Hazards of Light

C.A. Cole

As soon as I get out of my car, I hear that Dane and his roommates are watching a football game. I do not want to sit on a matted rug and talk only during commercials. I do not want to pet mongrel dogs and drink warm soda. But I have no choice; this is the only day he agreed to see me. Tomorrow I return to Denver. I have only this melancholy fall afternoon.

He answers the door and smiles before I say anything. He has a short punkish hairstyle, but his eyes are silver mountain lakes. He slips out the door, pulls it shut, muffling the game that blares into every corner of the house. “Sit.” He searches my face, pulling me apart at the seams.

I sit on the top step. A solitary red leaf from the maple overhead lands on my foot.

He picks the leaf off my shoe and twirls it in front of his face. “You like your job?”

“I love it.” Architecture is everything I had hoped, and there is a man, a co-worker, whose black eyes bore into mine, trying to dislodge Dane. “Are you taking pictures?” I have heard he is a stocker in a supermarket.

“Don’t have time.”

The tricks sunlight can play, the hazards of light. Our shadows entwine, our heads lock as if kissing. I imagine frost forming, leaving a permanent record on the brown lawn. He follows my line of sight and slides back on the rough step. Our heads part. Our bodies separate. The Dane I knew would have ripped the silhouette out of the ground and hung it on the wall.

I stand, my hands jammed deep in my jeans. When I am near him, Dane fills every chamber of my heart, suffocating me.

“Wait.” He slips into the house, letting out the smell of baloney, mustard, and beer.

He re-emerges holding a Polaroid camera, balances it on the top step, pushes the automatic timer, saunters over, and puts his arm loosely around my waist. We freeze. He walks back to the camera and removes the white square. We each hold one edge, watching ourselves emerge.

“We’re grown up,” I say, expecting to see two teenagers.

He brushes my lips like the now-cold breeze, but his eyes have evaporated into dull gray puddles. He rushes back into the house, not even watching me to my car.

The evening air has the depth of cold before a snow. I wish the photo had shown the two of us dancing cheek-to-cheek under the fingers of the maple, Dane warming his hands under the ruffle on my dress.

I wish it captured a picture of the way it never was.


C.A. Cole lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has recently completed the first draft of a fourth novel. E-mail: janonis[at]comcast.net.

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