January 15, 2013

The Respite

I read a great deal of fiction, but write very little. This is something like a short story, though as is the case for me, there is nothing much like plot or characterization. It is, more likely, masturbatory word play and scene setting. But here it is, regardless.

He walked with his thoughts like angst ridden dogs, tugging him about by the leashes meant to lead them. They pulled this way and that, questioning and doubting and flinging anxiety and misery in to the maelstrom of consciousness, until there was nothing to do but give them their way. It was easier, if not altogether easy, to take this path. It was best to give in, for to fight them was always to lose, only with more damage done to an already battered psyche.

The sky was clear and sun shone bright in it but the air was cold, cold such that the appearance of the sun was just that, and appearance, a damnable mirage suggesting heat, but providing none. There was wind coming from everywhere, cast about by the buildings and the hills and there was no place to hide from it. It had no discernible beginning or end and so it cut from all angles.

There were other people about, hands in pockets tightly clenched, heads shrunk in to coat collars. They walked as if the cold and the wind were things to be raced, to be escaped, but it was not so. They were cold and the wind battered them about and they walked, pressed against all of it and away from it but always were nothing but inside of it, enveloped by it.

He saw them and was among them and though that they must be like him, walking away from things and to things that were not the cold or the wind but were things larger and more powerful still, things esoteric and existential and impossibly infinitely intangible. He walked and felt his legs move, his feet grab and push, holding on to these tangible and real things, grounded quite poetically by the ground, he thought.

The building was brick and there was paint on it that had been chipped away so that you could read none of it clearly. The paint had been a name once but now it was just called The Brick or just Brick because people will do the easy thing when the easy thing is indeed easy and is just as good as more trying options, so far as they can tell. The steps in front were three, the second of which was broken and had to be stepped on just so, otherwise it would collapse.

He stepped on the far right quadrant of the second step and quickly ascended to the third and then to the top, littered with cigarette butts snuffed out on wooden planks, too damp to catch fire and too old besides. The door was a metal of some kind that had rusted some years ago, covered with a screen that had torn slightly at the bottom where someone's dog had run through it. He opened it and there was a slight flapping sound that caused the others already inside to look up briefly from their tables, but only just for that second.

Inside there were flannel and tattoo sleeves, bangs greased by virtue of poor hygiene rather than sartorial concerns. The floor creaked as he approached the counter, wooden with a thousand marks, each covering a thousand more like debaucherous cave art, a cultural tapestry clawed by nails and pens.  There was a great metal thing on it, several feet wide and a couple feet tall, with two wands protruding from each side. It hissed and spat steam and scalding water from several places, except two ports, placed on the underside of a facade on the front of the machine. From those, there came a deep bronze liquid, laced with gold and burnt orange. It dripped like amber and oil. Espresso, it was called.

"Double," he said.

There was a groan and a pop, followed by more and more, the cracking noises condensed in to a matter of seconds. Then there was a whir, the noise traveling in to the machine's bowels, wherein it spun and became louder. Silence, then, followed by a burst of air from the second port, and finally the espresso. He grabbed the cup in to which the espresso had been dispensed, looked at the bronze pool and imagined that the shapes there were really shapes, really intentional things with real significance.

He swirled the cup and raised it to his lips, drinking with a slurp, drawing in air and espresso in equal measures. He tasted chocolate and honey, sweet and bitter in perfect balance. Or at least he had read that this espresso tasted like these things, and believed it to be the case, since he had never had either. The opening and awakening he felt behind his eyes was not second hand experience, however. Neither was the warmth that started in his mouth, and spread to his extremities. These things were real and he felt them, embraced the sensations themselves and the fact that they were his to embrace.

He held them tight as he drank again, walking out the door and again in to the bleak.

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