He said he almost always had nightmares when he slept over at her place. And that he’d wake up in the middle of the night and see her sleeping next to him, and realizing everything was okay, drift to sleep again.
They wore her blanket down until it was in tatters, the cottony stuffing exposed, sticking out in soft tufts and pulling away from the rest of the thing. When she woke up and he was still asleep, she’d get bored and pull at the tufts. She made snowy peaks rise from the surface. She watched them move gently up and down as he continued to sleep, continued to breathe, his chest rising and falling to a steady beat.
He had a way of reminding her of the rare, exquisite things that she lives for, the weird things that surpass reality. He could bring her out of any kind of gloom, even the indelible sadness of feeling unwanted. And he had a way of showing up with the most delightful surprises, like he did today, without notice but with a wild pink flower in his right fist, mud and roots still attached.
And now she’d seen him again, her friend, and it was happy, seeing him again, right outside her door, that half-smile of his on his drunken face. Worried he might get sick, she gave him some tonic and vitamins. She didn’t have any Pocari Sweat for him; she knew he liked it but she didn’t and never had any at home.
He smelled like alcohol and joy. She gave warmbug a hug and sent him on his way. After all, he was just a tunnel and bridge away.
[This is a story that was straddling two languages: Korean and English. I’m still not sure which language suits it best, but the Korean translation is in progress. If you want to collaborate with me on it or have general feedback, please let me know.]
Little ant climbed to the top of the anthill. A grain of sand rolled down with her final footfall. Big ant sat waiting at the summit. Little ant panted, “You’re here.” Big ant smiled.
Big ant looked at little ant. He hadn’t seen her in a while. Just yesterday, he had been wondering how she was. Little ant dropped her satchel on the sand and plopped down next to him. He could hear her little breathing slow. Slow to a steady bloom. In, out. Puff, puff.
He stretched out his legs and let out a groan. “What took you so long? I got here an hour ago.”
“Sorry, I got distracted.”
“What was it this time?”
“There was a circle of pigeons.”
“It was a circle. I was curious.”
“Well, was there something inside the circle? What were they looking at?”
“Nothing. They were just pecking at a scattering of crumbs.”
He looked at her. “Seriously? You know, you could’ve gotten hurt.”
“They looked friendly.”
“Of course. All right, so what have you got?”
It was just a misdirected arrow, you know. What can I say? Bull’s-eye grew legs and inched to the side. And all I could see, in the center, was goodbye.
Because there are eleven hellos and goodbyes in a single meeting of our eyes. I said hello, it’s been a long time. You said why yes, hello, I must say so. You look the same. D’you feel the same? I don’t know, I don’t feel any different. I do. Why is that? Because I saw what I didn’t wanna see.
What did you see? I saw that look you gave that child whining about his broken soldier. I saw the way you looked away when I was honest with you. I didn’t mean to be that way. Of course not. Who does? What I mean is — there’s no need, I no longer think about it; I don’t feel it anymore. But — really, it’s all right. What is it but a bygone parting?
You’re staring out the window. Hello, there — what are you looking at? Everything. Did you have a nice time? Yes, very nice. I wish I were still there. Yeah, I know. I have work to do. I know. Are you going to stay for coffee? I wonder if you will, if you want to. I don’t know if I want you to.
If you don’t mind. Hey, remember that day we called in sick because it was raining and we wanted to keep the lights out and watch a movie? Of course. Hello, soggy memories — goodbye, I have no words for you. The usual? Yes. So what have you been doing?
I grabbed Harry’s hand and took him to a hill in Denver bathing in the sun. We sat on a blanket of clovers and ate our fish and fruit in the afternoon glow, the single large oak tree hanging over us. The wild grass had a pillowy bounce, and his arm lay warm next to mine.
Harry mumbled something in his sleep. I couldn’t make out the words, but he slept well. A smile crept up on my lips, along with the emerging promise to keep his dreams safe. Each and every one of them.
Life has been…interesting. So much happens day by day, week by week, that I wish I could just collect the events in my life and my thoughts about them in a jar as they occur and drift it off your way.
The little joys and trip-ups seem so significant when they happen, but once I sit down to write to you about them, I exhale once, and they are blown away like a dry leaf in the autumn wind.
I have nothing left to share with you. Only vague feelings and torn images and words remain, and I’m afraid a collage of mismatched information wouldn’t do you any good.
I’m awfully lonely without you here; I remember when we saw each other every day, talking about our day over snacks and drinks. You had the best cookies and I had the best teas. We pulled out all the stops when others came over; we loved to host and entertain, and we knew we were the best at it.
She trudged on, directionless but fueled, her rage focused on the patches of pavement shifting and trembling beneath her favorite shoes.
He’d looked at her with unfocused, uninterested eyes. He’d shaken her hand. He’d politely led her into his office and waited for her to sit.
The wind snuck its way into the hole between her scarf folds. She covered it absent-mindedly and walked faster. A pigeon scuttled in circles in her path. She stopped and thought back to the clock.
It was round, standard, white. She’d stared at it at the start of the interview, trying to recall the Stranger’s emotions. She didn’t mean to stare at it; it merely interrupted the path of her gaze, and she found it alarmingly blank. The priest? “I don’t remember,” she said. She couldn’t remember any of the plots of the books she mentioned, only impressions, the smoke that trailed off, the “faint remainder,” “the gentle indifference of the world.” So what if he didn’t visit the priest?