Saturday, January 15, 2011

Seen Through A Sliver

It was here that the beginning and the end wrapped behind him to caress the sores on his spine. His fingernails had become misshapen bloody nubs as he tapped out the rhythms of the voices beckoning through the slit in the wall. Not as raw any longer, but calloused from years of calling out with the only voice left him.

Rolling over to find the darkest spot of blackness, off behind his head, against the far ceiling, he cries out. Wordless, the sobs are drained by the hollow maw surrounding his broken frame. As his body adjusts to the transition from body-warm stones to the new-cold pavers, he shivers and tries to bring his knees to his chest. His heat is quickly tugged from his extremities.

His eyes roll back in his head as he seeks the soft warmth of sleep. A tiny sound outside and his eyelids pull back, anticipating. With one eye fully open and focused on the floor, the other eye half-heartedly stays focused on the darkness. A knife appears through the wall and spreads buttery warmth along the cobbles. Both eyes are open now. Waiting.

First he learns that she is excited, anxious, anticipatory... though the words are stretched taffy-like through the narrow crack. He can see her move in and out of frame as the light spreads her worry on the floor beneath him. His eyes can make out her decision to bundle up today, warding off winter's cruel teeth. As her shadow peeks in and out of the glow laid like a map across his floor, he struggles to read her story.

All he knows is that every few days, usually grey days filled with rain or wet fog, she will stand outside. He knows that she is different from the other people outside because he can smell the seasons on her silhouette. Once he could even make out the chicken salad sandwich she had eaten for lunch, right down to the cucumber slices and dill. The summer-ness tiptoed around his room before being tackled against the far wall and being pummeled unconscious by the inky shadow. He listened to the wind whisper through her hair, leaving bits of leaves and the smell of snow not far off. Reaching out to the sliver of light that cut through his room, his hands ached to touch, to know.

And then she was gone.

Replaced by the form he knew too well. This one, he knew preferred throwing hot water against the wall rather than actually using it on his body to clean. The smell of wet mud and yeasty molded bread always barked a warning before his shadow crossed the frame. Once into the light, his story poured out with no hope of stemming the flow.

He could tell this man spent his days cleaning the floors, reaching into the corners behind the garbage cans in hopes of finding the makings of a quick bite. His lunchtime was taken hunched over behind the boiler in hopes no one would notice his pant legs covered in wet filth. By the time he had downed his meager lunch, his clothes would have shared the better part of the meal. Somehow, the light carried this simple letter through the wall, sharing the day's goings-on in an instant.

As the wind outside pounded against the silent stone, only the light wavered. No sounds came through the tiny slit. He knew the gale would only last till morning, and when the morning men came with their egg hair and laughing cigarettes, the storm would have passed. A new day meant that these men would trade their rippling laughter as shadows dancing across the beam of light. One's arm was much too small, though at least his shadow wasn't embarrassed. The other fellow's yellowness came through no matter what he ate. He could turn cold oatmeal into sunshine with his laughing hair.

Today they brought him delicious blackberry jam, spread warm across thick toast. The bitter dark coffee rings around the silky shadow touched the solid ice of his feet. As he reached over, into the slice of light, the wine stained shadows washed over his imagined repast, revealing only tired grooves in the stone's mortar.

Rolling over, he closed his tired eyes and searched out the songs that lulled him to sleep. By the time he reached the refrain, the sliver of light had crept from the room, leaving him.

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