She sat on the second floor patio in the faded deck chair, fading herself in the low hanging sunset. The beginning of evening blew around her and she pulled her cardigan a little tighter. She sat, leaning over, knees apart, hands clasped together. She dropped her head so that the sunset clouds disappeared and the peach tile of the patio floor rose up to meet her. Rocking softly, she shivered again at the touch of the wind.
She had only her thoughts and the view of the neighbor’s yard and the pool down below. A bird landed on the electric wires between their yard and the neighbor’s, calling to its mates. Was it slang? she wondered, the short, four letter sounds the bird made. It flew up and over the neighbor’s garage, flapping and nearly barking. The electric wire swung back into place, or was it her imagination? The weight of a bird shouldn’t be enough to move it.
She went inside and came out a moment later with a book and the last of a pack of frozen raspberries. She had left the raspberries out last night and now they had congealed into one block of tart raspberry ice and she sucked on it and opened the book to page 263. The words entered and started small electric explosions in her brain, one after another, sluggish at first and then taking over more and more of the neural pathways, until a shadow fell across the book just a page or two in. The bird was back, circling low above her, blacker now against the bluer sky. It dipped and then rose again and she noticed a strip of white in its black feathers. Maybe it was getting old.
Raspberry juice dripped onto the page in the book, kissing one word pink. The word was ‘one’, and then the pink bled a little onto the next word ‘shoulder’, and down a little, icing the top of the word ‘why’. It could have been any word, she mused. Which word would I have chosen? She examined every word on the page, each one an isolated unit, connected only to the word above it or below it. Only said, I am, dark box, every coffin, how, silly, who, whore, me, him, her. The words took turns on the runway and slunk away when she realized their nakedness.
She closed the book with a sigh now because the words were gone, and looked at the square patio tiles again, stained with rain and the time she ate chocolate ice cream out here. She looked up to the sky and it was the grainy color of a VHS film with unsuccessful stars beginning to show, like a man’s three day stubble. She looked again at the yard and the pool but nothing had changed.
She could still taste the sweetness of the raspberries and see the last of the sunset and breathe the crisp air and hear the sounds of a Friday night restaurant and the all of it – the beauty of it and the normalcy of it and the nearness of it and the loneliness of it – it hugged her and then left her.
The arriving night took all the words away, and left only the cricket to sing, and the bird that came even though she couldn’t see it, and left her with her hands clasped under her chin, holding it up.
A tied man cannot unbind himself, she whispered too quietly for the stars to hear.