Tick tock, you say.
My coat is nowhere to be found, and of course, my keys are in the coat. I disappear and come back empty-handed. You shake your head.
On the way out you talk about real things: bills, Thanksgiving, weatherproofing the apartment. Things I don’t want to think about just now with the rain drumming on my head and this straitjacket shiver. I give you a look that says, Stop. But you aren’t looking at me—you don’t seem to be looking at anything.
Sometimes, you talk of living in the wilderness with the trees at our backs and saying fuck you to all this, but mostly you talk of leaving this apartment for a better place, one with central heating. Then, after reading some New Yorker article about the crazy things rich people do, you’ll go on about renting some glorious North Pole tourist igloo rigged with frosted lights, a sauna, and a bathroom with two sinks. I roll my eyes, but somehow these ideas worm into my head and stay there long after you’ve forgotten them, and I can’t help but imagine us in one or another of your scenarios. I let your ideas become dreams.
To you, it is just talk.
We walk down Webster with our eyes down, sharing a small umbrella. The rain pounds out sporadic rhythms on our frail ceiling; it gets louder with each step. We keep thinking the storm will clear any minute, like any other Bay Area commotion, but we are not so lucky. This is one of our last downpours before five months of notquite summer. You clear your throat and put your arm around my shoulder—a cold, stiff shawl. I try not to think about it, how I once quivered in equatorial places when you touched me, even if it was just on the leg or the hand. How our former life dulls every moment, sends us into post-climactic shock.
The bus stop is a momentary shelter, and we huddle with others, people who smell worse than we do. There are cigarettes being lit, arguments being had. You tell me I shouldn’t have worn eye makeup, because it’s dripping all over my face. You tell me we won’t make it to the movie, that we might as well turn back even after all we’ve suffered, block after block. I don’t bother to reply, and anyway, you don’t expect me to. You look, look away.
I wonder how this day will fit into our lives. It’s somewhere between being on that Fort Lauderdale beach littered with bodies, sand in our food and in our eyes, and getting stuck at La Guardia for eight hours during the terror alert, when I had my period and you weren’t eating wheat or dairy. Not as good as this, not as bad as that. We’re somewhere between stuck and free, and in the stillness flanked by unique terrors, I feel safe. That’s why, as you’re busy watching for the bus, ignoring a digital display that predicts its arrival in seven minutes, I wonder whether we could live off my salary as an assistant set designer. If you’ll finally move on after the bad reviews of your one-act play and write something new.
We could be anywhere in five years: signing autographs, attending New York parties, moving to a foreign country, selling insurance, living with your parents, getting liver cancer. I’d still be with you. I’d still be with you, even though you’re stuck in the reality of the bus stop, sweating the fact that we’re fifteen minutes behind schedule, and I don’t want to bury dreams yet.
Amy Glasenapp has an MFA from San Francisco State University and is a former editor of the journal, Fourteen Hills. She writes fiction and poetry and is currently teaching creative and critical writing to kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Camera Obscura, Dark Sky Magazine, Berkeley Poetry Review, and other journals.
Photo credit: Alvimann, morguefile.com