My Inaugural Attempt at a Short Story
For hours each night, a yellow and wilting Nebraska stared at her.
Without wane or want – in the manner that only a water stain is able – it thrived by the light of the moon. She began to count on its awakening, awaiting the secrecy of still and silence to revel in its beauty. From the darkness of her bedroom she would listen. When the television no longer peeled at her ears, and her mother’s bottles of the night had been collected and abandoned in the trash, she would turn delicately, carefully – savoring the silence – and bask in the warmth of her thoughts. The brush of the moon’s glow would paint on her wall silvers and blues as pure as sea glass. The curves of her Nebraska would glisten, gazing fixedly and intensely at her until finally, peacefully, she would close her eyes. A golden breeze would begin to lace along her eyelids. Car horns outside and drunken shouts down the street – the sounds of her world – would fade. When she would open her eyes, it was as if her world was never there. Fields of grain that ebbed and swirled would carry her mind toward an ocher horizon. A house, alone and undetected, surveyed this sea of gold: she would pass it every time. Immersed in a honeyed content light, she would look to the sky and inhale the buoyancy of her dream.
For hours each night, a yellow and wilting Nebraska would take her away. It would take her away from obligations, away from the weight of the breathless bedroom down the hall where memories, cuff-links and cologne no longer worn, were pressed into an untouched closet. It would take her away from responsibilities, away from the tinged words of her mother, away from the cold and keen emptiness that reigned within her being. She would cascade into sleep in the middle of her warm and lucid escape every night.
But every day she would wake up. Engines staggering down the street mocked her. The old man who lived upstairs – who did nothing but sit in his rocking chair and smoke his pipe all day – creaked on in somber sarcasm.
Trains poised to head west beckoned to her. The bus took her past the yard twice each day. At sunrise, the trains – dark and stoic metallic mysteries – were little more than shimmering reflections of the sun’s admiration; a new and amber light surrounded them. In the evenings, as the sun was setting and her senses lulled back and forth with the grumbling of the bus, the train cars were heroic silhouettes standing boldly in the foreground of the the plush watercolor that marked the end of the sun’s soliloquy. Watching the cars depart brought her a quiet joy. Many of them were empty; spaces for a body passed her one after another. Each was perfect, each the key for which she had waited so long. Her heart was magnetized.
In the silky coolness of fall nights her mind ached and longed for deliverance. Nebraska shone in the silent air as never before, radiant and beautiful. Soon it was too much for her. She was overcome by desire for flight. Restless, her mind often denied her the comfort of her bed. Four walls that housed her life all at once seemed to shun her. The harrowing ruminations of the still night surrounded her and, like cupped hands, enveloped her sanity.
The peaceful midnight air of her doorstep welcomed her before she knew it. It was as in a dream. Onward she strode; the sidewalk was not felt under her two feet – which for the first time within her memory moved not against her heart, but with it. She was flowing, each breath a blanket of warm velvet inside her. Past rows of haggard homes she walked; they loomed over her with the wrinkled sagacity of thick, old oaks.
She was alone and undetected, entranced by the escape that was now really and truly within her reach. Three, four, five corners she turned – the way was inside her.
Swirling and spinning came to a halt as she approached the wire fence of the train yard. Just past it, a beautiful sight, held still by a fog as palpable as cotton, laid peacefully before her eyes. Lights orange and glowing kissed the ground under them with a felt radiance. The westbound trains hid in the shadows. She could not see them, but – like a note she could not range to sing – she knew they were there. Her future in the burden-less fields of golden Nebraska depended on them. She knew herself; she was ready.
Her fingers curled around the fence.
In an instant, her eyes clasped shut – she felt the sting of icy reality charging through her veins.
Fingers tightened and strained around the wire. Reeling back and forth she was taken into a trance – held captive by the force of inhibitions, of home, of what she knew and would know forever. Behind undulating eyelids she saw a picture frame, a little girl perched on the back of her father. Her nostrils twinged with the smell of morning coffee, black and rich, before work and school. She felt the musky embrace of an old grey suit, and as her senses surged around her the deep blue eyes no longer shared with anyone welled with silent, sentient tears.
Languished and limp, her fingers left the fence.
The sun rose the next morning, casting a new and amber light on the train yard. The trains would leave soon.
Engines staggering down the street: the first sounds of her new consciousness. A glance in the sober light showed no sign of the stain at all. It had become a name long forgotten, a town visited decades ago. The wall was a pale, empty hue. The old man upstairs – sitting and smoking and doing nothing at all – creaked on.