Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Mikela watches Jonah blow smoke rings around his pallid face in the half darkness. The wisps trail from his lips along the bridge of his straight, long nose before dissolving in front of his eyes. Light from the television screen reflects in his glasses as he sits motionless. Jonah’s long legs fold up in front of him like stilts as he leans his back into the ratty brown couch. It is stained from late night parties and laziness, the fabric worn in places until the padding is evident. She looks at him as if he were a building whose architecture she might want to scale and measure. The shape of his limbs perfectly angular as they connect to the center of his body, beams jutting from a steel frame, his exterior slick and fragile, as if coated in a fine layer of glass. Images from the television make shapes on his face, the same as on her face as she sits directly behind him silently stroking the fine, dark brown hairs at the base of his neck. He blows a perfect ring of smoke into the silence. Mikela stares through the center at the black and white movie that has been playing for the last hour. She can see Tom Waits’ mouth moving, face contorting, arms flailing about, but she is relegated to imagining the gravel of his voice, as Jonah likes to watch movies without sound. He tells her he would rather study the language of the body in conversation than the language of voice with so many of its words wrapped in double meanings. “The body does not lie the way words can,” he says to her. Mikela tilts her head to the right towards the curtain-less windows; the squares of glass dirty from smoking. She looks at the field to the side of the house; the raspberry brambles build a fortress around the edges in the moonlight. She notices the fish swimming in the tank that is sandwiched between two low-slung sills. The off white paint slowly chipping reminding her of paper birch trees, and it makes her want to get up and start peeling it away. But the filter bubbles into the tiny ecosystem distracting her, and the light catches on the iridescent scales of her tetras. She is captured here for a minute, contemplating her arrival at this very place in time; how after all these years she would find herself alone, but not alone, watching silenced movies in the dark. She can’t touch him without the fear of drowning in his sorrow, without extinguishing her own joyfulness, and she realizes right then that he is something she cannot fix. Smoke dissipates above the crown of his head again hanging there like a soft mist and Mikela suddenly feels like an apparition. He is lost in himself in these moments and she is nothing to him. She could pass through him unnoticed except for the sudden chilling in the air that would make him shiver, but not notice her. And when the feeling of an invisible hand lightly brushing the hairs of his arm alarms him, only then will he remember she was once there. Aleathia Drehmer 2007 Published by Beat the Dust 1/08

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