The reddening sky cast an ominous glow across the waters of the river. The serene rippling of the water’s surface casting red and orange flashes into the eyes of any onlookers. I rolled my eyes as far back as they could go, pushing the ridiculous and pathetic poetic language from my mind.
My seat on the curb of the street was not a comfortable one, but it was a quiet place to get away from the busy rush of the real world. Beneath this red and orange sky, I sat silently, watching as the sun descended behind the cityscape.
As the last sliver of the sun slipped away, I leaned back onto the grass and closed my eyes. The occasional sound of a car passing over the bridge above served to do nothing but remind me that I am awake, and that my mind refuses to shut off.
The slight crunch of gravel was the only other sound that was heard, slowly approaching as I lay prone. I ignored the sound.
“Comfortable?” A soft voice inquired, the lilt in the voice hinting at an accent I could not yet place.
“Oh yeah, like sleeping on clouds.” I retorted, hoping the dismissal was clear. I was not interested in socializing. Not here, not in my space, please not now.
Shuffling of clothing was heard, and then I felt the presence of another person sitting down on my left. Huffing out a sigh, I opened my eyes to look at the intruder. My eyes opened even wider when I got a look at who it was.
Smooth, dark hair hanging over her left shoulder, revealing a shaved patch just above her ear, with angled bangs that accented both her entire face as well as her eyes. Hard to say what colour either were, as the dimming sunlight casting shadows and covering everything in a slightly orange-ish tone. The smooth complexion of her dark skin was unmistakeable, and I could swear I should have recognized her.
If only I had a better knack for facial recognition.
Nevertheless, I was drawn to her face, the soft contours of her jawline and the sharp piercing gaze of her eyes. I tried to speak, but words were caught in my throat. Oh no, not again.
She must have seen the perplexed look on my face, because she asked, “Are you okay?”
I shook my head, the words stuck behind the knowledge that I needed to speak. I pulled myself up into a seated position, shifting my backside onto the grass for a softer seat. Burying my face in my hands and letting my long blonde hair fall over my face, I pulled myself together.
“You are very pretty!” I finally spoke, my voice coming out louder than I had intended. I didn’t look to see if I had scared her away, though I probably did. People didn’t like my inability to speak, and they generally hated the way that I would, according to them, yell out what I was thinking.
“You’re very pretty too.” Her voice sang through my hiding place, and I looked up into her face, searching for the hint of sarcasm that had to be there. I couldn’t hear it, but it had to be there. But it wasn’t.
“I’m… I’m Eli.” I told her, hoping that she would tell me her name. Hoping that she wouldn’t decide now to run away.
“Nice to meet you Eli. I’m Zoe. Can I buy you a coffee?”
I nodded, voice stuck in my throat again, but for a different reason. She stood up, and she looked so tall. My shoulders turned in and my head dropped, but she reached her hand out and wrapped her fingers through mine and pulled gently.
She was the magnet and I was the metal ball as she pulled me towards her, lifting me from my lonely seat on the curb beneath the quiet bridge. In my mind, all I saw was a weight scale, and she placed tiny weights on her side and lifted me up from the depth of my own loneliness.
“Come on, there’s a Starbucks at the corner over there.”
I smiled, at first only slightly but then it grew.
“I love Starbucks.”
The weight scale balanced in my mind as we walked together, our arms barely touching as they moved between us with each step forward. My mind was silent, at last freed from the trite poetic lines that often passed through my consciousness.
“So, what are you interested in?” The gentle sound of a Northern accent graced the words she spoke, and I found myself wanted to hear more.
“Um, I like poetry.” I said, my stomach falling as I spoke the words. Why did I say that?
The sound of a giggle entered my ears, stopping my heart momentarily. “I like poetry too. Have you ever heard any slam poetry?”
I nodded, shoulders relaxing and stomach returning to where it belonged. I reached my hand over and touched hers, sliding my fingers between hers and wrapping them up the back of her hand. Her knuckles clenched beneath my fingers and I felt the tips of her fingers touch the back of my hand like a ghost.
We entered the Starbucks, her holding the door open for me, and stood in line. This time, I ignored the crowd that stood before us, ignored the seats full of people, ignored everything that normally made me run away. I looked up into her eyes, and I felt at ease, my mind silent and the tenuous balance of the scales in my mind solidly stuck at even.
(c) Laura Kaeding August 2014