Still Life

In that drawn out expanse of suspension their eyes meet, for a second, before light shatters the calm and the noise swells up again, pulling people apart.

1

It’s amidst the roar and clamor of everyday life that the still sets in, a wave crashing against the tiny compartment and engulfing sounds, colors, the shuddering seats of the flowery polyester seats as the train bursts into the dark belly of a tunnel. The lull is warm and heavy like a woollen blanket. It rumbles in her chest-cage and bounces visibly on the leathery chin of the frail old man standing across from her, behind a curtain of assorted smells. Shaving cream, the musky kind with a lingering afterthought of pine, baby powder, altoids. Veins creep down his translucent arms like highways on a map, marking their journey across hairlines, bones, scars, marriages, bar mitzvahs, moments of tenderness, disappointments. His fingers wrap around a small briefcase, she draws out the contents in her mind. A black and white photograph of a child, the sun in his face, disgruntled by the presence of the camera. A newspaper with the daily crossword half filled in with pencil. A pencil. A pinstriped shirt with 25 dollars tucked into the front pocket. A sandwich packed by Mirla, untouched. In that drawn out expanse of suspension their eyes meet, for a second, before light shatters the calm and the noise swells up again, pulling people apart.

II

Underwater, she presses her back against the slippery tiles lining the floor of the pool and looks upwards towards the sky. Legs waving for balance, kicking furiously against the cold heavy water, shedding bubbles like tiny hot air balloons, tiny jellyfish, dust particles flying off a carpet shaken out on the patio. Hair twisting and turning, brushing her face, wrapping around her neck. Shards of light piercing through a hundred crystalline shades of blue, and the sun, far away yet beckoning, like the light at the end of a tunnel. A faint soundtrack plays from across the void- dogs barking, Billy Holiday playing on the radio, cars driving past and screeching as they turn the corner, voices calling out things, the squelch of sunscreen being squeezed out of a tube. But down below time is frozen, sedated by the softness of blue, the bated breath, and the dreamlike quivering of the walls around her.

 III

He’s standing in the kitchen talking excitedly about something or the other when suddenly the words fade into the background and all she can think about is how perfect, divine even, the composition of this moment appears to be; firmly tucked between everything that has ever happened before and a whole eternity of things that are to follow. His eyes the color of dead grass and his mouth that writhes and moves across his cheeks like fingers pressing into play-dough. The light from the overhead bulb nestling down into his hair (moonlight on a cornfield.) The million twists of fate that pushed and derailed them over years and finally cornered them into this room in this apartment in this city, to be breaking asparagus tips together on a Sunday evening. The microbial evolutions, civil wars, heartbreaks, architects, civilizations and supermarket cashiers crystallizing together to made this particular assemblage possible. For a second everything stops and the wonder engulfs it all like the slow ticking of a pendulum. The record skips, and then falls back into place, continuing its symphony.

 

-Submitted Anonymously.

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