This is a short story I wrote based on an epigraph from the classic movie A Place in the Sun.
two people left in the world.
Maybe we are.
Maybe when we get back to shore,
everybody will have disappeared.”
— A Place in the Sun
Last call. The heavy wooden doors of the establishment swung open at exactly 2 a.m., revealing the growing night. How many times had I done this over the last week? The people poured out, flooding the streets with the din of a low roar as cell phones clicked open, fingers ferociously dialing — for cabs, for anyone, for sanity.
There I stood. A single girl with a single bag and a single dress, standing, single, in the doorway. I fought the urge to wave silently to my friends — the friends I had made nearly only a second ago — and instead trudged towards the waiting lines of cabs, which paved the street with an eerie yellow glow. “Excuse me,” I mumbled, fighting my way through the conglomerations. No luck. Was there ever any? I sighed and began walking home in the other direction, my conscience trailing behind me, an empty shadow.
It was really only 10 blocks. Ten short, skimpy Mission District blocks. I struggled, crookedly strutting down the sidewalk. Dragging my feet, I stumbled over cracks, jagged and gray under the now-bluish sky. My foot kept catching in the seams but no one ever stopped to offer me help. Figures. Figures walking in packs, in herds, in uninviting groups, passing under my eyesight. Companionless, I timed my steps with the crowd — getting lost — but it soon became all too clear to me — he wouldn’t be coming back.
Laughing, people passed, unnoticed, unrecognised, unrecognisable. I had known them once but not now. No, not now. As I walked down the street, the first bird chirps of the day, a sweet warning, reached my ears unheeded. I plowed on through the walls of people, towards my apartment gate, as the fog began setting in, pervading my mind, my senses, my emotions. I eased myself into a light stroll — one less crooked, more straight — heading purposefully towards the waiting bus.
I paused, letting the vehicle clear before boarding. From here on, it was just me and my thoughts — my conscience. Twenty minutes. Numbly, I disembarked, trotting to greet the street once again, walking on the deserted road, and passing the occasional straggler, our eyes never once meeting. Six more blocks.
My steps pounded on the sidewalk, echoes slowly fading into the distance. His decrepit, decaying blue house approached me cautiously — or was it I that approached it? I suddenly remembered that long ago night, when he had held my hands and grasped them reassuringly, reminding me he would always be there. Well, that was all well and good, but now he wasn’t, and there was nothing I could do.
Him, with brown hair flowing, green eyes wide with the suppression of dark emotion. As I passed through the misty fog, sight and senses blinded, I couldn’t help but to think where I might be now, had that fateful accident not occurred. Certainly not here. Three more blocks. Would he still be here with me now, always the reassuring one, holding me, telling me that everything would be all right?
Without lifting my eyes from the pale, lifeless ground beneath my feet, I heard the crash. First a crash, then a scream — a scream so shrill it pierced the inner depths of my eardrums, resonating throughout my body. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t anyone I knew — or would ever know. Plain-clothed officers rushed to the scene, pushing trashcans barricades and recycling towers aside. Two more blocks.
The scream of the sirens died out as I stood in the fog, watching, waiting — waiting for him to come, to tell me that everything was going to be all right. To tell me my mother had not chased me out of the house, to tell me that maybe, just maybe, I had a home waiting for me.
I bent down, picking up the bag I had dropped so hastily. It felt cold, unfamiliar, tainted, contaminated by the fog. The crunch of gravel beneath my feet reminded me I was here for a reason. “Snap out of it, you will be late.” My mother’s voice rang deep in my mind. Okay, one more block.
As I stepped onto the final corner, the imposing street sign loomed over my head, and the pink of dawn rose above me, a martyr in the mist. I was on my way home, about to escape the tangled strings my life had become in the past few ... hours? Moments? Years? In the distance, I saw the black shadows cast by the eaves of my neighbour’s roof, dark yet reassuring. The pink glow spread, covering and gradually overwhelming my sight. Rose-coloured glasses. One hundred feet.
I climbed the steps to my apartment and pulled out my key. Yes, there I was. There all of me was. A single girl, with a single dress and a single bag. I pulled at the door, surprised at my sudden lack of strength. As I collapsed onto my unmade bed, clothes piled around me on all sides, I felt myself slipping away. I would wake up in three hours. Another night out with me and my conscience, another night in with my soul. A new morning.