huge white sheep dog. He was smoking a pipe. At two in the morning. On a Wednesday. “Excuse me. I was wrong, no one but me and this man in a top hat and this sheep dog are alive.” He nodded “Good day” to me. The dog curtseyed. It was a polite dog. Hugely polite. And sheepy. The man was severely tall and rectangular. I wanted to know this man. He seemed to lean backwards at a thirty-five degree angle while he walked, puffing his pipe. He had a long, white beard. Black top hat. A nice pinhole story. I pricked the door with my key and shut out the world for one more night.
Before I closed my lids, I peered, upside down, out my window at the bitter moon that arched its way down to earth. One golden arch. But, it drooped out of reach in the sky. You could follow it forever, but you’d never be able to walk underneath it, I thought. Maybe—that’s because—in reality—it’s a big round orb of stone that has stopped spinning on its own. Maybe—it accidentally got all caught up with this blue planety thing while it was soaring aimlessly through the dark universe. That’s really too bad. Now, all it does is loop figure eights around the hot sun and the cold winter. Infinitely.
But me and the moon, see—we’re pals. We’re here for each other. “Sometimes, during the day, I can see you buddy.”
“Even though the windows are sky blue mirrors in the light.”
“I see your rocky gray self when the sun’s out. I see all your dings and scratches and craters and everything.”
“I know you don’t glow on your own.”
“You know that?”
“But hey. Moon. Hey, look up moon. Hey, I like you that way.”
“We’re just rocks, you and I. Or maybe, you’ve found something that lets you shine.”
I sat up in bed and turned around. I pressed my palms to the cool glass. Two circles steamed into presence, then faded. Then appeared. Then disappeared. I lifted my chin at him. I puckered the centers of my eyes. He was shining light through them, into their abyss that existed concurrently in another dimension–an endless library, where all the hope and sadness of life gets stored.
I looked right into his face, level headed. He was leaning back. He smiled at me. The moon did. It was then that I realized, I was happy. All on my own. All I needed was the moon. I’d put him in my pocket if I could. But then he wouldn’t shine. So I let him hang for everyone to see. I let him go. That’s amoré.
The next morning, I awoke to the consoling sound of water, dancing. Nature was doing a little ditty on the top of my roof. Occasionally, it would get all tricksy with the wind and patter on my window pane. I could hear each individual step as it took out leaf upon leaf of a nearby tree that had turned a warm shade of pale ale, overnight. The sky was somber and the wind was blowing piles of nature’s colorful victims in gusts against my porthole to the world. The glass had become of collage-montage of thin wet foliage in a variety of sea greens and ambers.
When my alarm went off I snubbed it with my fist. I could have gotten up, but nothing seemed important today, except for sleep. I slunk back into my white subconscious. Milky sheets tumbled around me. Covers enveloped my head and I sank deep beneath them, disappearing into the impression of my self in the mattress below.
I was not going to deal with a thing today. I was done making excuses for every one. I was tired of it. Tired of them. Excuses. Every one was a pathetic let down. I would not make any today. Today I was going to be honest.
My kitten scratched at the door to get in. No one answered. She scratched for an hour, then finally gave up. I had slipped into the place between sleep. The place of sweet, slumberous silence.
Of all days to snub, today was probably not the best. But, maybe I would never see again. Maybe today, I would wake up blind. Maybe today, my wrists would be cut, I thought. But right now, those things were not true. At least those things were not true.
I slept until seven. When I awoke it was sunny. The sky’s mirrors were reflecting the most amazing ocean of blue. I peeled the sheets off my self and opened the window, letting the smell of wet grass fill my room that was decorated like a Zen garden.
Today I felt like running. I had no idea if it was 7 P.M. on Wednesday or 7 A.M. on Thursday, though it didn’t seem to matter either way.
I put on a pair of shorts, a thin, white cotton tee-shirt and the world’s most comfy pair of ankle socks. When I had finished lacing both of my running shoes, the doorbell rang. “Who in the hell could that be,” I asked the rock that hovered at a safe distance above.
I opened two doors and there, standing behind the third one, behind the glass, was him. Mr. Boring. Mr. Self-Involved. Mr. Fun Is A Childish Expectation. Mr. Money Makes Happiness. Mr. Where’d All The Time Go.
I slammed my fists on the glass. “No.”
“What?” Said Mr. Freaking Oblivious.
I swung the door open, into his face, almost shattering everything. “No. I will not fucking marry you.”
“What?” Said Mr. Glass Is Half Empty And Will Never Be Full, Mr. Glass Has Been Broken Since His Discovery Four Button Suits, Mr. Only Likes It, If It’s New or Italian or Suggested By A Thin, Disproportionately Large-Breasted Saleswoman.
“Was there something you didn’t understand?” I closed the doors behind me and began stretching on the yellow railings.
“I—I thought we were going to dinner,” said Mr. Original Ideas Involve $200 Bottles of Imported Wine.
Apparently, it was 7:00, on Wednesday. P.M.
