fiction

Play Things

Tara stepped away from the long black car she had just crashed into a short yellow car that was parked close to the sidewalk on 59th Street in Manhattan. It was somewhere between one and four AM on Wednesday.

She pushed her hair out of her eyes. The street was empty.

She went into the subway at Columbus Circle. 

There were two guys talking loudly in the middle of the platform.

Tara walked up to them, fishing in the absurdly oversized trenchcoat she was wearing for her last Black and Mild.

“Do you have a light?” she asked them.

One of them stared into her eyes. Shark eyes. Dead. Void. And still vaguely challenging.

The other one handed her a blue plastic lighter.

After she lit up and handed it back, she stared at them in turn just long enough to make everyone a little uncomfortable. Then she walked towards the tracks and leaned against a pillar.

There was a note on her apartment door when she got home. She went in without reading it.

She walked directly into the shower and stood under the water until it went cold. She took off the coat and everything else and left it all in the tub.

She walked across her apartment to a space heater. She turned it on and sat in front of it.

She watched it turn from one side to the other and thought about the car. She smiled and then she laughed a little.

Tara looked at her apartment and decided to clean it. 

It was clean already. There was a table with two chairs in the middle of the room. There was a freestanding bookshelf. In the bedroom there was a bed and a rocking chair and an imitation Native American rug she had stolen from a gift shop in Santa Fe. There was a mural on the bedroom wall that she had painted with six shades of wood varnish. In the kitchen there was a white refrigerator with one decorative magnet holding up a poem by Carmen’s HIV positive uncle.

Tara took the sheet from her bed and wrapped it around her. She took down all her books and wiped the shelves with her hands. She opened all the books and blew into them and shook them and put them back. She took the clothes from the tub and tossed them out the window. They hit the street with a splat. She dried the water trail from the bathroom to the window with the bottom of her makeshift toga.

She opened the front door to create a crossbreeze. The air was unseasonably warm.

Tara took out the things from her fridge. Romaine leaves and homemade salsa. She wiped the shelves.

She opened an app on her phone and ordered a case of rosé wine.

She lay down on the bare kitchen floor and slept.

She woke three hours later and walked downstairs to a tiny coffee shop.

“Did you make that yourself?” asked the barista.

Tara smiled and spun in a graceful circle.

She drank her espresso at the ledge facing the window and took deep breaths through her nose. 

Her skin, caressed by the bedsheet and the warm air, was barely able to contain her soul.

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