He was the first one I had kissed that made my knees wibble. New Year’s Eve together then a week. A beginning. I went to him, knowing if I died, no one would notice. He would have been the last. I was ready to go. I never told him that. Instead, I sat on the hardwood floor in bare feet, watching sunlight, writing while he worked. We watched movies and the Dakar rally and in brief moments, explored. Seven days saved me. I wanted to kiss him one last time but the road called me home. Just needed a reason.
One of my stories, Pieces of Me was published today in a new literary journal for flash fiction called Slice of Life. I am just so happy. What a wonderful birthday gift (and my first published piece ever).
It is deep night. The hair sticks to the back of my neck. The fan stands in the corner, whirring and sputtering. It complains of the heat as much as I do. I cannot sleep. A black curtain of summer drapes itself over my shoulders and the rest of the room, daring me to move. A single bead of sweat trickles its way down my spine to sit in the pool at my tailbone. The street outside is empty. Not even the strays are out patrolling. It is disappointing to be alone tonight. The moon has risen, half full and deadly orange. The sun, on its lumbering journey to the other side of the world, won’t even let the moon be silver tonight. Fire red and orange waits to blast the morning sky. I hate heat waves. I would take a snow storm over a heat wave any day but if you asked me mid-stride I would tell you the opposite. I am contrary that way. It does not one lick of good to be naked in the dark even. My skin prickles each time the wind of the fan passes over me. Please, my skin begs, stay and cool us. Then the fan is gone. The heat wafts in and settles. Whimpering its companion.
This is not what I meant to write. I wrote earlier. Not properly just wrote what was on my mind. I don’t like writing that way. Restrained, unable to write freely. I do that to myself. Take the small screen. Take the smaller screen. Write. Pour thought into the abyss and pray that in some way the babble makes sense. it occurs to me now – how do you make sense of babble? Is it like making sense of a brook running through the woods, babbling, as it were? We just let the brook do its brooky thing and babble away. What of the sleep deprived? Do we let them sit in the dark, while the mercury pushes 37C at 1am and wonder if it is best to just let them sit, get out whatever it is that is stuck in the eyelids, prying them open…. wait, why am I writing this? What is the point? I have derailed myself. Spilled water from the bottle at my feet. It really is only water. I could call on someone to turn it into wine. No.. actually I can’t. not any more. Jesus is off doing other things.
I don’t like the sound of the whirr. Or the pounding in my head. I should sleep. Lay my feet across the pillow and stick my head off the end of the bed to watch the stars and moon move slowly together. Watch the streetlights from above, and the orange circles they throw up across the asphalt. Avoid all together the true reason I am sleepless tonight. Oh hush you red tormentor. Let me think a moment while I am sitting here. My forehead is slick against the back of my hand. Hair sticks everywhere. I won’t cut it though. It is not time. Push it away, like every other thought. Sit, you silly cow, and just listen. Not to the fan, or the hum of the other fans upstairs or in windows. Listen to the beat. Not the throbbing unrelenting head gripped by an invisible vice. Feel. You are allowed to. Feel.
The timer, I just noticed, is counting down. I am almost done. No elation. Being done means moving, and climbing and falling, and thinking while staring unseeing at the ceiling. The glow in the dark stars are faded now and it is too late to turn lights on and recharge them. The same summer sky stares down at me above the roof. I should not settle for the recreated one I made thirteen years ago. I wish I could lay out tonight. Lie down in the garden and watch the sky. It would not help me to sleep, but would be beautiful all the same. The light, like a breath through the cosmos, tricks my eyes into believing it is moving. Twinkling and winking at nothing. Sometimes, I am too cautious. Now I am more so. Waiting to see the stars dancing. Sitting alone in the dark, fans whirring. What lies waiting in the shadows now? I wonder. For a few more seconds any way. Is it time yet to end this? I wonder about that too.
The doors stood wide open. I could see the long rays of afternoon sunlight reaching through from the space between the barn boards. Queen Anne’s lace and sunflowers dotted the unused paddock. The weather vane, an old heron, dipped its head towards the east, waiting for sunrise already. The rich crimson red walls wrapped themselves around the heavy timber frame. I touched the wood along the south wall. It was rough in places and worn smooth in others. Swallows swooped and dove from unseen openings above my head. Their twittering voices fell over me like drops of water from a waterfall. Their pale bellies flashed as they darted by then disappeared into the soft darkness. I followed the overgrown path around to the back of the barn. The slope of the tin roof touched the clear blue sky gently before dropping off into the long wild grass that grew behind the barn. I pulled a small door open. A old rusted horseshoe hung still above it, putting upwards for luck. Inside the barn, the granary was empty. The floorboards sighed with each step I took. Dust motes floated lazily across the rafters above. Doves spoke in hushed voices to the shadows, singing softly as the summer night stretched and climbed through the walls to dance with the sunset. I found a switch by the door and turned it on. Fairy lights filled the corners with tiny white lights like stars. Sweet hay in mounds sprawled out across the centre aisle. A carefully woven blanket tossed along the side of one stall, slipped down when the breeze through the open doors came up. The barn sat waiting. The silence, as though the bard, the land outside, the universe was holding its breath, slipped around like a kiss hello after a long day in the fields.
Dark green moss dripped from the fallen rafters and broken shingles at the corner of the barn. Rusted farm equipment, broken boards littered the neglected barnyard – torn down and thrown aside by the past. Left behind, the holes stared back at me like wide gaping wounds in the walls. A warning. The locked doors were a dare. A shattered mirror in a worn white wooden frame hung low by the barn doors. The yard and world behind me reflected by a million shards of silvered glass. I refused to look for my reflection in the chaos. Instead, I pushed a loose board aside, ignoring the lock and chained door. I took a deep breath and squeezed through the opening. A bent nail caught the sleeve of my coat, tugging at it like the tiny fingers of a lost child.
I stood under the old rafters. They spread out over my head like arms in prayer. I was the intruder. Unwanted, uninvited. The barn roof sagged in places, barely able to hold the weight of the rafters. Tin and wood balanced precariously over the empty stalls and storage rooms. Faint traces of the day lingered in corners. Light, like a stifled cry pushed past me and fell along the floorboards, interrupted by the cracks. Fading, it drew lines in the dust before disappearing below. Thunder rumbled deeply in the distance. The barn moaned in response. I stood alone with its shadows one last time.