Eli has driven hours to be here, where rocks jut into the glassy Connecticut River on a still December evening. He cannot stand himself anywhere else, and he does not know what to do next. The deepening dusk is a blue filter, and he welcomes the purple and black to come, which will still be brighter than he feels he deserves.
Fresh snowfall steals the sounds of the river and a handful of hearty birds, and it seems to him like every noise he makes will be stored in the powdery white until the thaw. He loathes leaving even a single footprint for fear of trampling all record.
He has people: waiters, wonderers, worriers. Eli has not driven far enough to snap the ties; he knows there is no distance he can travel that can tax the elasticity to breaking.
There is one distance, only a few feet away. He imagines how it might go: barefoot and naked a person could walk to the end of the rocks, a foot above the cold, cold water. He could play a song in his head that would sound like songs sounded when he was ten, when there were no such things as layoffs and medical bills and the unspeakably heartbreaking fashion a woman can look at you in a way she means as loving empathy, but you read as resignation to your failure. He could dance to that song — a lively dance that would require traction and balance, one of which would finally betray him. He could make certain his head hits rock, and slip into the purple, almost black water, which would accept him indifferently and completely. His clothes could become home to ants and mice in the spring, and his body could be discovered downriver by boys hunting minnows, so the waiter wonderer worriers could have closure and move on.
An owl glides silently across his vision, swoops and drops onto the snow, lifting off again with a small lifeless body in its talons. He imagines a family of tiny waiter wonderer worriers in a small burrow underground who will have no closure. He inventories: boots, jeans, sweater brought from Ireland by his brother, wool overcoat, stocking hat, a watch his kids gave him for his birthday, wallet full of small bills and empty plastic, and a third-hand Chevy. It’s more than the mouse had, he thinks.
F. John Sharp lives and works in the Cleveland, Ohio area. He is the fiction editor for Right Hand Pointing, and exists online at FJohnSharp.com.