End of February

by Erin POPELKA
 

The Venetian blinds go up, and all I see is white. The only break in the pregnant clouds are splatters on the outside of the window. My morning haze follows: cold cereal, the regrettable combination of whatever clothing is clean, toothbrush dangling while I load up my purse.

Finally on my way out, my hand touches the cold metal of the doorknob. I imagine my body, from this slight contact, turned instantly to bronze. There, inside my metal shell, I can relax, enjoy the peace of invisibility. Finally, I no longer have to work to hold my cells together. Each cell now released and moving freely, I am liquid inside a bronze casing.

I break this vision and walk outside. It’s been raining all night, is still drizzling now, and puddles line the sidewalk. The bus is crowded, and the rain has made it a greenhouse, humid and thick. The only open seats are lined with liquid zebra stripes from the raincoat before. I clutch the bar above me and rest my head on my bicep. I’ve learned to keep my eyes closed, to move with the rhythm of the drive, the revving of the engine, its sudden jolts.

I emerge from the bus and walk two blocks to the office. My eyes blink toward consciousness, trying to force my mind to attention. But my brain envies the freedom of puddles: each droplet welcoming new ones that fall from the sky, a raindrop party on cement. Then my own body separates into droplets, no bronze to hold it together. I fall, a sheet of water, and splatter onto the sidewalk. As a puddle, I am released from hair and bones and skin. I can evaporate when the sun comes back. Yes, each molecule evaporating, courtesy of the warmth, of the wind. I reassemble as a cloud shaped like a heron, long and lean, soaring.

My hand touches the “Up” arrow and I hear the gentle chime. I am alone, mercifully, in the elevator. Nine more seconds of peace.

I settle into my desk, start clearing out the morning email. I have one of the lucky cubicles with a window. It looks out onto the jagged bricks of the building next to us, and if I press my forehead to the glass, I can see the alley or the sky. My window will open just enough in the summer, and I have it cracked now as a small hope. I dream of climbing out that tiny gap - first my hand, then my shoulder. When my head sneaks through I know the rest will follow, and I become the heron in the clouds, looking past the white sky to where sunlight waits until spring. Once I’ve glimpsed this paradise, I look back to beckon to my body, still typing at the computer. I squint and can read my words on the screen, “I respectfully submit my resignation.” Then I escape to wait for the crocuses.

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