By Angel Dionne
It was a Sunday afternoon. You could taste Sunday in the air, that soupy thickness that looms over you the entire day, sapping all of your energy. I slept until noon and would have slept longer if it hadn’t been for the steady stream of light piercing its way through the blinds. I made a late breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast which I nibbled while scanning through the previous week’s newspaper. It was a habit, I always read the obituaries, in the event that someone I knew had died. I didn’t recognize a single person. A man in his late seventies had passed away at Memorial Hospital after a long battle with cancer, a premature infant died on Friday. A small section was set aside for the apparent suicide of a twenty-year-old girl. No picture. Prescription pill overdose.
I imagined a broken heart as the cause of the suicide, perhaps a boyfriend who had spent the night in-between another girl’s legs after a few too many drinks. The obituary said that she was a second year student at Mt. Ansell College. I had attended classes there last year, perhaps I had seen her, perhaps we’d had a class together, or had exchanged glances at one point or another. Without a picture it was impossible to tell. I folded up the paper and tossed my half eaten toast into the trash can. I scratched at my chin for a moment and contemplated shaving, but it was Sunday. I didn’t need to shave on Sunday.
The weather outside was pleasant enough but the sun burnt my eyes. I took off down the street and walked with my head down, occasionally looking up at passerby’s. I hoped to run into someone I knew, perhaps strike up a conversation with someone I hadn’t seen in a while. But it was Sunday, and everyone was off doing something. Family get-togethers and church services were standard Sunday fare. I had no family I enjoyed spending time with, and I wasn’t all too certain that God existed. The closest thing I could consider family was my yellow parakeet Brighton, and even he only liked me when it came time to be fed or have his cage cleaned.
I kept on walking in the same direction. Seconds melted into minutes and became indistinct. Anna’s diner was situated down the street from my apartment complex, but I didn’t have much money and I didn’t want to waste my few precious dollars on a cup of stale, lukewarm coffee. I settled on the library. The air conditioning would feel good, and I could probably stand to lose myself in a book for a few hours. I pushed open the heavy door and stepped into the cool interior. The dimmed lights gave my eyes a much needed rest, and I breathed in the familiar scent of old books. A librarian stood behind a desk and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose every few seconds. Her gray hair was pulled into a tight bun, and she cleared her throat loudly every time someone shifted in their chairs. Besides me two other people had found refuge in the library that warm afternoon. An elderly man sat near the librarian’s desk. He was deeply immersed in a book about the mating habits of wild parrots. He licked his fingers each time he turned a page. A young woman sat with her back to me. A few books were piled up on the table next to her. Hamlet, a book on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and a fashion magazine sat at her side. I took my seat at the table parallel to hers, so that I could see her face.
She wasn’t what you would call beautiful, yet she was not what you would call ugly either. She simply was. Her long brown hair hung over her shoulders, and she wore a dark green sweater despite the weather. She was the type of girl you would never notice amongst a crowd of people. The kind of girl who blended into the wallpaper everywhere she went. A plain Jane. Despite her unremarkable appearance, I could not stop staring at her. She had wonderful fingers. Long and slender. They seemed fragile, as if made of glass, or fine porcelain. She turned the pages of her book in smooth sweeping motions. With each turn of the page I could feel the blood rising to the surface of my cheeks. Her fingers weaving, the soft movements of her wrist. My eyes traced the dance. She was reading a biography of Mozart.
“Do you play the piano?” I asked, my voice sounding weaker than usual.
“No. Why?” she looked up at me with her ordinary eyes. A muted shade of gray.
“You just seem like a person who plays the piano.”
A veil of silence dropped between us. She never took her eyes off me. I tugged at my earlobe.
“I play the tuba though,” she said. “Pretty well, actually.”
I couldn’t imagine those elegant fingers playing an instrument as clumsy as the tuba. Still I gave her a quick smile. She smiled back and pushed a strand of hair from her face. Her finger nails were painted a sheer hue of pink. She got up from behind the table, and pushed her chair back in.
“I should be going.”
“I’d love to hear you play the tuba sometime.”
“I don’t really play for strangers,” she said “I’m a little shy.”
“Coffee then?” I wouldn’t mind paying for the stale, lukewarm coffee if it meant being able to see her fingers bring the cup up to her lips.
“Okay,” she took a piece of paper from her purse and scribbled down a number. She placed it in the open pages of her book. “Don’t think me odd for saying so, but I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere. Do we go to the same school?”
“I doubt it. I don’t go to school anymore.”
“Oh, okay then, I guess I’ll see you sometime soon.”
She walked away from me. Her flat beige shoes clicking on the tiled floor. I took her book from the table. She had placed her number on a page describing Mozart’s death in 1791. A charcoal drawing of a grand piano took up the next page. I folded up the piece of paper and stuck it into my pocket. I closed up the book and decided to check it out. The reading material didn’t particularly interest me, but I couldn’t very well leave it on a shelf collecting dust.
The elderly man still sat beside the librarian’s desk. A new book sat unopened beside him, A Guide to Duck and Waterfowl Identification. The librarian stamped the back of my book. I wish her a good day, and received no answer.
I took off down the street again. The sun had faded a bit, and the air didn’t feel as oppressive. It wasn’t long before I got home and lifted the phone from the receiver. I dialed the sloppily written number and waited as the phone rang.
“I’m sorry, but the number you have reached is not in service.”
I set the receiver down and tried again, perhaps I had misdialed. Still the same mechanical voice. She accidentally jotted down the wrong number, I told myself. I can’t say I was all that upset. In fact she was a completely forgettable person. She wasn’t someone I could imagine myself being friends with, let alone lovers. I could have taken her to bed, if I had wanted to, but I’m sure the sex would have been as characterless as she was. What I really wanted to see again were those ethereal fingers. Those fingers, grasping cups, turning pages, and setting loose strands of hair.
I kept the book. The library called and sent letters, but I never returned it. I tore out the charcoal picture of the Grand Piano and taped it to my wall. Every night, her porcelain fingers danced their way over the keys of that Grand Piano, I watched them as I slept. Tickling, embracing, arousing the ivory until it sang. I couldn’t imagine her playing the tuba.
Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student