When Skies Are Gray: A short story

I have been wanting to write some opinion pieces lately but with finals nearly one week away, I am just going to make you suffer through one of my short stories for my final portfolio. As always, please be merciful but I would love feedback if you have any ideas of what you would like to see changed, kept, or what will most likely happen: nothing! Because you will LOVE it sooo sooo much:) Here it goes!

When Skies are Gray

Alex wasn’t aware of the cold metal bus stop bench beneath him or the dense clouds above. He wasn’t upset by the small boy, probably two years old, constantly saying, “Mama!” or the smell of the onion bagel his fellow bench mate slopped around in his mouth, somewhat resembling chewing. But he noticed the gray. The gray of the bench, the sky, the road, the buildings. The lack of color from the physical world reciprocating his inward ponderings. Hell, he even was wearing the only gray suit he owned. How fitting, he thought. The black lettering of words on the crisp white page of his newspaper even began to blur and blend. But what did he care, I’m not reading it anyway, he contemplated. As he resurfaced from his ashen inner world to the steely outer reality of Chicago, the bus scheduled two stops before his pulled up. Like all tacky city buses, advertisements were plastered on the side and for the first time, Alex took notice. It was an ad for Covergirl with the newest and hottest starlet attempting to pose glamorously on the side of a public transit. She was wearing deep navy eye shadow, her eyes made to look as if two spheres were emerging from the depths of a clear night sky. All he saw was Flora.

The gray is gone and he sits entranced, nearly paralyzed by the onslaught of the emerging memory. The unbending metal seat transforms into shifting sand underneath him. The leaden suit is substituted for his red board shorts and a layer of sunscreen. He is aware of only the sun that rises above him and his sun that resides beside him and the warmth of that day rushes into his racked frame. She is crouching in the sand beside him, wearing her two-piece green bikini, the one she knows goes so well with her piercing eyes. When she looks at him to tell him something her face is beautifully bare, the sunshine her only make up. He laughs to himself, knowing her love of color and putting it wherever she can, whether on canvas or her face. Her love of plum lipstick and any pallet of eye shadow was ridiculous to him. She radiated color; she even competed with the sun that day.

As she lay back down beside him in the sand, squishing it between her toes she said,

“You know, you really are a trusting guy Alex, even though you try hard not to look like it.”

“And how do you know if I am trusting or not, huh?” he teased, knowing it would only make her that much more persistent.

“Because even the most cynical person in the world trusts in one thing; the sun.” She said it so matter of fact and with such confidence, she could convince anyone of its absolute truth. She continued, “ Everyday the sun goes down and yet every day we trust that it is going to come back up.”

“Are you sure it’s the sun we trust and not the science that tells us that we can trust it?” He said as he put his hands behind his head.

“Oh shut up you skeptic!” she said as she rolled over and was then half on top of him. “Don’t you put trust in anything, anyone, besides yourself?”

“Would you believe me if I said you?” as he rolled over to face her.

Playfully hitting him she said, “No, because you don’t mean it.”

“Now who is lacking in faith?”

Bang! The sound of the bus exhaust pulled him out of the past, back to the lifeless present. The warmth sinks from his body, finally leaving through his toes and he knows he will forever be missing a part of the sun; his sunshine will never shine as bright as it once did. That day was untouchable to him. Nothing could sully or sadden the brightest shining moment they had together. He knew who he was; always the reasonable, the logical, the skeptical, he muttered to himself. The lawyer in him was obvious in everything he did, everything he was.

But Flora; she was as bright, colorful and beautiful as her name suggested. She made her money through graphic design but was always covered in oil paints and pencil smears. She loved to paint this time of year, April. For her, it was the true New Year when everything bloomed and came back to life. The rain wasn’t dreary but a necessity. “A gloom to bring out the blooms” she always said, and today looked like one of those days. He envied her faith and optimism in everything. The way she trusted in the sun and the flowers, the way she saw lightning as simply a guiding light in the midst of a storm. Everything was full of wonder and brought new light to her eyes. He caught himself thinking over and over that she was such an old soul, held captive in the 21st century. Her old soul enlivened his, and he learned to trust again, if only he trusted her. As the bus drove off, it seemed to have dragged the rain in behind it, and it began to spit and mist, the wind carrying it sideways.

Once again he is falling back, his seat now the wet upholstery of a taxicab supporting his soggy frame. They had just had dinner, an ode to their three months together. Nothing special or outrageous, just a good steak and moderately priced wine. The unexpected rain dropped out of the sky that August night, the winds once again carrying it almost sideways. All Alex could think about is if they should wait it out or try to find an umbrella. Before he knew it, Flora flew through the door onto the sidewalk, laughing and doing a Waltz step.

“Its just water Alex, if I haven’t melted neither will you! Come on! I need a dance partner. Unless you’re too chicken.” She laughed, as she simultaneously started to do the chicken dance. He rushed out to meet her, smiling at her ridiculous chickening winging, and glad the street was nearly dead.

