These are the sketches I mentioned in my last post; they had titles while I was working on them, but I’ve removed them to avoid biasing too much whatever they turn into later.
Small words escape static. Eyes closed in shadow. Control shakes and weeps. And pain, a physical thing, he stands there untouched and is split, torque tearing him. Fingers, grooves and drawn blood, wounds to keep the ache at bay. His foot, tick, tock, ten and two and ten again, back and forth, timing down to an end. Or not.
Ten and two and ten again, delaying and denying. Soft scrape of sole. And eyes, flicking, aimless. Careless, light on him, visible and unwanted. Or wanted. Or not. Waiting, or not. Wanting, or not.
Tick, tock, ten and two and ten again.
He can hear, a cascade, echoing, memories pushing air, a million and one sounds, her voice, all meaning wanting. Or not. Every moment of certainty follows, pivoting, sure and sure again, back and forth, fallen petals.
She loves him. Or not. She’s waiting. Or not.
Back and forth and back again, pristine and painted, possible cresting. An asphalt Charon, descent or ascent, unpaid and waiting, whichever way. And his foot ticks, tocks. She waits, or not. The hair on his arms stretches to her like the sun. He shakes, vibrating off key, and maybe, just maybe, she’s waiting for him.
Suddenly, movement, action, bit and teeth, need paid and collecting. A door, rising, path and gate and cage. Fingers dancing, absent floor, almost but not quite, not just quite able. Numbers memorized, sounds rehearsed, words possible, feet again still.
House to half, final breath, pray and stretch and avoid eye contact. Once pays for all.
She’s waiting. She wants.
And a rising curtain of human light, a single broad star, edge to edge, muted and wishless overhead.
Broken laugh, jagged. Bent wrists, bent back, bent eyes. There’s a cough as she stands, a silent wince, and tiny sway as she begins to move.
“Did you finish yet?”
A small smile, wry, crossing the room. Another cigarette, on the heels of the last, practiced yellow hands shake the match out and cover the subsequent cough.
She dips and sways as she answers, counter and pointing to each beat.
“I said, did you finish yet? Because you won’t after that.”
He looks down at his hands, the kit, battered leather case, tarnished altar, in media res.
“Well, I—…I didn’t…”
Synapses fire, and then ash, as cheeks sag and muscles release and eyes glaze closed.
“No, I didn’t think you did.”
A moment, lip bitten, then sigh. Ripples as voices pass, echoes, former selves warring over what space remains. And then a drag, ember flares, smoke escapes, tasted, and the cough. No blood; someday, but not yet.