Day and Night - Linda Shapiro
Part 1: Daydreams
This morning they let me sit by the big window. Big deal, a parking lot and some skimpy little trees. Starting to turn, the fat nurse says. Hubba-hubba. Heard the squawking first, then saw the filthy things flying right at me. Had to ask that nurse, do they drop those green turds on the cars? just to see her face go all stupid.
Pretty soon I'll be able to relax, watch a little TV. If I have an accident the nurses will have to interrupt Oprah to clean me up, put on fresh sheets. I always hung my sheets out to dry on nice days. They would billow in the wind while Sabine played underneath, Arabian princess in a tent.
Search me, I don't know what happened. She grew up and got out as fast as she could, came back ordering me not to smoke in front of her, or fry up hamburgers, or give her weird kid sugar or her “partners” (a string of men, but not for long) salt. She comes to visit, her stringy hair going gray. She left everything with marks and stains, even after I agreed to the dancing lessons and letting her dress like a gypsy.
He sat there reading while I tried to make conversation. Sabine and that little runt of a man, skinny chest, shirt like a blouse. Not even a wedding, just some mumbo-jumbo under a tree somewhere. But I visited with them, made coffee (which they didn't drink), didn't bring up the future, how they would manage with his scribbling and her prancing around.
I could hear that baby in her belly ticking away like a time bomb.
Sabine thinks I hate it here, and I let her. But I don’t really mind. It's not so bad. Everything is spotless; people take care of you. Once in a while when I'm down, those young nurses give me a boost, kid around a little. The doctors like me just fine, always telling me I have the body of woman ten years younger. I egg them on, saying they just want an excuse to feel up an old lady. The nurses put up with me too. They think I'm pretty sharp for my age, even though I go off sometimes.
I took care of everybody. Never a minute to myself, except when I was shut up in that shower, the water pounding my chest, hissing over my pussy until it shriveled up. I didn't say dirty words like that back then. Now, I just let loose sometimes, fuck, shit, bitch, piss, all of them I can think of, over and over. The nurses don't get too mad; they get a kick out of it. Tell me it's good to get that off my chest.
That baby would bang her head against her crib, over and over. But Sabine wouldn't listen to me or anyone about that unnatural child who wound up living on the street somewhere. Sabine excused her mopey behavior, said she was a prodigy, just too smart to be in ordinary schools. Now she’s a bag lady somewhere. Sabine can’t even find her.
Part 2: Night Ride
She looked at the far-away neon and the close-up clutter and declared a truce. The adventures piled up like disabled retinues, never in line, but in disgrace. She could be described as in a rut. Out in the world she began as a nutshell and grew into a tree with rusty leaves. A family tree, with its promises and promotions, its failure of nerve, its failure to thrive.
She had heard that, somewhere behind her back.
Retreat, retreat, the brakes squeak. Voices of doom, a little night music while watching the water lilies bloom in their pale silence, the particulars of the train at night, brightly lit, rubble at your feet. Empty cups, crumbs, vomit. Someone asleep across three seats, someone speaking way too loud about his shitty day to someone miles away. Something slippery out there, sludge of darkness illuminated by a northern light.
No. Wait. Neon filtered through fog. Everyone says get off at the next stop. Everyone knows no one is listening.
She skulks through the crowds on the platform revealing little. Not a hint of the thousand things she needs to arrange, in her head and out of it. A place to sleep. Insomuch as there is light, false light, true light, there is hope. Here in the night she can register some tingling: her toes, her lower spine, her upper atmosphere. Her reliance on seismic shifts. Aloft she sees a wedge of birds, can’t recall their names.
They don’t need neon where they are going.
Linda Shapiro is a freelance writer who has published articles, reviews, and essays on dance and the performing arts, architecture, design, and other subjects in numerous Twin Cities and New York publications. In her former life she worked as a dancer and choreographer. Her fiction has appeared in the On the Premises, Bending Genres Journal, Treehouse, the Occotillo Review, and Humans of the World.