May 4: Flicker
Time stuttered, like a zoetrope just winding up its spin.
We were standing on the corner, her fingers laced around mine, interwoven. Her hand was cool. My palm was clammy. She glanced up at the flickering “Don’t Walk” and exhaled a long slow breath. The light changed. We crossed the street, heels clicking a staccato canter as I fought to keep up. I thought about the memory of three quarters of a bottle of Blue Label left standing on a bar table.
Somewhere far from uptown she paused, and I saw our reflections in the window of a closed-down brownstone. The glass was ancient, rippled with time, and I saw myself come apart into dips and hollows as I moved. Her reflection was flawless. She tugged gently at my hand, pulling me away down the long eyeless row of houses on an uneven pavement. She never stumbled. I forgot to wonder why.
The sea was as black as the hollows of her eyes, reflecting brilliant stars in a moonless sky in cold, wavering globules of light. There was no land left; the wind off the bay a frigid reminder that it might be spring, but it was early spring. It blew rivulets of spray up from the stone breakwater we stood on, misting my cheeks with liquid ice. Her hand tightened subtly, reassuringly. “Don’t be cold,” she murmured in her autumn-leaves voice.
I wasn’t cold.
My feet sank into damp cold sand, leaving footprints filled with black water. Sand gritted between my toes and I couldn’t remember where my shoes had gone. It didn’t matter. Her fingers were ice-cold steel, drawing me forward over the beach, my entire being focused in the juncture between my palm and hers as she sped up and we ran up the beach, away from the bay, up to the green-black forest wall.
I hesitated, then. She looked back over her shoulder, and the starlight reflected off the water and into her eyes, glowing storm-cloud grey.
“Don’t be afraid,” she murmured, and her half-smile was almost mocking.
I was. I followed her anyway.