Atomic Parallels

She sat on the edge of the bed, facing the window. She wasn’t sure what time it was. The sunlight that streamed in through this window at all hours of the day, filtered by the leaves of the sallow, stalky tree just out front, seemed always to cast the room in an early morning glow. It was deceptive, even disorienting. Yet the cool, coquettish light seemed to sidle up to and through the glass, and fill the room with a clear, bluish fog that did nothing but spread calm across her skin. The sort of calm that seeped into one’s skin, flooded the bloodstream, and filled her. Just then, she basked in the glow – she was the glow.

She planted her elbows atop her knees and rested her chin in the basket her palms formed. Her skin was bare. She wasn’t tempted by the wicked safety clothing offered, such a coveted respite from vulnerability. Not anymore, at least – she had nothing to be vulnerable about. Yet she imagined that her eyes were not her own, and she drew them from their sockets and let them loose, to where they idled a few feet away, staring across the expanse at her naked form. She felt their gaze on her skin, unerring yet not unpleasant. She was a canvas of her own these days, to mold as clay and stroke as a painting. A bit of the jagged here, a spatter of green there, some touch-ups to the fleshy, some highlight to the shadows.

Tiring of the view, her eyes wandered back to her skull and popped into place. Just outside, on her sun-kissed, romantic patio, the thorny, vine-ridden leaves growing out of her neighbor’s flowerpot shuddered, casualty of a stray breeze, and rubbed themselves, from stem to tip, across the side of the glass. The dark gray, steel railing stood just beyond, stark and starkly unforgiving against the backdrop of such a lovely greenery. A gray trunk, neither wide nor thin, its canopy neither bushy nor bare, yet the leaves – almost lime in shade, vivacious and bright, shaking off the sunlight like a dog shakes off water from its coat, and instead casting it each and every way, shirking little bullets of blazing greens and sallow yellows, incandescent whites and silvery shadows across the gray, hardwood floor at her feet. And when she drew the shades, how she loved the monochromatic oil painting to which she woke each morning, a black-and-white stain with the intricate, oval shadows of a hundred little things lifting and settling, shaking and flailing about in the breeze. What art did she need across her bare walls, if this were there day and night?

She sought out the fresh breeze, wrenched free from its track the sliding glass door, just a foot or so. To greet her, the shirk of tires against asphalt, and that one dog that barked incessantly at everyone approaching the front stoop, and the buses that let off just around the corner, and their awful, screeching announcements and that metallic puff of the brakes releasing, and a few, infrequent honks, and the neighbors just below – quite loud, with even louder house parties, smoke-fests, and mariachi tastes. Ah, and that odor! Nothing as pungent as the skunk weed she’d smelled every evening for the first year of her college career, yet nothing pleasant either. That wasn’t the Spanish-speaking bunch, though – every other day the walkway up to the entryway was flooded with the stuff. It seemed, the tenants in the ground-floor apartment – a young couple with a sandy-coated Pomeranian and no sense of clutter-free hygiene – had tastes.

Yet there was also the smell of sugary batter, bronzed dough, a fruity glaze, the rustic, sweet scent of baked just across the balcony, from the adjoining apartment. A few, high-pitched voices chittered away through the glass, tinkling with laughter and youth. Ah, her neighbor – a spritely Irishman with fiery, carrot-ish hair and the build of a beanstalk – must have been having his turn with the children this weekend. A divorcee, it seemed, but nice enough, and with the most adorable poodle. A curly, brown-haired little beast, with a bark – yip! yip! – disproportionate to its size, and a peanut-shaped little frame perhaps just small enough to stuff into a coffee mug. And there was, of course, the smell of chlorine, wafting up from just below her balcony. Such a dazzling display sometimes, when she was out on the balcony, casting teal and silver scales across the cement, something like the vivid, living skin of a snake, breathing and slithering and never still. Yet these days, locked up and abandoned, the scales seldom shone against the cement. They were helpless to peek through against a filter of heavy, dead leaves and a film of scum.

And across the street, atop a mound of earth, a garden grew. Towering palms with arms outstretched, stories above even the loftiest of skyscrapers a few blocks down. Little, prickly cacti showered with thorns. Stay away! Preached their razor-sharp tips, poised to cut. Did they never get lonely? She wondered. Flowers of every sort and scent, as well. They were housed further in, past the winding steel fence and the palms guarding the gates. Yet she’d seen them enough to know they were there, to smell the crisp, spicy mint of those purple ones near the top of the path – the ones with a bulbous tip, and a dozen or so fingernail-sized, fuchsia buds surrounding it, held up by the flimsiest of stalks, so that it drooped down to the dirt and butted heads with its own roots. She could smell nearly nothing, except for those. And the Japanese cherry blossoms a ways away down the un-beaten path, in the darker, more cavernous rainforest biome. Promises had been hatched, that one day she’d see them – not these fakes, thousands of miles from their true home – but on the homeland, in a park where the paths were lined with hundreds of them. And, in the springtime, it seemed almost as if it were still winter, the air filled with the white petals and blossoms just as snowflakes. Of all promises, she hoped that one might persevere.

She drew herself up from the bed and stepped to the window, rested a hand against the glass. It was pleasant, the soothing fog of the sunlight sharper here, its warmth passing through her palm like the heat of another palm against hers. She could feel it.

             She wondered at how fucked up things were.

             She wondered at how fucked up things had been.

             She wondered at how fucked up things soon would be.

For five years, you’ve wanted. Now, take it. But … I’m terrified. Of what? Of losing what’s already been lost? Of seeing your desires pale beneath a disappointing reality? Of the realization of what you’ve always wanted? Gone is a transitory term. Never assume what left leaves unbidden. What is gone has left long before, in bits and pieces too miniscule to notice. Of what you miss, you are the cause, never the victim. Of what you anticipate, you must also be the cause.

A stray leaf on a stray branch, quaint and of a green as bright as those around it, quaked beneath a breeze’s fingertips. A breeze with such duality – that one moment caressed its skin, running slick fingertips from fleshy base to soft tip, and the next, snapped it from its stem. She watched the leaf flutter to the ground, severed and free. 

What is to come, is here. And with it, all is possible.

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