Picture a street. Picture asphalt glimmering in the noon sun with heat shimmers roiling like hundreds of tiny flags in a light breeze. The sidewalks running parallel to the street are webbed with innumerable cracks, weeds fighting to break through.
Now picture the people stepping heel-toe amongst the web-like cracks of the sidewalk. It’s a smattering of the regular roles, though even a modestly busy street such as this one sees different faces playing the parts. To one side, a pair of young women discuss in earnest stage whisper the results of a recent exam before a pause and stilted “umm” flawlessly transition their talk to plans for the weekend. They are students from the local university.
On the other side of the street, walking past a shuttered storefront is a member of an endangered species: a businessman in full suit and tie. He struts along, not bothering to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk, too old for such superstitious nonsense. If he knows about the casual creep of informal clothing advancing step by step with each casual Friday, he doesn’t seem bothered. More chance for him to peacock through the office.
There are more populating this small section of street. A businesswoman in a dark skirt and blouse steps into the local bank, each step clacking a heel against the ground. She walks through the double doors and you can see her settle despondently in line through the floor to ceiling windows covering the squat fishbowl building. A teenager skates down the street and an earthy aroma lazes about through the air.
It could be any one of the countless streets in America. And you are standing in the center of it, straddling the twin yellow lines running through the middle of the street like they are a state border and you are determined to be in multiple places at once.
Normally this would be rather foolish. Cars live on the streets as surely as rats and mice are the true denizens of a city.
If a car sped down the street at this moment, it would kill you.
But there aren’t any cars.
You can see blocks placed at both ends of the street redirecting traffic. Next to one of these blocks is me. I’m pushing a shopping cart stuffed to the brim with oddities, a mobile thrift shop. The clatter of the bent wheels pervades the air but no one else seems to notice. Not the young women chattering past you, not the businessman staring at his reflection in a car window, nor the comatose business woman in line at the bank. You see me pick up a ratty newspaper at the foot of the traffic blocks and place it next to a plastic hula girl figurine at the front of the cart.
At this distance, you can barely make out a patina of dust covering the delicate figurine. The dirt combined with the heat shimmers makes it seem like she is gyrating in slow motion to the beat of the breeze.
I push the cart towards you and your mind slows to a bare trickle of thought.
Your eyes are glued to the hula girl figurine and even though it’s too far away to tell you are certain that her eyes are a deep hazel, brown streaked with golden whorls.
You want to see her eyes.
You need to see her eyes.
But she is turned away from you, lodged next to the rumpled newspaper and a pile of rags. You feel betrayed.
She is getting closer, ever closer, only ten or so feet away now. Thanks to the noon day sun above you can see the subtle arch of her back mid-sway, the curve of her hips reaching out to the side underneath strips of bark cloth dyed green. You can see a strapless top dyed blue with shell accents, anklets and wristlets made of plants, and a lei made of aromatic flowers both white and purple.
You want to smell them.
All this time I am rolling the cart closer and the din of the shopping cart is drowning out all other noise. You find the strength to look away from the figurine and into my eyes.
They are not like hers. They are deep black pools and my pallid countenance is a large “don’t go swimming” sign written in rusty iron red.
The world disappears as if it is a freestanding wall with visible edges and you walked forward until a single brick filled your vision, until your nose kept you from pressing any closer. So, it’s not to say the world is gone, it’s more like the world is so large you can only see one ant-like portion. You zoomed in too close and lost all context.
It would be rational to be scared, have fear coursing through your veins, storming through cell walls and taking over the millions of nucleic souls. My eyes are quite unnerving. But the only thought in your head is one that brings you relief.
You are now the size of a figurine.
The shopping cart stalls its now mountainous wheels inches from your miniature frame. Then I make my way to your side and crouch down, footfalls sending ripples through the ground and through your legs. I lean forward until my eyes take up most of your vision. It requires you to move your head to see them both.
I suppose now is a good a time as any to explain myself. You see, I am a collector of sorts. Not some mundane collector of other’s people trash or whimsies. I collect things more intricate, unique. Which I think we can all agree is a very respectable profession, turns heads at parties don’t you think? Not that I get invited to many. I’m rambling. What I mean to say is I need something singular, special is the word. And you are it.
I lean in conspiratorially.
She wouldn’t accept anything else. She is quite picky that one. And I aim to please of course. Why would I do anything less?
Your world lurches as I pick you up. The sound of my knees cracking are claps of thunder in your ears. And I sigh in a satisfied way, as if I drank a large gulp of cool water on a blistering day, before depositing you in the ratty old newspaper next to the hula figurine.
I am not cruel. She is there waiting for you. The hula girl, skin burnished by the sun. You can see her eyes now.
They are deep hazel with whorls of gold.
Today the note is after the story! Changes all around. First off, I should say I don’t usually discovery write. Typically I spend several hours agonizing over outlines, an issue that only compounds when I try to write something novel length. This was a complete and utter discovery/stream-of-consciousness write, a jump of a cliff, or a blind trust fall. Though I suppose in this metaphor the person to catch me was my mind, or latent writing acumen? Not sure. I began with an idea of a homeless man collecting detritus off the street. And my mind somehow jumped the rails to a first/third person exploration of magical abduction, or perhaps devilish abduction? I blame watching too much Dark Mirror lately and a history of reading Stephen King.
Thanks for reading!