The Streetlight

The sidewalk.

The park.

The bench
under the street lamp, everything tinted by the radiation of its bulb, electricity lightly humming. And he knew that feeling well.

But just then he didn’t. His mind was swimming with swarms of thoughts circling around his head like killer whales around an ice floe covered in seals. His chin rested in his hand, his elbow propped against his lap as he stared at the concrete. He was more looking through the concrete, beyond the concrete into a space which only he could see, beyond the crust and mantle and into the space where pure imagination dwelled. It was where the movie studio in his mind directed a thousand scenes, edit, revised and reviewed scripts and he let the actors play out their roles. Indeed, all the world was a stage in the space between his ears but the actors were real people and the names were not changed to protect the guilty. And, right now, the actors in his head were guilty.

Soft footsteps approached.

“So, you’re the one burning holes in the sidewalks around here? I figured it was some pyromaniacal kids with fireworks, considering the time of year.” It was her again. She must have seen him come into the park again. It was nice to know he wasn’t the only one who had nothing better to do at that time of night but, after their last encounter, he was a little wary of her.

“I saw you walking here again. I thought I’d check to see how you were doing and to see if you took my advice.” She sat down next to him, her face obscured by the curtain of her shoulder-length hair. She was like a ghost but she could breathe, a puzzle to be certain.

“Well, did you?”

The train roared past, catching the back of his jacket in the wake in his head. “Yes, I did.”

“Good,” she looked up into a nearby tree, “How do you feel?”

The question rattled him for a moment. It felt like he had trekked a thousand miles since someone asked him that question. So much time had passed and so many resolutions made regarding his heart and his head had been made and dismissed in so small a space in time. The hammer flew end over end and disappeared into the headlamp of the train over and over again.

“I’m not entirely certain. There’s a large part of me that wonders how much of it was actually real. I can trace the end back and link it to so many things now that I’ve had time to reflect and I keep wanting to know, wanting to ask how much of it was real and how much of it was just… ” He grasped for a word that wasn’t there, despite the innumerable ideas in the shape of flies that floated around his head. His right hand motioned in forward circles to signal his brain to get unstuck from the mud but eventually gave up with a sigh.

“Yeah, I suppose that’s a fair question. But would you really want to know the answer to that? I mean, if you had a lot of good memories then does it do you any good to find out that she was just placating you so you wouldn’t know what was going on? That’s just more pain and misery, isn’t it?” She kicked a small pebble across the concrete.

His eyes burned holes in the sidewalk again. He stuffed his hands in the front pocket of his hoodie and rested them there.

“I suppose it would be. I don’t know. Part of me is curious to know if any of it was real or if it was just filler until something better came along.” He let out a deep sigh and looked down at his lap.

“You’re looking at it the wrong way, I think.” He felt her hand reach out and brush his hair out of his face and back behind his shoulder. He knew she could see him but he couldn’t see her as that seemed to be the way of things. Her touch felt so strange to him that he almost recoiled out of instinct, like someone about to be hit. He just kept looking down trying to keep calm as he felt anxiety bubble up. He felt damaged, inhuman though her touch implied nothing. She pulled her hand back and had leaned closer.

“If there’s anybody waiting for something better to come along it should be you.”

He furrowed his brow and turned to see her face.

Then the streetlight went out.


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