Brain Leaks: She Chose This Dark Place
I’ve been working on this short story for a while. I am attempting to encapsulate a moment in my life that led me on a particular path.
One evening, five years ago, I witnessed something that I could never forget.
I go back to this story from time to time, so I’ve decided to share it with anyone who’s dropped by. All comments welcome.
One foot in front of the other takes her from day to night, facing the wind, fists shoved in the pockets of her ratty wool coat as she exhales fish guts and moldy fruit.
New York is behind her, across the bridge, a smoky sky thatched with dark windows and diagonal hallways, strangers who pressed against her with eerie familiarity, cold fingers lingering as they graze her sides. The buds nestled near her eardrums pump a menacing drone that makes them scatter, parted the sea of unfamiliar faces when she reached the Williamsburg bridge, a golden stain over the horizon. She walked into the sun and did not look back.
She chose this dark place, soundless against the cacophony of voices and clanging of glasses, forcing her thin body through the crowd to the front of the stage. A circle of light pools in front of her and she almost reaches to touch it, imagining it feels like the skin of a warm peach. She doesn’t. A neglected ball of hunger festers in her belly. The ground is sticky beneath her, littered with the remains of ancient fliers. She reaches down to touch them instead, a crop of still crisp angles prickling her fingertips as she rips off a laminated chunk. She holds it up to the light and sees a watery smudge in the shape of a man. She drops it.
They parade in front of her, one after the other, with booming voices she scarcely remembers as they exit with a flourish of pumped fists, scattering discs that rain into the crowd. She catches a few, slips them in her purse she now regrets bringing, a painful nuisance that digs in her side with each frantic wave crushing her inward, forcing her forward. Why does she carry so much with her? The air becoming thicker with smoke, stinging tears rush to her eyes, the stage swims.
Somewhere, people who never feel alone are dining together, they are laughing and smiling, she sees this very clearly in her mind and feels something rising in her throat. She turns to leave.
Mic check, one two, one two. A clear, female voice echos above her.
Now she’s dripping with sweat as hungry eyes blink and light the darkness of the room like stars, her own glued to the phoenix in the shape of a woman.
a burnt sky scorched the earth flesh
at the same time the murderous text arose like a phoenix with the glow of death
The light is beginning to seep through the crack bricks heralding daybreak, but no one leaves. She’s drenched in her own sweat, baptized in a steady stream of words that don’t make any promises but swear to continue, never stopping, even when the mic is dead and a raspy whisper is all that remains.
She steps out into the sunlight, clutching the phoenix’s gift that for a moment was pressed in both their hands. It’s not even real gold – painted tin in the shape of a door knocker but she clutches her prize on the bus all the way back to her tiny room in a Washington Heights tenement.