My head is throbbing. I shade my eyes from the glare of light. Two African violets in a white plastic margarine container sit beside the window. Bubble gum pink and indigo violet blossoms opening. I go to the window. Brushed steel lines the window glass, cold under my fingers. How long was I sleeping? I had no idea. A sparrow batters itself against the glass. Its wings flutter and thump against the window by my head. I look passed him to the street. Sun glare burns my eyes. Tears fill the corners, and threaten to spill over. Black rooftops of houses sit in lines below my feet. I realize my feet are bare. The night gown I am wearing is deep purple lined with lace. Outside, I can see orange tattered flags hanging down from sagging telephone wires. They signal a warning to dump trucks and construction crew below. No one works there now. The street is almost deserted. Dull grey weathered telephone poles erupt through the sweating grey concrete. Broken asphalt is piled chaotically at the side of the street. No one must walk there. I can see no footprints in the pale dirt. The dust hovers around steel supports and giant culverts made of concrete. I can see numbers and letters coded in royal blue spray paint on the culverts. They turn upward to the sky. Calling out to someone, anyone. I stand with my palms flat against the window.
Why is the street empty? The question stands up like the rust coloured rebar jut up through the dirt. They are like dangerous fingers daring the unaware to walk through them. I press my forehead against the cool glass. I turn my head slowly, and try to look further up the street. Orange and black traffic cones lean lazily in different directions. Dirt brown brick buildings butt up against the Vietnamese Buddhist Monastery. Windows covered with white thick curtains. A fifteen foot white statue of Quan Yin sits in the front courtyard watching the street through barbwire and chain link fence. Her feet surrounded by cherry red and fuchsia geraniums in white glowing flower pots. The only person I see, the nun dressed in saffron robes, stands outside the monastery and sweeps the dust from the trucks off the terrace. It floats around her in thin beige clouds. She smiles in the afternoon sun. I wonder if she can see me in the window watching her. Does she know who I am?
I drag my eyes back to what is in front of me. Pressing my knuckles to my temples, I try to remember the past day. Nothing. The back of the two-storey walk up stares at me through the window. The brick is black, like an open wound, and angry. The faint rumour of a fire is etched in the formed stone and mortar. I can smell the fire in my nose, a scent memory but I don’t know from where. Wooden balconies balance precariously against the wall. Torn screened doors lean against old wooden door frames daring the wind to come up on them. Nothing moves outside. The wind does not take up the dare. Underneath the balcony, I can see two purple sofas with worn out arms huddle on the first floor porch. Beer bottles and waded paper collect in corners; remnants of the people living there. I massaged my neck. I felt the lumps at the base of my skull. They are large and rounded, tender to touch. My body quivers. I wonder how long I had been standing.
The windows are all covered in the building. Newsprint and cardboard instead of glass. I am standing like a crow watching. The landscape is like an abandoned urban postcard, tossed unthinking to the ground. Wish you were here. But I don’t. No one moves on the grey boards or gravel yard. Wilting lamb’s ear spills out of the broken garden box and pink primrose struggles to grow in the corner by the rusted out fireplace. Brick and patio tile fragments stacked against the shed. An abandoned robin’s nest jammed in the downspout of the eaves trough. I wonder where the babies have gone. No trace of the signature blue anywhere. All that is left behind, black garbage bags and brown cardboard boxes piled on the second floor balcony and a bright blue tarp flaps wildly in the sudden wind on the roof. Fear settles into the pit of my stomach. The shingles mirror me, and disappear in places where holes like hungry mouths bite at the sky above.
* note: this story grew out of an assignment on Diving Deeper… and has taken a kind of life of its own since I started writing it. Now I am at the point of having nightmares about the story. I often dream stories before or while writing them.. but it is the first time that I have written something that has given me nightmares. This is the sole reason why I am continuing to write the story – to see where it goes! Soon I will be sleeping with the lights on.