Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fountain Hit

A short story:

I had been hit hard from the left side. It was disorienting; no context and suddenly I was grasping at anything to try to catch myself from hitting the ground.

Those split seconds are like looking at old photos; something is blurry and in motion, another thing is perfectly in focus and completely still. The edges are faded and everything seems basked in a surreal light. A moment captured perfectly and imperfectly in its own way.

The ledge of the fountain was perfectly in focus; the round river rocks that had been mixed into the cement to make an urban 70s style fountain were completely discernible. I noticed that the fountain was not a dark gray as I had always assumed but full of colors; subtle tones of maroon, green, indigo, burgundy, orange. Marbled little rocks that had been tossed around by natural forces. Pieces of sharp boulders had fallen from the tops of mountains and been gently polished into round and smooth river rocks. Some construction firm had pulled them from someplace down river and mixed it with cement to place it here, in the middle of a concrete jungle; the centerpiece of an ersatz babbling brook.

My phone passed as a blur in front of my face, made the cracking sound that hundreds of dollars of micro-electronics makes when it hits an unyielding surface and splashed as three pieces into the water.

My hand flashed out, grabbed the ledge, and planted on the corner. Time resumed its normal pace and I exhaled what was left of my sentence in an expletive of frustration and bewilderment.

“I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else, I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

My ears were ringing and the heavy numbness of getting hit in the side of the head overwhelmed me. My legs briefly disappeared under me and only my hands held me up. “S’ok, who’s someone else?” I heard myself ask. It was really a lot of questions rolled into one.

“My mortal enemy,” the voice was shorter than me. I tried to turn my head to see what force had hit me. I started falling again and tried to see what had just radically altered my day once more but failed once more. “Are you ok?” The voice suddenly took on a sex--female.

My pride suddenly hurt a lot more than my face. “Yeah I’m fine, mortal enemy?” I turned and sat on the ground, leaning against the walls of the fountain.

“Ex-girlfriend.”

My pride crawled into a corner and started tying a noose for itself. I had just been sucker punched by a lesbian half my size and the ringing in my ears had given every sound an unpleasant resonance. “My phone.--”

“It’s in the fountain,” I heard a splash as she threw her hands in to reach for the phone parts. As I tried to compose my thoughts I noticed passersby staring at the fountain. The midday sun escaped from the spring cloud that had been hiding it and rested on the small plaza. Heavy drops of water dripped on my shoulder. I looked up and realized that she had jumped into the water without a second thought and retrieved the pieces of my phone. I started to speak.

“Here you go, I’m so sorry” she interrupted. I noticed her for the first time. She had a frizzy head of curly auburn hair. Her jeans were soaking wet to her knees and her long-sleeve hung heavily on her arm as water streamed off the cloth. In her hand were the parts of my phone.

I extended my hand tentatively and pulled the parts from her hand. I put the pieces on the ledge in the sun to dry them a little. A slight breeze passed through the plaza and a shiver overcame her. She used her dry hand to start wringing her wet sleeve. As she did so I noticed a pink bracelet that said, “I heart boobies.”

I started to get up and got dizzy; I sat on the fountain ledge. “It’s ok. I’m sorry I’m not your mortal enemy. That was a good hit.”

“I’ve been saving that up. I should have known you weren’t her. She’s in Virginia anyway,” she realized that she had mistaken me for a woman, “not that you look like a woman. You um...you just wear a similar sweatshirt and walked like her.”

“I walk and dress like a woman?”

“That’s not--I mean--I’m so--”

“Don’t worry about it, I’m fine,” my humor returned to me a little.

We sat there for a minute or two more as I tried to regain my bearings. We got up to go, shook hands, and smiled weakly at each other. She went to the tree where she had tied her dog up with a bungie cord. I realized that I had an extra dog-leash in my pocket.

“Hey, do you need a dog leash?” I called after her.

She turned and looked a me sheepishly. “Yeah, I really do.”

I walked up to her and handed the leash off. We laughed tensely as I did so and we parted ways--she a little more conscious of her target, me a little more conscious of my gait.