by Graham B.
A story of obsession in the winter
| One day in early autumn, when the leaves were beginning to fade from greens to yellows and reds, you moved into your apartment across the river. I noticed you one evening as you sat in your parlor, the hallway light caressing your hair, which was the color of red leaves falling to the earth outside your window. The pale skin of your face was almost swallowed in shadow and I could not see the color of your eyes from the distance.
The next day I contrived to walk by as you were coming home, but you kept such unpredictable hours that it took two weeks before that day, that wonderful day when I passed the stoop of your building and you walked past on your way home. You were walking with the grace of a dancer, the smoothness of new silk rippling by. The scarlet sweater you wore, nearly the color of your hair rose over your breasts like a waterfall. And your eyes as you walked past: the color of blue china.
It was the beginning of the season of cooling winds and burning passions. I thought of you day and night, one week after the next, until the trees were bare, and the children walking by on their way to school grew layers of wool and polyester. I looked forward to those shorter days, for your lights came on earlier, and your windows graced me with the sight of your silhouette. I watched from across the river and knew I must find a way to cross that gulf.
I followed you one day, as the leaves continued to fall and the winds turned bitter and the sky turned the color of the bare concrete that peeked through the red veneer of brick covering so many dwellings in the neighborhood. You stopped at a coffee shop two blocks down and met with two others, your friends. What did you talk about? I could not make out the conversation, but I could hear your voice. It sounded like the laughter of children, the whisper of the wind through the denuded branches of the trees outside my apartment window, the bubbling of the river as it ran incessantly between its banks. It was the voice of rebirth. I sat at a table opposite you and ordered a latte, smiling my best smile in your direction. Your blue eyes brushed past me, such a fleeting glimpse and yet I felt the electric touch of those eyes. Did you see me that day?
As the first snowflakes began to gently settle upon the ground, and the river was hardened and silenced by the deepening cold, I resolved to make my presence known. I wrote a poem and poured out upon the paper everything that had been building up these past several months. I remember every word, every syllable that found its way from my pen to the paper. Did you touch them with your china blue eyes? Did they find their way into your heart? I had to make a statement, something grand, something meaningful. So one night, when you were downstairs in the laundry room, I walked to your apartment, poem folded in my coat pocket next to my beating heart. You left your door unlocked, so how could I do otherwise? I entered and left the poem upon your pillow, where you rested your head every night.
The next day, I looked outside, and saw that the falling snow had steadily built up fluffy white drifts on both sides of the river. I saw you through the parlor window of your building talking to two men in uniform. Were they police? Why were you talking them? Was there trouble? All I could think about was what I could do to protect you. I had to talk to you, tell you how I felt, and tell you that you could depend on me.
Later that afternoon you were making your customary walk alongside the river. The shadows were nonexistent under that gray sky and falling snow. I left my building and slogged through the snow. My feet crackled on the frozen river, and for a moment, I thought I would fall through. But the ice held, hidden beneath a thin white blanket. My breath came in puffs of white mingling with snowflakes as I climbed the far bank, almost slipping in my haste, and found your footprints.
Your back was to me as walked, and I called out to you. You turned, and the question in your eyes turned to fear as I rushed to catch up. What were you afraid of? You were safe, as safe as anyone as long as I was with you. I tried to tell you, but you backed away, your face twisting in an expression of revulsion that tore into me like a winter gale. You started calling out for help. Why? I grabbed your arm and you hit me! The one who would walk across broken ice for you! You were screaming and tried to tear your arm away from my grasp and instead fell backward, taking me with you into a snowdrift. You were still screaming below me, and . . . oh God, you wouldn’t stop. You wouldn’t stop. And as my hands closed around your throat, I felt your scream cut off, swallowed up by the white drifts around us. My hands closed tighter as you thrashed, the only white puffs coming from my own nostrils. Soon, I realized I was the one screaming.
The gray sky was darkening quickly when I unclenched my hands and pulled away. Down by the riverside I left you, the way you would stay for eternity, your blue eyes staring into the falling snow as it gently covered your scarlet hair in whispering white.
Fire and ice.