BUCKETS OF RAIN
This morning I stole a parking ticket. It lay there prone under the arm of the windshield wiper. It was ashamed of its gut-wrenching ugliness as it flapped listless in the breeze of passing bicycles. Instinctively, I rescued it, like a stray from the pound, knowing that hatred was all that awaited it. I changed things. I picked it up and I walked away. The glee of ownership and scandal buoyed my step. The weight of my secret lifted me onto the tips of my toes.
Buying a bagel at lunch, I pulled it out as I looked for change. The man waiting behind the cash recognized its red and white stripes, nodded knowingly. I tossed my head theatrically, “My metre had been expired for MAYBE five minutes.”
I’m a terrible liar, but I like to pretend.
Later, I pretended that I like to walk. I passed bookstores and coffee shops, benches and fire hydrants, kids and garbage bins. I watched the men and women bathing in the blushes of early evening and wondered if they saw me too. The sun was at a perfect angle. I put on my sunglasses and waded through the warm light. The colours reminded me of photographs that my sister takes using our father’s camera. Scenes with a buttery glow that force you to reinvent your memories so that you, too, can claim to have lived through afternoons with such vibrant blues and greens ringing around you and to have stuck your toes in earth so fantastically red. I feel like those are the colours that would show up in photographs of night-time if somehow cameras didn’t need so much light. In my memory, the golden filter is the rise and fall of laughter, deep-water blue the coolness of the night air, a mossy green the life that exists just beyond your tiny patch of awareness, rust the colour of your heart waking up.
I walked through a photograph with a stolen parking ticket in my pocket and I thought about what it means to own your life. I gloried in the tightening of my thighs and calves as my muscles began to tire. I felt the beginnings of hunger stir inside me. I was alive, free, my blood thrilling with joy. My body was mine as much as I that parking ticket in my pocket.
Darkness momentarily blinded me as my eyes adjusted to being indoors. I took off my sunglasses, folded them and placed them gently on the chest by the door. Cedar with veins of rose running through it, soft and sweet-smelling. I took in my familiar surroundings, opened the blinds on the windows and walked to the kitchen. Perched on the highest shelf was a mug that an ex-girlfriend made for me. She had a pottery wheel. Late at night, I would listen to the hum and wet slapping sounds of her working. It reminded me of a movie I saw when I was young. She would get clay all over the wall.
We parted on good terms. She decided that she needed to see the world. She had an old aunt in Spain who wanted help in the summer when she took trips to the country. I painted the mug blue. She painted it green. They bled into each other, indistinguishable in places. It had a beautiful shape: narrow at the base, swelling to a wide mouth, rounded and womanly.
I stood at the window sipping cold water from it, watching the city. The last light of the sun stretched as far as it could, trying to outreach the shadows. Everything seemed vibrant and warm and satisfied.
Returning to the kitchen, I smiled at the chill of the tiles beneath my bare feet. I left my mug on the counter and began pulling vegetables out of the refrigerator. Reaching up for rice, I almost dropped the bag. I wobbled in the air, trying not to spill the grains that would lodge themselves in impossible cracks. There was a splintering and a drop of water on my foot. Something inside me lurched. I carefully placed the rice on the counter and lowered myself to inspect the damage.
The mug was shattered on the tiles, scattered in puddles across the small kitchen. I fingered the pieces; blue, green, with ruddy terra-cotta showing on the broken edges. I sighed and got the broom.
Returning, I stood in the doorway and scrutinized the mess still lying on the ground. Through the window, the light began to fade. Colours drained away into pools of shadow. Strange, how things are so fragile. I have never understood how they hold together in the first place. Even if I found every tiny fragment of the mug and glued them all together again, it would never be whole. Never whole! I rested my back on the door frame and sank to the ground. A chip pushed into my toe. I examined it, blood seeping out when I squeezed the surrounding tissue. I am a paper sack of blood and bones, I thought. What would it take to shatter me irreparably? Teeth lying on the ground, organs ruptured, facial features soft from repeated blows. Can you pretend things whole again? I shrugged.
The light outside was gone. Everything had stilled. I wondered where the night-time people were. I knew that I should clean up and eat, but I didn’t. I sat. My body began to numb, but I didn’t care. I could have slept there and it wouldn’t really have mattered. I pulled my knees to my chest, grabbed the door frame and hauled myself to my feet. I felt a crinkling. I fished the ticket from my pocket: a testament to free will, to choice, to power. Proof that I’m a little punk who reads too many books, a lonely soldier in an imaginary revolution.
I swept up the remnants of the mug and put them in a paper bag. I returned the vegetables to the refrigerator, too drained to cook. I settled the rice on the shelf and boiled the kettle. As I poured the scalding water over a cheap packet of leaves I could feel the steam moisten my arm. I sat in the dark, cradling the tea in my hands and staring blankly out the window. I ran my fingers over the smooth surface of a mug shaped by the perfect hands of a machine. I burnt my tongue and closed my eyes. This must be how it feels to pretend to miss someone.