Fire Escape

Winter wears us all like ratted faux furs… and not the fun kind. The cold ice is novel at first, but its welcome is worn after a few hours. I miss the sunshine, the air, the walks up hillsides and along shorelines. Those moments where I feel I’ve conquered, and the ethos skips in my wake. Such victories are few and far between in this arctic prison.

Melancholy has often been my most dangerous enemy, and closest companion. I’ve used it to dig up demons and skeletons… just to give them pedicures. Pretty, pretty demons. They’ve left me in the therapist’s office before, but these days, I’m too lazy to care. Mental health is a conformists’ ruse. I’m saving my energy for less tangible entertainments.

Perusing my files, I stumble across things I almost forgot about. It’s weird reading them now. Sometimes, I cannot fathom, for the life of me, what possessed me to write such things. Other times, I’m chilled by how I’m still living in those lines.

A good friend used to encourage me to have this piece published. But it’s an oddball. I don’t think it’s poetry. I don’t think it’s prose. It’s not a short story. It’s a bad memory, and a sweet dream.

Memory lane is fickle bitch.

Fire Escape

She still believes in angels.

Even as the silent cold greets every desperately whispered prayer she throws at her ceiling before closing red-rimmed blues for another evening of purgatory, she’s certain at least one spirit lurks nearby. One willing to plead on her behalf to the closed ears and deaf eyes of a God that has grown tired of her worn out excuses and re-run fornications. She prays anyway, more to the renegade seraphim, because she knows no one else listens anymore.

There is a point – sometimes several points – of every day when her body decides to go on a union strike. She knows her heart is the strike leader; Every muscle and organ and nerve ending freezes up and stops responding to the stimuli of existing. She stares ahead as if there is nothing in her depth of field and does not feel the cold, the hot… just the empty of numb. Sometimes it happens as she drives from one destination to the next, and those times are not as alarming as they should be. The moments of not feeling at all are remarkably preferable.

Because when she’s not numb, she’s overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by shattering elation that alleviates the ability to think clearly, and then, almost as quickly, immediately overwhelmed by grief and yearning so deep, she collapses inside and out. Eyes that glow with the heat and passion of unquenchable fires are washed cold with the liquid ice that breaks the dams and stains her eyes red… almost on cue. Pain on demand. Each attack eats away a little more resilience, each recovery a little less complete. She feels the fight weakening into something not much more that a cat-scratch.

Her every motion is performed on autopilot. The job, her social interactions, her family life. Even her smile is nothing more than a default setting. She crosses streets without looking, wishing for a careless driver. She drives thoughtlessly down boulevards ill-famed for punctuating mortality abruptly. But no curtain calls. Certainly, it must be the doing of a cruelly benevolent guardian keeping her in the cosmic exchange. Perhaps she needs to call out her benefactor. Validate the concept that if a soul gives up enough times, then destiny will forfeit the game in their stead.

She climbs through her window in night’s blackness and settles herself on the edge of the landing. She used to be afraid of heights, but that is yet another reaction that short-circuited. Her feet dangle over the edge, as she stares dully at double streams of red and yellow. The world lives without her. Infinite space beneath her… still, she knows her fall would be a quick one. She would not have much time to be afraid. And she would have even less time to reflect, react… regret. Not even enough time to say goodbye as she proves once and for all that man was never meant to fly.

Even as the chilled night whispers pinpricks over her bare skin, she feels the raging inferno inside her sternum. The desire to be something more… someone more… than she has the balls to become. Her cheeks baptized yet again by saline morphine, she stares down at the curb. No apparitions meet her gaze. No ephemeral shadows of white flicker across her horizon to besiege her. She scoots forward just a bit. The reality does not register. Finality does not connect. She looks skyward – maybe the last time – and searches out which star she will reach for, as she whispers another plea for redemption.

She still believes in angels.

It will only take one to break her fall.

© 2007  J. Wolfe

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