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Daniel Berman
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Ticket

 

Daniel Berman

 

The dampness pleased him, made him safe; he could feel it nourishing his body, allowing the cellular fluids to remain stable inside their membranes.  That morning it had been the beach—cool, misty air with the smell of tar, the biting smell of salt, the living smell of water and another smell that he couldn’t identify but made him want to sob into the dense dark sand that he clenched between his cold toes.  He’d walked up to the house, his jeans and jacket feeling heavy and tenderly soft on his body, rinsed and dried his chilled brown feet and put on thick socks and sneakers that walked him around the quiet streets for hours.  “Where is she?” he thought.

 

            Later, he sat in a restaurant and ate something, spending an endless time with a cup of coffee and a day-old newspaper.  When the first drops hit, so large he imagined he could see the restaurant, his table, his face, reflected in the distorting convexity of each globe of water, he paid and rushed across the street and under the movie marquee.  He leaned against the building and slowly turned the heavy, flexible pages of the paper.

 

            The drops came close together, then connected vertically; hundreds of sparkling transparent streamers rushed into contact with the sidewalk, black roadway, cars.  Then the streamers joined into wide sheets.  Water ran off the marquee with angry force.  It hit the street and bounced back up, how high he couldn’t see.  A noisy riot hissed all around the little pocket of air under the protecting overhang.

 

            He thought, “Now maybe she’ll come.  I’ll see her coming along the sidewalk, running with her arms up to clutch her umbrella.  She’ll be wearing a tan trench coat, a kerchief, stockings, and pumps; her tapered legs will be moving quickly.  She’ll stand next to me; water running off her lowered umbrella, her legs wet.

 

            “She’ll breathe heavily and smell of dampness.  ‘I still love you. I had to come back.  Oh, I was all wrong, you know how I get, but no more, no more.’  She’ll put her arms around me, hugging me fiercely.  I’ll wait a second or two, then when she’ll start crying, I’ll hold her and feel our bodies fit and then the pain running away, washed away, drowned away.”

 

            He walked to the cashier’s booth and bought a ticket.  Then, for a moment, he thought she had really come. Her smell filled his head—ozone, cinnamon, rose petals, a touch of camphor.  But she wasn’t there.  He put the red ticket stub into the breast pocket of his jacket.

 

            It was a vintage film, the images as clear as clean water, layers deep.  He couldn’t follow what was happening except that a woman spoke and then a man and then the woman again.  He wondered if he’d go back to the house and live there alone at the beach with the ticket stub in his pocket forever.

 

 

 

Daniel Berman has more time now to stand on the beach, feeling wet sand squishing between his toes. He likes it that way.

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