a year in stories::twenty three

Tonight’s story is sad, and it’s for Chris Novas who challenged me to write a story without dialogue, which is actually sort of normal for me, since I think silent stories are the best ones. It came out rather sad, though, and sort of final.

There were a lot of things I wanted to write about today. So many essays I need to be doing, so many thoughts to get down, not to mention the noir novel I’m slowing–very slowly–getting through.

So it goes.

For lovers lost, I guess.

The Stars Shine but not for you

Β 

The wallpaper torn, fake linoleum chipped, cracks in the walls, the foundation. Dripping, the sink pings into the dusty air, thick with mildew. He sits at the table, head in his hands, palms pressing white stars into his retinas.

She packs her things in the other room. Opening drawers, taking the folded laundry, rolling it, and putting it in her small suitcase, she eyes the door from the kitchen. The shuffling sound of her movements filters through the doorway with no door, broken hinges. He sighs, stands. Her shadow grows and disappears on the wall visible through the doorway. His body weight tilts forward but he puts his hand down on the table, steadies himself, a halfstep forward, then he slumps back into the chair. His eyes and shoulders and mouth hang low. Chin down, neck long, he focuses on the lines of his palms, tracing them, the way his left makes the letters A and C, folded so deep into his skin. Raising his eyes, the shadow and the sounds of her opening drawers, digging through the closet synchronise. She stands on her tiptoes reaching for a box high up in the closet, just past fingertips. Back on her heels, she turns to the door, the muscles in her neck tense. Glassy eyes, she wipes her nose with the back of her hand, then sneezes the dust away. When she opens her eyes she sees his shadow through the door but hears nothing. The shadow stills, and she does too. She sees her shadow almost touching his, their heads a handwidth apart.

Hail batters the roof and all sounds within dull against the collapsing sky. In the lamplight of the room, a fly buzzes chaotically, smashing itself into the bulb again and again, then stopping to rub itself. The shadows waver, slight changes in dimension and place, their heads bouncing just so. Her shadow moves forward, almost breaking his plane when his retreats, disappears.

Her voice catches in her throat, a tear rising to the rim of her eyelid but she blinks it away. The suitcase full, she closes the drawers, the remnants of her clothes left to fill the absence. Pushing down on it, she zips it closed, the sound ripping through the hail, and he grabs a pan to catch the leak as hail becomes rain. The drips joining the ping of the faucet, different timbres battling against the sound of rain. Two pans, then three, then six to catch the fast leaks in the roof, holey. For a moment, he looks back to the doorway but sees no shadow. In the drawer by the sink he finds a case of cigarettes, picks it up, shakes it to no sound. Opening to empty, he brings it back to the table, sits down. Removing the cellophane, her tears the pack along the seams, then folds the remaining pieces in half, then rips them along that new seam, and he repeats this process until fragments of the pack cover half the table.

She comes through the door, her face composed. He looks up but she does not meet his eyes. His eyes faltering, shipwrecking, tears swelling, spilling. He wipes them away, coughs, keeps tearing while she grabs the other chair and returns to the bedroom where she uses it to grab the box at the top of the closet. In the box, a hat. An old hat, a bowler, black. She puts it on, throws her faded green coat round her shoulders, pulls on her cracked leather boots, carries the suitcase into the kitchen, her movements masked by the rain, torrential, and she finds him, head in hands, mouth open, breathing heavy.

Her heels clack against the artificial floor and he sits up, smiles brokenly. His eyebrows squeeze together, but the tears bitten down. He watches her face and she watches his. A mask, emotionless, she steps towards him, puts a hand on his shoulder, kisses his forehead.

He weeps, openmouthed, silent. Through the blur of tears, he stands, hugs her, holds her tight, long. Gently, she pulls away, and he relents.

She kisses him on the cheek, then on the lips, his mouth open, unreceptive.

When the door opens, the rain spills into the room, a puddle by the door stretching over the kitchen. His eyes trace the liquid from where it goes to where it came from, to her boots, and up her thick figure. Their eyes meet, and they laugh, short, but with joy.

She closes the door and he walks to the bedroom as the rain spills over the pans. Opening drawers, he takes the odd bits of clothing left behind, then sits in the bed, holding them. Lying down, her burrows his face into her pillow, wrapping her clothes and sheet round him. The fly buzzes and water drips onto the back of his head.

And he stays there, until the rain ends.

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