Short Fiction: Between The Trees
Ice on the tip of my door handle dripped onto my slipper. It soaked through to the top of my toe. I thought of you.
I looked up and saw the moon. I let it fill my eyes; she was smiling surrounded by her best friends, the stars, who love her, who are so proud of her. I decided with the front door open like this, and with the air like it is tonight, and with the moon hanging to the side she is hanging to, I would sit. I would sit right down, and watch the world.
I tried to listen to the bugs; you always say you can hear them. I can’t hear them until they get really close and buzz right over my ear and I snap my head around to see it. Sometimes in the summer I can see them. Instead of struggling to hear the bugs (which I admit sometimes I just can never hear them), I can see them light up. Far away, between the trees, they are like little hearts, lighting up and then going out, lighting, and then out; hearts maybe like from that Shakespearean play we read in Ms. Maryner’s class. They are heated with desire and then cold the next instant.
It is absolutely not summer time now so I can’t hear the bugs. I can only hear the wind turning jagged corners, the ice dripping, and the shadowy trees whispering. The moon doesn’t say anything, or sing or laugh. I can’t hear her sip her tea. I can’t hear her snoring. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the moon make a noise, but that’s all right. The world around her does. I just see her, lingering up there in a thin robe so unlike mine. My robe is velvet and heavy, and a color I never knew I liked until I saw your face when you saw me in it. Deeper than blush, you called it, a hue of humanity. I never knew what words like that meant until you said them; until you said them to me with your hands on my waist and my nose nudging the slope of yours.
I stretch my legs out onto the lower step, and there it is. That dull pain in my toe. That dull pain in my toe from when you accidentally stepped on it with your eyes on your very full mug of coffee.
“Sorry! Gosh I’m sorry babe! Does it hurt?”
“No! No, it’s fine. It’ll go away.” I tucked my hair behind my ear.
It hasn’t. But you have. You’ll be back in a few days, and it’s fine.
It’s fine that you are gone, and that my toe hurts. It’s fine that the world smells me and you don’t, and the wind fingers through my hair and you don’t. It’s alright, I’m not complaining—I know if you were here you would smell my hair. It’s very smelly. I wouldn’t have to worry if you leaned in to take a whiff. You wouldn’t have to show me like that. I would know, with you sitting next to me, that you could smell it, and that you would like it.
I would dance with you if you were here. We would be sitting on the step just like I am with my sore toe and I would look over at you and I would say, “Let’s dance.”
You used to say things like that to me, all the time.
You might say, “But there’s no music.” Or you might laugh. I don’t know. It would be better, I guess, really better if you said it to me first. You would ask to dance with me, even if there was no music, just to turn our porch into a marble ballroom. A piano could appear in front of the shed. And Sam, from Sam’s Bar and Steakhouse, could twiddle his rough, cut fingers over the piano keys for us.
That’s what it is all about, anyway. Loving what you’ve got when you got it, in that moment. Because you have that moment. And you’re lucky. I guess this moment I love you for my sore toe, because I’ve got it, and I’m lucky.
But between the trees there is nothing. They don’t stand erect, or attentive. They hover, talking to each other, offended by the birds and squirrels who try to nestle in their satin skirts. Nobody nestles in them. I never would. Nevertheless, when the moon hangs over the trees, silver light falls down on them. The moon makes many shadows, but she doesn’t mean to. She’s the moon.