An amber haze serves as a beacon in a sea of darkness. Cars pass leaving trails of crimson glow in their wake. Bodies of streetlights stand tall as their necks crane out, holding their heads over the glistening blacktop mirror. From each of these mouths, radiance pours downward, casting flickering rainfall onto golden canvas. Take a deep breath.
The sepia luminescence reduces his hands to rough sketches. Despite a clear triangulated indentation toward the center of his palm, inconsistent shadowing renders everything abstract. Tilting his hand from side to side, he watches as definition evaporates into the night air. With too many perspectives to take into account, he loses sight of his own. Keep holding that breath.
Above, a blink of lightning manifests as an eye opening from one nightmare into another. Air tightens like a guitar string until it finally snaps in a crack of thunder. Below, trash is thrown in the wind’s shuffle. A 2-liter Pepsi bottle hums along the sidewalk’s strait while beer cans with collapsed lungs coalesce around a storm drain. Breathe out a fog over the landscape, smearing the divisions of ground, sky, and everything in between.
At the heart of such visceral beauty stands a crowded bus-stop. Some sit on a bench, either holding a child or in the arms of a parent. Others stand huddled together. The three glass walls and arched awning strengthen their grip against the night. Never had the world felt so close.
Extending his hand outside the shelter, he feels the rain dance along his fingertips. A developing puddle becomes swallowed in the mouth of his fist. There is something adolescent in his marveling of how neatly muscle and cartilage held everything together. Opening the faces of his palms towards him, he feels sullen. After two decades of sharpening, the engrained creases of his palm still appear fresh. Newborn, waiting for someone or something to…
Listen. The cascading symphony of voices performs over the rainfall’s percussion. The crinkling patter against the stop’s exterior crescendos and enters new time signatures. Conversations swell in a downhill progression, growing more tumultuous and impatient with each passing remark. “When will the bus be here?” “It should have been here a while ago.” “Will this rain ever let up?” “I’ve never seen a storm so relentless.” The glass echo chamber brings the entire ensemble to a rapturous roar. Can you hear it?
He hears nothing.
He sees her, standing outside the crystal prism, an umbrella propped from her backpack and a face dimly lit by her iPhone’s glow. The cellular spotlight transfigures her smudged eyeliner into devastating rays of ash. Light enters and refracts within each retina, amplifying a brightness her eyes gladly welcomed. A kaleidoscope of coffee, chestnut, and kobicha swirl in the body of each iris, merging into the soul of her pupil. The clarity with which he perceives her is absurd. Even the blithe twirling of her headphones became magnified into the form of an invitation. But an invitation for what?
Another zig-zag of lightning across the sky interrupts my train of thought. Chest pounding, her eyes wreck both myself and the rest of her face. This was not to say she wasn’t beautiful–believe me, she was–but a smile could hardly compete with the breathtaking allure of those two blinking worlds. Such sincerity and authenticity could not be put on. Thunder eviscerates all sound except for the voice of one.
An offhand comment whispered, maybe an advisement, maybe a provocation; so many ways to take in the words of that faceless man who whispered into my ear. Scratches of age in the way his breath smothered his voice, but still the thundering booms fell silent to each word. “You do realize she’s a–”
The composition comes crashing down into silence. Whether what came before was a coda or preamble remains as ambiguous as whether what comes after is a rejection or progression. Nevertheless, all complexities are left hanging in that maddening downpour as the precautions of a stranger are disregarded and a direction is taken.
You let out a deep breath when you see the bus arrive. From out the mouth of steel doors, passengers flow outward and board like the sea brushing against a coastline. Bodies cram into seats as you move towards the back to find the one with the brown eyes, but she is not there. Doors close leaving you with a heavy chest and the tightening of a knot in your throat. An amber haze served as a beacon in a sea of darkness and in the cold fluorescent lighting where everything is so clear, you cannot see anything at all.