The Stairway

He leaned against the stair railing, shoulders hunched, hands fisted in his blue jean pockets. The overhead light was busted; the empty socket stared from the middle of its broken glass face. 

The girl ran up the stairs on a mission. Hey stepped back just enough to let her pass, but kept watch on her beneath lowered eyelids. She wasn’t going anywhere that he found interesting.

He strolled down the breezeway to give her access to the stairway again when she was leaving. She wouldn’t meet his eyes, but he was used to that.


The Situation

IMG_0668.JPGShe sat up in the hotel bed, the hotel sheet pooled in her lap, her bare breasts on display as she smoked her cigarette, every now and then reaching to tap her ashes into the hotel ash tray on the hotel bedside table.

She stared blankly at the hotel sconce on the hotel wall, her thoughts so very far away from the hotel room she shared with a man she hardly knew.

She could hear him now, showering brutishly. Her lips pursed in disgust as he grunted yet again, probably harshly rubbing the soap on a tender spot of his body. She wished he would be silent and let her hear only the sounds of the water hitting his body on its way to the drain. Then she could easily imagine that he was anyone, anyone at all, but as it stood, every time she tried, he would let loose another grunt or groan and ruin her daydream.

She rested her chin on her shoulder as she fiercely stubbed out her cigarette on top of all the other butts in the ashtray. She smiled softly as she imagined his body beneath the glowing ember, reddening and then blackening at its touch.  It struck her what she was thinking about, and she dropped the butt, wiping her fingers on the hotel sheet. She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them to her body, and a tear slipped softly down her cheek.

The knob squealed a protest as he turned the water off in the bathroom.

She jerked her head upright and scrubbed frantically at her face to dry the single tear, then closed her eyes and took two deep breaths to calm her heart rate. She heard him step out of the hotel bathtub and caught herself wishing that he would fall and strike his head against the porcelain and bleed out, there on the floor, and she could claim innocence until the red pool crept out from under the bathroom door. She laughed, and clapped a hand against her mouth to hold back the rest of it.

He walked out of the hotel bathroom, beaming when he saw her, his body still dripping hotel water on the hotel carpet, a hotel towel tossed artlessly over his right shoulder. She didn’t meet his eyes, her gaze hovering instead on his unshaven upper lip.

“How about we order in some dinner?” he asked, and his voice grated on her ears.

She suppressed a cringe, and smiled brightly, reaching for her phone. “Sure, what’d you have in mind?”

He chuckled. “You.”

He threw the towel to the floor and leaped onto the bed, nearly crushing her left foot. His hands reached for her, and it took every bit of inner strength she had to let him fondle her nakedness.

She praised whatever gods there may be when her stomach grumbled, loudly, distracting him from his struggle with the sheet that covered her body.

“How about later?” she offered. “I’m starving.”

He raised an eyebrow, then acquiesced. “Later, then. I’m pretty hungry myself. Let’s get room service; they’d be the fastest.” He stood and pulled a pair of jeans from the duffel bag on the dresser before jamming his feet into the legs, one at a time.

He winked at her, and her stomach tied itself in another knot of disgust.


The Leaving

Steven sat on the wooden bench at the waterside, the wooden slats digging into the backs of his knees in that comfortingly familiar way that they had since he was small enough to swing his feet. The absurdity of the situation struck him as he shook the small paper bag of birdseed, the sound centering him nearly as much as the physical heft of the bag.

a77ef2b3a334187a43a914a51d7816a1The pigeons gathered around his feet, pecking at the handful of seeds he’d already scattered on the concrete in front of himself. The soft sounds of their feet and beaks was music to his ears. On the other side of the park, a woman laughed, and reality came crashing back around Steven’s ankles. Sierra was gone.

She was gone, and she wasn’t coming back.

He closed his eyes, trying somehow to block out the last three and a half years that they’d lived together in their apartment. His apartment. He hadn’t decided yet if he was going to move or not. Moving was far too much of a commitment for him to make right now. Even thinking about moving. He turned his minds to lighter things, and shook the paper bag again, drawing two more pigeons to his retinue.

She was gone.

He didn’t even see it coming, that was the kicker. And she didn’t have the guts to come right out and tell him, either. They both got up that morning, just like every day. Got dressed, drank coffee, laughed about not having breakfast. Just like every other day. She left for work, he left for work, and when he came home for lunch, he read the note on the sofa table by the front door.

She was gone.

She didn’t answer her phone when he called seventeen times. She didn’t respond to his texts. It wasn’t any kind of sick joke, as he half hoped. It was real and final and happening right now.

She was gone.

The bag slipped from Steven’s fingers and burst on the ground before him, and the pigeons rushed in to fight each other for the treasure trove of seeds.

Steven dropped his head to his hands and his shoulders heaved up and down as his body was wracked by great, choking sobs.

On the other side of the park, the woman laughed again, unaware of the tragedy in Steven’s life, unaware of Steven’s life.