“Life is a state of mind.”
– Being There (1979)
The scene at lake side is cold enough to kill all the noise, the sounds anticipated to be heard are lost in the clouded intensity the bitterness brought. The slight wind flicks at branches, but only at the flimsiest and weakest limbs, and the trees they’ve sprouted from stand dedicated and proud, strong, resisting and unfazed by any method of teasing. Wisps, loose snowflakes and particles take flight in fickle twirls. The sun is choking, struggling to breathe as it’s been punched in the gut several times over, wheezing rays through the ashen cirrostratus.
His hands raise to his face while the briefcase that had been lowered to the ground decides to give into one of the stronger curls of breeze.
There is no difference in staring at fingernails. Their tips are the ice-covered lake, the rest of the nails patch together for the bleak landscape and the cuticles are the flat line of clouds. However, true age is displayed from the color flushing bitterness of the Old Man. Vitality’s soft spots are highlighted by brittle skin and pinpoint prick marks of frozen surfaced blood. The cracks of the palm are deeper, irrigation canals to allow the blood to drain to the wrists, forearms, and beneath the clothing.
He closes his eyes. His hands lower to their respective sides. He breathes a few deep breaths before the eyelids lift again.
The world appears a brighter, a few shades toward white. Immediately after the relief, a leather-lipped smile stretches to anew. His knees bend for him to pick up
* * *
the briefcase that sat as his feet, it was nudged by a fidgeting foot that itched with anticipation. The newspaper unfolded in up and in front of him and the words bounced
around like bubbles
in a summer’s humid afternoon. As long as it cloaked his pale complexion and glistening nose (pushing his glasses back upon the perch happened more times that he would have liked to showcase). He popped a new piece of gum into his mouth, and biting into the shell of it allowed the bust of mint to jolt his taste buds and illuminate his senses; the ferocity of the mint cleared the sinuses, and he could have sworn his immediate exhalation created a white cloud.
The clock on the board was compared to the time on his phone, which was compared to the time on his wrist, which had a second hand with a pace to be checked with the twitching of his pinky–the useful but annoying effect of settling bewildered nervousness. The cold sweat on his brow was dabbed with a brown generic coffee establishment napkin picked up along the way, and this played as a substitute for his never carrying a handkerchief. Regardless, the waiting was in fact waiting, and foot tapping didn’t make the situation any better.
Each plane that floated to the ground–the landings especially–created a seismic jolt of anticipation. After lowering the paper, he removed his glasses to buffer the frame on his shirt; with the napkin, the bridge of his nose was given one last forceful wipe as the people exited into the vicinity.
He stood up. Thinking each face was that of the familiar, his breath was held in spurts, which caused slight ache that were disrupted by his catching the piece of gum before it slid down his throat. Then he saw her within the last wave of individuals, and walking slowly while looking around. The newspaper, now folded up at this point, fell from his hands; as it struck the seat he was once planted in, his mouth clamped shut and his teeth gave the gum a good squeeze, breaking the last mint crystal that tried it’s best to prolong being found. As their eyes met, the mighty burst of flavor managed to uppercut his dreariness, and this would have only been seen in his irises. Such
* * *
wake up has been comfortable on Saturday mornings. There is no certainty as to why Saturdays in particular, why waking at 7:30, had presented such promise. The pillows contained such body, his head experienced such buoyancy. The coldness of his pillow put his mind at ease, and closing his eyes while a smile broadened were appropriate responses. Forearms crept beneath the pillows, and the shifting of his body only tightened the sheet around him as if he was a finger in a toy trap.
Yet the waking from a blurry dream generated a sense of loss. There was a lack of belonging, a moment of forfeited vitality. The dream, despite it not being recalled, created a false expectation; his waking up alone was a bit unsettling. There was no person, asleep, facing away from him. There was no bare shoulder glistening in the morning sunlight. There was no body to lean up against, to throw an arm over. There was no next to lightly kiss, a kiss that would disturb sleep just enough to have the gap between two bodies tighten and pinch to elimination. There is no hair to move to the side, no morning lips coated with morning breath to kiss. No hug, no embrace, no face to fit into the gap between his chin and chest. There wasn’t a craving for sex, however; the simplicity of being with would just do the trick.
There wouldn’t be that
* * *
essence of that first encounter. There was a short distance between their standing, that perfect gap–when caught on camera–where everyone around and swerving in between are blurs. Mouths opened slightly upon first glace, but evolved smoothly into a teeth bearing grin. As they approached one another, his palms slowly opened, and she placed her hands into his. For a moment, as their hands rested upon the other’s hips, they stared into each other’s eyes as if staring into the dead of a cloudy night, searching for that one flickering star that prevails above the the rest. His fingers raked through her hair, and upon his shoulder she rested her head, which was secured in place by his chin.
The two began swaying as one, as
* * *
an object that had since toppled over. Looking down, he correctly grasped the handle that–upon the briefcase’s falling over– buried itself in the white powder.
He walked over to the ledge upon cautious feet. The frozen lake was a canvas, and it could have easily been punctured with the correct amount of force and impaled by even the most precarious of a point. His hand gripped the handle tighter. The wind slightly flicked the brim of his hat. The bottom of his overcoat wavered drunkenly. His eyes focused on a small puddle, which had to have been a foot in diameter. He saw himself, and it was uncertain if it was a tear or a rogue snowflake from a hanging tree branch that caused the ripple, the quiver. As he fell to his knees, he placed the suitcase upright upon the stone ledge. He stared into the reflection, and he could see his face–particularly his eyes–more closely. The reaching sun shot a small beam into the pool, which struck his actual eye.
He looked up. He gazed across the lake. The wind hand never changed, but briefcase refused to fall.