It is hot – so hot. The sort of heat that seeps through your clothes to your skin, drips down your scalp, and makes you want to scratch, an itch that won’t stop. I wipe the back of my hand on my face and stare at the beads of sweat stuck there.
“It’s hot,” he says and takes a long drag of his smoke.
The smoke chafes my nose, my throat. I try not to cough. He said he would quit. He has said that quite a few times. I watch a bird soar through the sky, its blue fringe glints in the sun. It banks, lands on a tree on the other side of the street, pecks at the bark, gives up – flies off.
“I wish I was a bird,” I say. In my mind I mime a pair of wings. They would stir up a brisk breeze, a balm for this stale day. I would fly through the drab, dank sky; the wind in my wings would drift down, would coat the earth with hues of red and rose and gold – the shades of my soul.
He puts his hand on my thigh – a mute plea to bring me back to him. Does he wish for wings too? Wings that would take him to someplace else, someplace new?
“I had a bird when I was a kid,” he says. “A finch. It died.”
I stare at his face, his deep-set eyes, his thin mouth, the small sad line of his lips.
“It’s no use,” I say. He nods.
The hard lump in my throat chokes me. My eyes feel tight. I stand up.
“I love you,” I say. He starts to reach for me, stops, drops his hand, nods.
“I know,” he says.
I get in my car, drive down the street. I should stay, should pack my bags. But if I do, I might change my mind. There is a stop sign in front of me; I slam on the brakes. I can’t move, can’t drive, can’t go back. I can’t see through the tears. Why can’t love just be enough? Some birds mate for life. So why can’t I give up my wings? If I could, would they fall to earth black and burnt? Would they rise out of the ash, gold and rose and red and brand new? There is a sharp knock on my door. He stands there.
“Please?” he says.
I sob. He holds out his arms and I get out of the car. He smells of smoke and pine. We stand there, in the bare street.
“Let’s talk,” he says. I shake my head. I watch a flock of geese, a crisp black V in the gray sky.
“Just give me one more chance. I can be a bird too,” he says.
I turn to look at him. He holds out his hand.
Alicia Robinson received her B.A. in Anthropology from Oregon State University. In addition to Anthropology, she studied Archeology, Prehistory, and Creative Writing. She is currently applying for graduate school to study Biological Anthropology. Alicia lives in Oregon with her partner David, their two Siberian Huskies Nova and Whiskey, and their cat Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She is constantly working on new short stories and takes inspiration from her own life and her beautiful home in the Pacific Northwest.