The world outside is melting.
News of the heat wave rises up like steam, curling through the cracks under the door and seeping into my foggy world of cold medicine and delirious dreams where a whimpering ghost wanders through the living room. My mind is trapped in a body of stone. Wake up.The distant hum of the air conditioner gradually becomes louder like an alarm in a dream pulling me back from a mirror life, a snapshot of this one overlaid with complex plots and nonsensical characters. I open my eyes and watch the ceiling fan spin quietly in a blurred circle, whisking away the dream.
The angled sunlight on the wall tells me that I have slept through most of the day. Paul has disappeared on a business trip while I have languished on the sofa watching old re-runs on TV (Sex and the City and Seinfeld if you must know) and drifting through the day on a fevered cloud of Nyquil. The clock chimes as I sit up, six o’clock.For a day, the world kept spinning and life continued without me.
After searching the kitchen cabinets and finding nothing to satisfy my craving, I place an order with the Asian woman on the other end of the phone line.“Ten minute,” she says. She always says this.
When I step outside the heat radiates in waves from the ground up. People move in slow motion once removed from life behind dark sunglasses and ear buds.I pass in front of a shop that is in the process of becoming something else. The store front looks like all of the others, red brick facade with two large display windows and a glass door in the middle. If you were to open it, you’d hear a tinny bell ring. It was a Russian grocery when we first moved in, selling a handful of tired looking fruits and vegetables labeled in mystic looking characters. It was reincarnated as a Brazilian restaurant. The wait staff would sit alone at night, like a scene from Nighthawks, under fluorescent lights casting a dim glow on the dark sidewalk—waiting—for customers who never came. The windows are covered in brown paper now, ready to be peeled back to reveal the next owner’s dream.
When I enter the small Thai restaurant, it is cool, dimly lit and bathed in neutral Zen colors. Small glass pendant lights in blue, red and yellow paint circles of white light on eight tables. A room length aquarium in the middle splits the restaurant in two. Fish drift slowly as silver pearl air bubbles float one by one to the surface. A couple sitting side by side on a bench briefly looks up at me when I enter and then returns to their hushed conversation.A waitress appears, smiles and asks “You pineapple fried rice?”
I have become what I eat.“Yes,” I whisper fanning my t-shirt against the sweat on my back.
I return to the heat and when I stop in front of my apartment building I notice a purple flower defiantly blooming in the crack between the sidewalk and the steps. Feet buried in cement it blooms where it grows.Once inside the building our neighbor, who has just moved into the apartment below us, waves at me and quickly passes by with a skittish black dog. He begins to whimper and she hushes him.
I have met my ghost.
Up the four flights of steps, I return to my apartment. The coolness washes over me and the airconditioner drones. Night comes. The moon drifts in a sea of stars. The purple flower closes.