Thursday, June 14


The growing sound of thunder shook the many rows of empty beer bottles turned upside down and left to dry beside the kitchen sink, the bright sound of the clattering glass harmonizing with the angry shuddering outside. Flies wander aimlessly in and out of the open doorframe, enticed by the warm lanterns and the dubious aroma of three-day-old Thai food. The breeze that precedes the coming storm turns silent oak leaves into roaring breakers collapsing against the worn siding of the dingy two-story apartment complex. Inside, a record player skips rhythmically, repeating the same two-note and click loop, somewhat reminiscent of the way the old Land Cruiser would rock back and forth on the long drives home from the Carolinas. Eventually, the air grew still and so did the sounds of the world.

Though his vision was partially blocked by the concrete eyesore that is the Taylor Street bridge, sitting on the bench outside he watched the lights in the tall towers downtown turn on and then off again as the nocturnal city workers made their way through their respective jurisdictions. He imagined the types of scenarios unfolding within all of the thousands of tiny glowing boxes. The working men and women that stayed late on weeknights hunched over mahogany desks, driven to work long hours so as to provide for the family that they never spend any time with anyway. Extra marital activities in the corner office. Drone like sanitation workers methodically pacing the halls in jumpsuits and headphones. The almost partner that is forced to sleep in the break room due to the impending foreclosure on his subprime mortgage. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a misty memory of a million fireflies in a mountain valley briefly came to life, only to dissipate into the menacing sneer of the tall towers.

Large raindrops began to detonate on the narrow patio around him, so he laid down on his side, out of range of the splashing, and closed his eyes, willing his existence to merge into the chaos of the storm. Vivid flashes of the past filled his head as the lightning strikes illuminated the inside of his eyelids, making projections out of his memories. She spun and fell down the gravel road in her bare feet, laughing and singing amidst a backdrop of loblolly pines and daring anyone or anything from this existence to rob her of her joy. Later, the exterior of the church he couldn’t bring himself to enter, brick and mortar and the clamoring masses within. In the darkness of the storm and of his memory, the images arose to his consciousness for fractions of seconds, the feelings they carried lasting for lifetimes.  Every memory of every thunderstorm he had witnessed, and probably many he had only dreamed, was suddenly distilled into one overwhelming, breathtaking vision that caused a lump to well up in his throat so intensely that he struggled to breathe. Gasping, he became aware that he possessed the desire to cry, but though he had the will, he could not remember how.

The feeling passed as quickly as it arrived. A young couple took shelter from the rain under the nearby bridge, standing quietly, waiting for the storm to pass. Orange clouds reflected the light of the city back down upon the earth, the stars never more veiled. Reluctantly, he clamored back inside to get ready for bed and, ultimately, another dreaded day at work. For the first time in his short life, he felt the Earth tremble beneath his feet, though he was not as alarmed at this fragility as he guessed he would have been. His apartment was a foreign place, a stranger’s dwelling, whose belongings bore no interest to him, nor to anyone currently living, save the stupid house cat. The things here actually annoyed him, as though a childhood friend had worn out his welcome. Maliciously, they taunted and teased him,  somehow knowing exactly what to say to hurt him the most. Tomorrow he would deal with them, each in their own way, but now he struggles to be quiet.

In the darkness he failed to see the mess in the kitchen that toppled over due to the thunder’s vibration. The broken bottle, the overturned kettle, and the cracked mug. The one given to him so long ago, the one that he used most often, the green one (his favorite color), the best one, HIS mug was cracked straight through from the rim to the bottom… never to be used again. But then, in a way, everything was cracked at that point. Chipped. Snapped. Dinged. Scratched. The world was now without mystery and yet held him captive, and so he slept, or rather, stared at the blinking, twinkling lights of his alarm clock, contemplating the inner workings of the device. Eventually he would realize it was all the same, all the same stuff, the blinking downtown skyline, the twinkling alarm clock, and his own rapidly beating heart.

The next morning he will wake up and discover the mug, and he will smile.


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