rudrani sarma

"The Dead Woman on the Subway"-- a piece I'm working on.

I allow myself three seconds of unbearable sadness. When I get back to the unbroken solitude of my apartment in the evening, everything is dark and ringing with the heavy space of the world collapsing into me. That moment is peace. The air is thick and smells of radiator dust, and for those three seconds, I am true. I can devour the world.

Sometimes I go outside in the Portland rain without a jacket on. My arms grow numb and I feel so real. I walk around the city in the late-afternoon, when the streets are still and there are only raindrops. My legs are heavy with rain-boot weight as I swing them back and forth. Charlie and I occasionally walk together, but it’s not the same.

He is so tall.

He puts his hand on my waist so I have to walk quickly.

When I got back home that one time from my walk, Charlie was the one to turn on the light. I don’t know why he was there so early. But it was just him and me and the shag carpeting, and the moment was soft and frightening, and that was all I could feel. And Charlie closed his eyes and breathed in deeply and held my hand, there in the dimness of the flickering tubelight next to the door. But I still let myself be sad. There was nothing else to do.

Nancy is a widow. She lives next door with her Pomeranians.

“They are twins,” she says, but I don’t believe her because they look different and dogs are all born within one litter anyway so technically they can’t be, and I want to tell her “shutup lady.” But I nod, because I think she’s a bit crazy, and I don’t want her murdering me in the middle of the night or something.

Charlie reached down and grabbed the plastic bag from my hands.

“Did you get the crab-wontons,” he asked, but it was mostly just a statement because the end of his sentence faded away, and you can’t really ask a question without raising your voice at the end.

 I said yes.

“I did.”

“You’re a doll.”

 But he walked away before I could respond and I was just left there in the quiet foyer with the linoleum stretching out before me and my rainboots soaking into my socks.


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