Stories

Lights flickered. Like a butterfly out of a cocoon, fluttering gingerly, like a new born testing their blurry vision, in a soft, delicate motion the street lights flickered, and with it ran a shiver down Anya’s spine. It was a warm spring night, and the little hand of her wristwatch crept towards twelve, mere minutes away.

A pin drop would’ve thundered. So quiet was the street, the last car having wizzed past the bus stop, where she now stood, over an hour ago. A dreary downside to living in a small town of a few thousand. In the dim yellow glow of the street light, Anya shuffled closer to the pole, looking up again to check if her bus would stop there. It would.

She looked at the watch. A knot churned in her belly, tightening with every breath, twisting her empty stomach. Perhaps the last bus was long gone? A warm breeze slapped her face, as if reminding she still had a phone, dying almost, subsisting still. Twenty percent—a lifeline—should be enough to phone a friend. If only she had one. Damn, being a new migrant was hard.

The knot snaked towards her throat.

Just then, she saw in the distance, two headlights heading her way. As hot scoop running down frozen ice cream, tender warmth washed through her. Finally. Safety.

As the bus jerked to a halt, she gasped in glee. A large pair of sunglasses sat on the driver’s shiny head, and he nodded in solemn silence to her toothy grin. No bald bus driver had ever seemed so welcoming.

Snuggled in bed, thirty minutes later, she mused letting the soothing gin drip down her throat. The world didn’t lack stories of terrifying experiences. It lacked good stories of friendly bus drivers.

“My inspiration?” Sitting cross-legged on a raised dias, Anya smiled at her interviewer, having just received an award for her bestselling novel. “Real life.”

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To me you are,

Have you ever washed a coffee plunger?

The jug is the easy part. The filter, however, is a wet mess of clingy dregs that’ve made their way into the tiniest of pores, overstaying their welcome like guests who’d muddied your carpets, who’d forgotten what cleanup meant, or how to spot the puddles of molten wax on your table cloth.

Like the soothing trickle of coffee embalming sanity on dry days, the aftermath of coffee also stays with you. Look at that filter. Really. Look at it, the triangular spaces of mesh running underneath the metal that holds it together. See the spring around it and the leftovers of your medium, double-roasted finely ground comforter. Good luck rinsing it out.

Then flip the filter over, and raise eyebrows at the stains, the tell tale signs of your addiction. Scrub it, harder and harder, and you’ll wish you hadn’t clipped your nails that morning. And when you’re done, when the lemony foam washes away in the steaming water foaming your glasses, you’ll see, like a curious case of cavities on clean teeth, that stains remain.

Honey, you are coffee to me.


This piece was published in the Elephants Never magazine. One of the rare occasions in which someplace other than my own blog houses my ramblings. Check out out here: https://elephantsnever.com/to-me-you-are/

Closure

“You can’t avoid it forever,”

Simon’s voice thundered in her head. Of course he was right. She couldn’t run away from it anymore. Fifteen years was as long as she could go.

She weighed her options. Michael wasn’t far away. One knock on her neighbour’s door, and there he’d be, visiting his daughter and ex-wife. Andrea swallowed the bitterness gripping her throat, contemplating telling him. At last. After all these years. Now that she considered, it seemed trivial even. Why would he care how he’d made her feel all those years ago?

Oh—wait.

What?

She snapped at her inner voice.

How he made you feel? Are you even listening to what you’re thinking?

Yes.

Silence.

Was it a bad idea, perhaps…?

The front door opened and Michael caught her staring right at him. Andrea jumped, as though struck by lightening, and dropped her eyes to her basil bud instead.

“Howdy neighbour!” His voice floated through, bringing with it a warm breeze kissing the spring blossoms that’d risen between them. She looked over their eager, upturned heads, smiling, pulling on years of practice pretending nothing had happened. She waved back.

He drove away in his red jeep. A decent upgrade from the second-hand Toyota he’d driven when they were in school together. He’d grown up, moved on.

She hadn’t.

“You can’t avoid it forever.”

She’d felt Simon even before his voice came from behind her. She turned, wearing her mask of disinterest.

Who was she kidding? Simon was her high school sweetheart—he knew her better than anyone, herself included.

“Andrea, don’t let the past ruin your future. You need to get past it—just tell Michael what an asshole he was in your trivia club.”

Outside

Bright green leaves nodded, agreeing with the wind whispering in their ears. Like a million marbles rolling under the sun, in yellow and pink and white and blue, flowers shone in her face, showing off their sheen, manicured petals pollinated just in time, having lent shoulders to younglings experimenting wings.

They rest a while, but in the end they always take off. For blue skies beckoned them, casting their puffs of cloudy distractions aside, bringing sunlight to the spotlight, inviting explorers, the adventurous blood-eyed magpies and chirping berry eaters.

What a shame to be indoors, Hope wondered rolling her wheelchair out.

Mentality

Lights blind my eyes as an onslaught of motorists zoom past, unaware of the lanky thirty-year-old in tank top and teared jeans, dragging feet along with ice coffee in hand.

Unaware… or uncaring.

It takes me a while to recover, but I don’t stop walking. There was no reason to halt in my tracks, shuffle to a corner, and lean by the railing as a boat or two bellowed from the river running below. 

I’m used to it. 

Chicago never sleeps, and neither do the millions of ants that crawl its streets night and day, heels tap dancing on metal bridges, tongues clicking in response to a muffled voice on the phone, and laughter echoing, reverberating along every alley.

I take another sip from my crush-after-use cup, the weight of which was slowly crushing the earth. I can’t afford to care anymore. I am no longer the save-the-planet idealist I used to be. 

That mentality dissolved with my business, my income.

Seven-Eleven has the best ice coffee. It’s so good that you can sense it trickling all the way down your throat, before plopping on the surface of your empty belly and filling it right to the brim.

Refreshing.