Mourning Dove

by | Apr 11, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Two

As she drifts into sleep a sound escapes her. A gentle sigh, like the cooing of a dove. Like she was releasing all that was the day before. Like letting go of something.

 

•   Early morning light falls soft through the window. It casts a cool hue over his face, a tint of blue, a glowing haze.

⚬   I tug my pants on quietly as I can, not even pulling up the zipper until after I have crept out the door, beyond his room, out into the hallway, a return to the exact spot from which we first met.

☐  But right now it is eerily empty.

☐  My feet sound awkward and loud.

·  I am off-balance.

☐  The lights here make a sound of buzzing, like an infestation of bugs.

·  They pop and flash in an unnatural fluorescent flicker.

•   I walk past my own apartment.

⚬   I feel compelled to go outside and stare at the sky.

 

I wake up and she is gone. I can see where the bare mattress of my bed is exposed, blankets reared back like the opening of a gift. But it is empty. There is an absence.

   

•  The coffee shop is cast in orange light filtered through the window from a sun sinking out of view across the street.

⚬   Various advertisements block its glow and create vague shadows like clouds.

•  There are more people here than I expected.

•  I get in line.

⚬   I close my eyes and breath in espresso through my nose.

•  I look around for a good place to sit. By the time I settle on a location, it’s now my time to order.

⚬   Late with honey.

☐  Double shot.

•  I move to the pick-up line and when suddenly I see him, already there.

⚬   He waves his hand.

☐  Says, hey.

•  My face feels hot like a sudden blast of heat was upon me.

⚬   I force a smile.

☐  I’m worried that he will realize I’m not so pretty when he isn’t drunk. That he won’t find me interesting when he’s sober. That he’ll regret the whole thing and take off running.

⚬   I push my feet forward.

☐  I notice that he is smiling pretty big.

•  I feel a wave of joy that’s both scary and embarrassing.

⚬   I want to hide my face.

☐  I fight the impulse

 

I’d thought her hair was black but in this light, I see now it’s actually a very dark brown, a rich brown. I want to tell her it’s beautiful but I’m trying not to come on too strong. The way she disappeared in the morning. I felt like I’d frightened her off. Like I’d done something wrong. It’s always scary. I don’t want her to feel obligated. To humor me out of pity or some sense of guilt.

 

But so far… that doesn’t seem to be the case.

 

•  He drives us out and away from campus.

⚬   I notice how clean his car is.

⚬   I half listen as he tells me about something that happened yesterday with his roommate. I catch the jist but not the details.

☐   I’m distracted by this unfamiliar street.

☐  I’ve never been out to this part of town before.

•  An old barn leans heavily to the right. Bleached by the sun it looks grayer than gray as it is set against the dreary sky. You can just catch a sharp mess of wood sticking out.

⚬   The roof has already collapsed in the middle.

•  Goats keep a safe distance.

⚬   They chew along the fence.

•  The parking lot is a floor of stones that crunch under our feet. There is a puddle by my door where pale little stones stick out like icebergs emerging through the muck.

⚬   It is still. There is no wind today.

☐  Reflecting the sky above the water looks to be divided by tree branches. Like a mosaic in projection.

•  I look away the moment my own mirrored image enters this scene.

 

It was my intent to lead her to my favorite spot in the park. To that little bench where you can sit on the top of a hill and look out with a view of campus, the pond, and the tower.

 

It’s a bit of a long trek to get there. I warn her. I offer her my hand when we reach a steep hill soft from recent rainfall. I hold onto a branch to support us both. I smile and call it an adventure but she isn’t so amused when her hair gets caught in the low branches of a bush as I try in vain to lead her out of the mud.

 

At the top, she steps out onto what looks like solid ground but I watch it sink and give away under her feet melting into mud. She sinks a few inches. She pulls her shoe out and it’s now heavy with a layer of plaster-thick mud.

 

“Look I have to tell you something,” she says suddenly. We stop between the pine trees in a sea of sharp needles. “I’ve been seeing someone…. I thought it was casual. But when he found out about us… Well… he wants to lock it down now… So…”

 

•  I try to break it to him gently.

 

Her words hit me like a club to the head. My mind is slow to make sense of it. What about my special spot with the view? What about the pond, the tower? What about looking down on the world from high above it all absorbed in the light of our own personal heaven?

 

•   I watch him die.

⚬    “Oh,” his voice exhales in a soft coo.

☐  A release.

☐  A letting go.

⚬   His heart crumbles and collapses in on itself.

☐  His legs lose their mass. Turn into clay.

•  He falls to the ground and dissolves into a puddle. Sinking like an iceberg below the water line.

⚬   Reclaimed by the earth.

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