Now That She's Gone

Slivers of lightning shiver the sky. The storm clouds remind him of black robed judges passing harsh judgment on the town, or maybe, he sometimes thinks, just on him. He walks aimlessly along the tracks that divide the black from the white, the good from the bad, divide dreams from reality in that steel hearted way that all dreams surrender to the might of day. He avoids raindrops as best he can. Searches for bottles and cans to put in his sack. The sack he always makes sure is in his pocket when he goes out, just in case he finds bounty that can be turned in for the nickel reward. A nickel isn’t much- he knows that- but his time isn’t worth much more, not any more, and anyway, it gives his walks a purpose, slight though it is. It’s more than he has without it, now that she’s gone.

He’s all that remains of them. When she was here things were different. He remembers when things were different- when he enjoyed little things: sunsets and the scent of snow. He remembers: how she used to laugh when he told her that snow had a smell, how she said he was crazy, and how he laughed because he knew that she didn’t mean it, that, really, she liked it that he could smell snow. Sometimes he said other things he knew weren’t exactly true just to make her laugh. He loved her laughter. He told her it reminded him of fairies, dancing on the air. He told her it sounded like white butterflies high above the lawn- so high that he had to bend his head way back, hoping to see them. Or he needed to lie down, which was easier, except that he nearly always fell asleep because the sky made him tired. Mostly, if truth be told, it was because, when he woke up again, there she was next to him with her glossy blue eyes on him like he was the most amazing thing she had ever seen. He felt special then- special because she loved him. At least that’s what she said, and she never lied.

Now it’s different. Other people don’t look at him, not really. They look through him- like there’s something behind him that’s more important for them to see. Some times it makes him turn around, hoping to catch a glimpse of what they’re looking at that’s so special, thinking that maybe he would understand. Maybe if he could understand it would stop making him feel so funny about it. All he knows is that he doesn’t feel special any more. He hasn’t felt special for a long time. Now he just feels old, not old in his body, that’s still OK, but in his mind. In his mind he feels things don’t quite fit together smoothly. Things rub against each other. Sometimes it confuses him- things not fitting together. It isn’t like it was when it was they instead of him. Then he had her hand to hold and that fit. The way their hands fit inside each other. He remembers how warm holding her hand felt when they went walking in the snow. Sometimes it was cool and silky, like when they were doing something mysterious, like watching baby chicks follow their mom, or a caterpillar climb out of it’s cocoon. He remembers how she used to squeeze his hand then- squeeze it, then squeeze it again- while she talked to him in a language nobody but them understood. She said his hand was the most special thing her hand had ever held and it couldn’t get enough of him. That used to make him laugh. Now it’s like he has a bad smell that makes people go out of their way not to touch him. It’s like they’re afraid it might rub off on them and people would stay away from them too. It’s different, now that she’s gone.