Short Story Sunday #1

February 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Kindle, Love lost, New Jersey, New York City, Reading, Romance, Short Stories, Sunday, Teen, The Big Apple, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | Leave a comment

Short Story Sunday

This is the first in a series of short stories on a Sunday. What better way to spend a snippet of your Sunday, because really that’s all a short story takes . . . a snippet of your time. So, without further ado, and in keeping with the love theme of this past week, here is

LET’S PRETEND IT NEVER HAPPENED, IF ONLY FOR THE NIGHT

by Connor Thomas Cleary

I packed a toothbrush and a change of underclothes. Not sure I’ll need them, hope I will. New Jersey Transit hauls me toward the city, toward that big, loud, riot of a city. She’s the only reason I ever go there. The conductor hands me a yellow paper roundtrip with a few hanging chads. I stash it in my wallet behind a Metro Card with a logo worn away by the credit card sheath. Even though she broke up with me months ago, that face keeps fading.

The view from my window is beautiful in spite of the iron sky. Autumn blooms between the stations, surprisingly radiant in the muted light. Soon, I know, these washes of warm color will give way to the cold palette of a city pressing ever outward like greedy fog. I try to hold on to this warmth, to bring these colors with me. I shove a handful of Sugar Maple Red in my pocket, hide some Birch Yellow under my hat, and poke some Oak Orange into my sock.

Mid‑town bound, I’m going to see a show. She’s going to be great.

I told her to break a leg—how strange.

The Big Apple. Teeming, wormed with subways.

My train rumbles to a stop in the bowels of Penn Station. I step into a river of bodies. We flow upstairs. Popcorn and perfume. Fast food and stale air. I lower my head and charge for the A‑C‑E. I go with the flow. I weave. I press forward, desperate to escape this buzzing, subterranean hive.

My guts writhe. Anxiety saturates my nerves and I want to tear my skin off. There is too much. Energy, jostling, noise, pressure. Everything. The collected weight of the city presses down on me, compacting me into a tiny, shuddering caricature of myself. I don’t show it. Out of my way, city dwellers, I’ve got places to be.

The subway car is packed to the elbows. No one sees anyone. I never got the hang of avoiding eye contact. Too curious, I guess. So many people, so many stories; where are you all going? Backed into a corner near the doors, I try to remember to breathe.

You all look miserable. Stop it.

Up and out into the canyon streets, I try not to gawk like a tourist, but I gawk like a tourist. I imagine the slow ascent of the skyline over the centuries. It makes me feel small.

The streets and sidewalks are stampedes, stopping at red lights to gather strength like a dammed river. The clamor gets under my skin, it sneaks in when I breathe. Makes me feel neurotic. Closing my eyes and planting my feet, I imagine it breaking around me. I am the steadfast rock, affixed to the streambed. Thicker skin, that’s all I need.

People walk too slow.

The show is starting soon, can’t wait to see her. She’ll be in character when I do, but still. I choose a seat at random, wrestle my luggage between my legs, and pretend to peruse the playbill even after I’m done reading all the bios I care to. I know almost everyone in the show, so I eavesdrop the audience for comments about them.

She’s in the New York City Musical Theatre Festival this year. It’s kind of a big deal.

Over the years we spent together I, somewhat reluctantly, developed a sincere appreciation for musical theatre. Never thought I’d say that. Still wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I’ve learned to respect it.

The show erupts onto the stage. It’s all camp and bombast shot through with wildly impressive tap. The songs are catchy. I know I’ll be humming them to myself for days. Happens every time. And I know, no matter how much I fight it, the emotional climax will get me just a little misty.

The show is great. Best performance I’ve seen yet.

Afterward, she finds me on the outskirts of the sidewalk crowd. We hug for a very long moment. She whispers, “I miss you,” into my chest and the crowd disappears.

But then it’s back, and it’s time for pleasantries. I give brief, pat‑on‑the‑back hugs to other cast members and offer polite but sincere compliments. Good job. You were great. The show was great. Congratulations.

It’s good to see them, if a little awkward. It’s been a while.

She needs to be here. I know that. Most of her friends have already moved here, and her theatre group is starting to make a name for itself. Besides, she loves it. I wish I could too.

After milling about for a while, I’m invited to dinner and drinks with her and three other cast members. As we walk, we exchange secret smiles like new lovers. Each glance and grin erupts like butterfly sparks inside me.

On the subway with four theatre girls after a show, I don’t bother trying to keep up with the conversation. They chirp at each other like excitable birds, I have no idea what they’re talking about half the time. They’re still bubbling with adrenaline. I amuse myself by making up stories about the other passengers, or tracing specular highlights down silver rails, or pretending to read the back‑lit ads. I do anything to hide my discomfort. It makes her feel bad. Guilty, maybe? We wind our way toward a restaurant one of the girls knows. Live music tonight.

She takes my hand, tells me about city life and its many wonders. “It’s just so alive, isn’t it amazing?” Actually, it unnerves me. A group of men across the street shout and jeer and explode with laughter. She giggles. “Oh, New York.”

For her, I’ll try to enjoy it.

We move closer as glasses of wine and beer disappear. We touch each others’ legs and rub our hands together beneath the tablecloth. I try to keep up with the conversation, but the band is there to fall back on when the girls inevitably lose me again.

We’re the last to leave, we all lost track of time.

It’s too late to catch a train back to Jersey.

We say goodbye to her friends at the subway. They’re going uptown, and we’re going down. Then I’m alone with her. I fall into those blue eyes. We give in. We kiss. We grab handfuls of hair and grope at each others’ backs.

I’ve missed you so much.

Maybe we could be together again if I could just learn to love this place the way she does. Maybe I wouldn’t have let her get away so easily. But some part of me doesn’t want to be comfortable here, it goes against my nature. I like being on the ground, seeing stars at night, the taste of clean air, the susurrus of leaves. Nothing about this life appeals to me.

I try. I really try, but something won’t let me love it. It disturbs the otherwise calm waters of my being. Her soft, small hand is my anchor, she leads me to her apartment. We barely make it to the bed.

In the morning light, we embrace and say goodbye. I pull my bearded cheek across the silk of hers, and stop. Just shy of a kiss.

Everything aches as I lose her again.

<><><>

Connor Thomas Cleary

Connor Thomas Cleary wrote a story about a town terrorized by dragons when he was nine. His writing has matured a bit since then and he now works as a professional writer, designer, and nerd journalist. He runs his own blog, The Blue Key, and his own business, Four Stair Multimedia and Design. His work has appeared in the Boxfire Press “Heroics Anthology,” on Feathertale.com, and Nerve.com.

 www.connorthomascleary.com

www.twitter.com/The_Blue_Key

www.facebook.com/ConnorThomasCleary

Connor’s story appears in Suddenly Lost In Words, Volume 1 now at SMASHWORDS,  AMAZON  US  & AMAZON  UK

www.suddenlylostinwords.com

ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUNDAY!!

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