Alice cupped her hand over her lighter to spite the breeze and light her cigarette.
Sound waves pulsed from the Masquerade, beating against the walls of the small venue, sickly begging to spill out into the atmosphere. Atlanta lights blinded the night sky——the very eyes of God——from Alice below; she peered skyward.
Black. She thought. But, almost blank.
Tree branches swished in the frigid wind, adjacent to the sidewalk. Brown spots littered the ground along their roots, dancing——writhing——under the strings of the gale, crunching under the feet of the people going in and out of the shack-like building.
She heard footsteps; a young man approached.
“You know, the concert is inside.”
Alice took her hand from her pocket to push her bright blue bangs from her face.
He was still there.
“I’m aware.” She replied.
“Well, it’s a lot warmer inside,” he said as he stood beside her.
“I know,” Alice flicked ash from her cigarette.
“What are you doing?”
She exhaled smoke mixed with moist breath, then watched as it dissipated into the air.
It’s gone——just like that
“You here alone?” he lit his cigarette behind his hand. “You got a boyfriend?”
His hot smoke poured into the air as he exhaled, then was gone.
You too, huh?
“Yeah, I do.”
“You need another one?”
Alice could see the faint light of the crescent moon plastered above the haze of the city of Atlanta. Only the moon——a giant rock——dared pierce the visage of the civilization below; only the moon dared speak among the deaf noise of the lives of monotony; only the moon would audaciously preach to man in his primal language.
I remember it. She smiled, gritting her teeth. The times—--
She could remember the times before: Like Christmas as a child, the blatant lies of innocence made manifest in a fat man in red.
She sighed, then inhaled.
But why was it that way?
She looked into the abysmal above.
Such a deep dark.
“You wanna come to my place after the show?”
The beacons of an airplane pierced the black sky.
“Moving.” She puffed the last of her cigarette. “An airplane means people are moving.” She exhaled. “Going places. Like, business trips. Or going home to family. Or moving to a new place. Or going on vacation. Somewhere nicer. Warmer. Or more colorful. Etcetera. Etcetera.”
At least they’re moving.
“So, do you want to hook up...orrr?”
Alice dropped her cigarette onto the coarse concrete and silenced the embers beneath her boot. Bass thumped, the lifeblood of her heart in a dire rush to escape the confines within.
“Sometimes,” Alice sighed, only breath escaping, “sometimes, I feel——not everyone is a success, ya know?” she looked out into city beyond, the lights of offices in the distant skyscrapers—--empty offices. She looked at the tree branches. Empty. Them too? “Some are failures. Just walking—--walking failures——and,” Alice put her hands in her pockets, “what if I’m one of them?”
There was no reply.
Alice looked around.
The sounds of the concert inside still carried on; cars flew by. It was a white noise, a rampant waltz to nowhere.
Alice looked up at the crescent moon; she didn’t smile back.
Photo by Morgan White
Carcass of a Star
Eli stood as he stared straight up into the night sky. He viewed a great beyond, dotted with subtle freckles of light here and there. Silence was the accompaniment of the occasion, and every now and again it seemed his mind could place patterns in the way the stars hung, creating the illusion that the vespers were connected by faint lines. He knew, however, this was merely his eyes playing tricks on him. The sky was a black canvas, and, the longer he looked, the deeper it appeared. He remembered his teachers in high school science class saying that some stars had died out millions of years ago and that the light we see in the sky simply hasn't reached Earth yet.
It was a melancholic moment; to think the brilliant light of a star could merely be the grandeur of a glory long gone.
Eli lowered his head.
He told himself he wouldn't think of her; he told himself he would forget. He would come outside, look at the stars——put it in “perspective.”
Photo by Morgan White
It was futile.
Eli sighed deeply as he walked across the weathered boards of his back porch to the door. Locking the door behind him as he entered, he sunk into the recliner. The old cushions seemed to swallow him whole, casting him into an abyss shadowed by the darkness of the room around him. He had no words; loud emotion enveloped a silent man.
Turning on the TV was useless; he couldn't focus. He tried calling her. Once. Twice. Four times...
Even the stars live in the past, he thought to himself, remembering how close they were at one time. His stomach tore and writhed; her smile made him anxious. Her hazel eyes were akin to the stardust illuminated by a distant sun. She was a spectacle: a marvel that danced around him when they walked the historic district. Nothing about her was commonplace, but everything about her absence was. The days without her voice were deafening.
The air was stagnant.
Eli raised from the chair and walked down the hall. The scuffing of his feet made a scratching sound as the rubbed against the aged carpet. He changed into more comfortable clothes, then went to bed. Another day had gone; another day had been wasted. He lay for a while, then slumber took him. A chilly autumn night, once more: alone.
But even worse: once more, mundane.