“Come on lets get a cab before we drown in a flash flood!”

“Only if you dance with me,” she protested adorably.

“Can we at least dance our way to a cab?” Alex says, dripping wet and freezing cold.

“As long as we dance.”

They held each other close and clumsily danced their way down the sidewalk, tripping over the cracks and each other’s feet. The cold dissipated from their bodies as they held each other close and they slowly end up dancing in place until a cabbie honks his horn and asks if they need a ride. His face is priceless, watching two lovesick twenty-somethings literally dancing in the rain.

“27 Baker Street, please” is all Flora could manage to say between her giggles.

He had been to her place before but hadn’t stayed over. It is already ten o’clock and he wonders if tonight is the night. They agreed to wait, to see where things went, but he knows- they both know- they are growing impatient. They are only twenty-somethings after all. As they walk up the stairs, her cold fingers fumble with her keys and finally, they burst through the door into the warm apartment. Without turning on any lights, she leads him to her room. As he goes to turn on the light she stops him. She takes off her coat and then his. She slowly undoes his tie, then his shirt buttons, then his buckle and pants, feeling her way in the dark. He unzips her dress and pulls it over her head. They fight their longing and take the time to discover one another.

He wakes up the next morning and looks at the clock on her wall. Broken. He laughs, not expecting much different. Through the patterned curtains of oranges and teals, the yellow of the sun is trying to fight its way in. He starts to sit up then quickly lies back down, realizing his arm is being used as her pillow. The left side of her face smushes against his bicep, her lips parted and eyes shut. He looks around her room, not wanting to wake her up yet. It is filled with the aroma of wet asphalt and damp clothes. Her laundry bin is overflowing and the wall by her window is jammed with her paintings. Her vanity covered with her “necessities”: hair gels and sprays, nail polishes and removers, brushes for her face and hair. Every color of eyeshadow imaginable, and lipsticks poking out of the top drawer. The clutter would have usually bothered him, but it is her clutter, and as long as it is hers and no one else’s, he is content.

But the rain didn’t smell the same that day and her clutter wasn’t a part of his anymore. Today, the rain was raw, sporadic, and pointless. The rain this year didn’t bring new life, not for him, not for Flora. The frozen rain of February took her from me, he thought. A lethal combo of ice-sheeted streets and a delivery truck driver drenched in and drooling alcohol. He hated the rain now, and without her, he couldn’t enjoy the sun. He closed his eyes, as he was flooded with the memories of that day.

He remembers getting the call at his office, where they were going to meet for lunch. He doesn’t remember leaving his office or climbing into a cab, just that the driver ignored his pleas to hurry to the hospital. He remembers rushing to her room, 317, on the ICU floor. He remembered sitting on her bed holding her unresponsive hand. He doesn’t remember going home, changing clothes, because he didn’t. He remembers leaning his elbow on his leg and how the tiny velvet box in his left pant pocket stopped his elbow short. He remembers meeting her family in the waiting room and hearing their decision to take her off life support. He remembers her saying that she had a Do Not Resuscitate on her medical file, but at that moment he couldn’t remember why. There wasn’t much worth remembering after that.

Grinding his fists into his eyes, he tried to drive back the tears and bring back the logic. At least it happened when it did, he thought. We weren’t married, we don’t have any kids. I don’t even know if she would have said yes, he thought, trying to persuade himself, because if he could just convince himself otherwise, he could move on. Right? He didn’t trust himself anymore, what he wanted. But he knew what he wanted. He wanted it all. With no one but her.

As he finally looked up his bus for work was pulling out, already half a block away. He stood in a vain attempt to try and catch it, but as he stood he crumbled. He cried for the missed bus and for what he really saw: the missed chances and dreams. He wept for the woman he wanted to marry, for the children they could have had, for the life they could have spent together. He cried for her for so long, but he finally cried for himself. He finally felt his own pain, which he had tried to suffocate below the surface but it fought and grappled for air. He always cried for her; for the pain she felt, for the life she lost. But now his tears fell with the rain, heavier and more heartbreaking. The pain broke through the surface and Alex felt a heart-wrenching relief. Although gasping for air through sobs, he could finally breathe.

He knew she would always have her hold on him. He felt a ray of sunshine although through his tears he couldn’t see it, and giving into irrationality he thought for that moment she knew. She knew his pain, his hurt, and that this was the beginning of him learning to move on. The future he planned was lost, his life felt as though it were in shambles but he knew that was how it was supposed to go. The tears that fell shed new light to his dimmed eyes, and as he looked up, the ray of sunshine he felt was truly there; a visible beacon of light that flashed through the seams of the dissipating rain clouds. And he knew. He knew that the clouds above him, the clouds that inhabited his mind, could never suffocate the sun. The sun and rain were forever entwined, each needing the other to bring about new life. And maybe, just maybe, the tears he freed and the sun that would forever have a hold on his heart would help bring about the beginning of his new life.

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