6 mins // 03 TRI 18
He always walked with his hands in his pockets, holding his thumbs. This had started when he was in grade school, shivering on a cold Winter day during recess, and a girl came over to him and told him that if he held his thumbs, he would feel warmer. So he did, and lo and behold, it worked.
From then on, he always kept his hands in his pockets, and he always held his thumbs. First two fingers wrapped around the knuckle, and his fingertip just peeking up over his ring finger. He did this even when it wasn’t cold, like that day. It was 57 degrees out, hardly warm, yet it felt balmy after the weather he’d experienced the rest of the week.
It was humid, and thick mist hung in the air, like soup. He loved the rain, the sound it made against the window, the way it felt on his skin, how small and quiet it made the city seem, and yet the day after made him wonder if it was all worth it. He thought about moving, to some other city, or town even, where it rained all the time. Never have to deal with the aftermath. And yet, here he was, with a few months on his lease he reluctantly knew he would renew.
The mist had really settled in while he was in the office. After the pleasant morning, in which he'd forewent his run to make pancakes for his fiance, before catching the last bus into the city. After he got off the bus, he saw the moon in the sky, still out, unafraid, just above the office. Like the world didn't exist, or at least not the one he knew.
The fog came in like the tide, slow and unassuming. At first he thought it was just a cloud, passing the office window. Of course, it never passed. It just stood there, foreboding, as if it was the norm. As if it would never leave. He had looked down the long corridor, and saw it wash across the windows at the end, his only source of daylight, gradually blotting out the sun, until they were fully submerged.
The day ended, not by a brilliant sunset, but merely by a gradual dimming of the ambient light, until all was dark. The fog carried the streetlamps and headlights much farther than usual. The world was like one of those old tintype photographs he had seen at the museum, where the artists had brushed the emulsion onto a piece of metal before exposing it to the light. Everything bled and ran; nothing was solid.
He had packed an umbrella for the day, but in weather like this, what good would that do? There wasn't any rain to block. Just mist, water droplets in the air that pulled the heat off of you. He wasn't dressed warm enough for this, for the walk home; but after sitting for so long it was all that he knew to do.
The path home ran like all great paths did: away from civilization. Though his destination wasn't that far removed from it. He lived only far enough to make rent manageable. Normally the path was full of people; other folks like him, office drones, trying to return to their hives after a long day at work. The horde would gently thin out the farther he walked, before there was no one left on the path in front of or behind him.
That day, there was no one on the path, not even from the start of the journey. In fact, he hadn't seen a single soul since the elevator doors had closed on him. He thought that was odd, but not too odd, certainly nothing to linger on. As he walked, he started to notice the fog thinning, as if it were bound to the city itself, and to leave the city would be to free himself from the leeching grasp it held.
The lights sank back into their cages, their reach diminished by the cool late-Winter air. Looking across the lake, he could see the lighthouse, long since disused, once a midway point for the ferry that had carried people to and from his city to the one across the water. After the city folded, there was no one who wanted to go that way, and no need to ferry people across. So the lighthouse sat, waiting for someone to give it purpose. He had always wanted to live there, between the worlds.
When he was almost home, he segued to head through the park, on the edge of the water. A red neon sign advertising a deli glowed, but the store was empty except for special occasions. He crossed through a tunnel, under the road above, finding himself in front of a statue of a woman he had never seen before.
She was bronzed, standing slightly colossal, her long hair flowing down to the top of her back. She had a silhouette in that classic sort of way, the essence of a woman, but done in an art deco style, so to be lacking features. She was all women, and no woman. There was a vague etching on the concrete stand beneath her, which merely gave the initials of the artist, and said she had been created just over a hundred years ago, and rededicated recently. Where had she been until now? He imagined a warehouse full of old statues, in various states of decay, the American terracotta soldiers.
He sat down on a bench across the path from her, even though he was cold. He forgot to wipe the seat clean of water. As he sat, he looked up at her, seeing the back-light and following the path of the light back to a streetlamp, an odd sort of yellow-green. His eyes carried into the night, now clear, all stars hidden by the light of the city. He looked for the moon, but it wasn't there. The sky was empty; nothing to meet his gaze.