“I—had a surprise. A—I—booked—I—what—what are you doing?” Said Mr. Lifts Weights At The Gym, And Only The Gym.
“I’m going for a run.”
“You run?” Said Mr. Perfect Timing, Mr. Knows Me So, So Well.
“Not everyday, but today, I feel like running.”
“So, am I just supposed to wait for you? I made reservations,” said Mr. Thinks Stuffy and Snooty in Tiny Portions is Romantic.
“Well, you better not miss them.” I took off at a slow pace.
“Does that mean you’re not coming with me?” Said Mr. Hasn’t Made His Girlfriend Come, Ever, But Is Happy Enough With His Egotism and One Way Conversations.
“That’s correct!” I threw my hands in the air, a few yards away. “It’s all about you anyway.”
“Wait, don’t you want to know what the surprise is?” Said Mr. Still Doesn’t Fucking Get It.
“It’s a Ring! I know! And it’s hideous! It’s exactly what you wished I liked!” Wet leaves squished under my feet. “And, since you weren’t listening, I already said, quote—No—period—I—will—not—fucking—marry you—period—end quote. Have fun with yourself!”
“You know—I’m not going to chase you!” Said Mr. Emotional Output Of A Potato. “If you turn that corner—-that’s it! That’s fucking it! I swear! I’m gone! I’m not dealing with this again!” Said Mr. Couldn’t Keep a Plant Alive If He Needed It For Survival.
I was six yards to the end of the block. The sun shimmered on the sidewalk in a million nebulous circles.
“Wait! Please! I—I love you! You don’t want the ring? Okay. Fine. Then what do you want?” Said Mr. Too Late.
I ran out of the shaded trees and reached a patch of dark sunlight. I looked back at him, standing there, awkward, unmoving. Sad. I paused. He raised his eyebrows with the closest thing to a speck of emotion I had seen in years. “You know, I know that tomorrow, you’ll go back to work, and you’ll forget this. And I hope you do. Please do. You won’t ever be lonely. You’ve got yourself. But you know what? You don’t have me.” I turned away from Mr. Sucks The Life Out Of Me, and I let him go.
“Wait! Wait! No! That’s not true! Stop! Please stop! I can’t run in these shoes! Where are you going? Wait!”
I heard wooden soles, clomping, scuffling. I heard two beeps and a car door. Open, shut. I heard an engine attempt to start, trying to turn over. I heard an engine fail.
I quickly felt the air begin to revive my cells. I looked at the blue mirrors above me and the puddles below, filled with sky. I turned right, around the corner and ran. I ran past the bakery that I read at on Thursday’s, like tomorrow, I suppose. I ran past the Laundromat where I take pictures—full of that fresh laundered scent—the pictures—of Spanish families in my mind and save them as precious pinhole stories for later. I ran past the organic gardening store; I always considered gardening to be naturally organic, I thought. I looked up at the bright, orange slice moon.
Little white men led me across ten streets without stopping. Then, a hand forced me to take a left in order to keep pace. I ran. I ran past a cemetery. I ran past a trial garden; I wondered what kind of trial they were referring to. Where those test flowers? Were they celebrating life? I had no idea.
After I ran for what felt like thirty-nine minutes straight, I saw a sign that was labeled “Peace Garden” and I decided to rest. There was no other face in any direction. At the edge of the garden, near a forest was a gushing willow tree.
I walked to it, climbed its trunk and sat under its pale light. You know, there was actually nothing light about it. It was more like bright shade, the kind of shade that you would be drowning in at the bottom of a shallow sea.
The leaves hung above me, waving like curling ocean reeds. Serat-ian painted quasars of lemon and lime stung my eyes. There was a creek beside the tree. A waterfall. But I was underwater. It was somewhat hard to see. But it was beautiful. Every thing was beautiful. Every one was beautiful. I couldn’t breathe. But that was okay, we all agreed. Me, the tree and the hummingbird. The hummingbird? I had no idea where this hummingbird had come from, but it was under the willow tree. I watched its wings flip—flap—flip—flap, real slow, and then it perched. I wasn’t quite sure if they could do that, I wanted to ask it, “Hey, hummingbird, do you do that often? Perch. Do you habitually perch? I’m unfamiliar with this.” But every thing was moving so slow I couldn’t speak. My mouth gaped open. No sound would come out. The silence was wet in my ears. I wanted to cry. At something this beautiful. You should cry. But I was already crying. Every thing was crying. Each thing. Each one. Wet. Alive. I didn’t breathe for what felt like five minutes. Every proton, neutron and electron in my body was nearly still.
And then I blinked. The hummingbird was gone. I noticed an acoustic guitar hanging from an overhead branch. I wasn’t alone. Some cat from some where took a Polaroid from above me. It slipped into the air, black and white and gray, and floated down. I caught it in my hands. I gripped the edges of the photo and watched the colors slowly develop meaning. “Hello,” was carried into the light waves of the atmosphere, a deafening flood, that poured into the abyssal-library of my eyes. The past, the future and every thing instantly faded into the present. Was always present. Is present. If you notice. I noticed. We. Noticed. Notice.