by Kathrine Hu
Art by Chloe Kim
Issue: Kalopsia (Spring 2017)
I feel a slight throbbing at my side, and my fingers are sticky with red. But the pain is surprisingly bearable; it even fades away as my mind drifts to the slam of a car door in the distance—no, not in the distance—the sound echoes from only about three feet away. Panicked steps fly toward me, and as I struggle to steady my swirling gaze, my eyes latch onto the horrified face above me.
The man jolts, and his hands fumble around in his pocket; his fingers stumble as he dials in a “9,” and then a “1,” and again another “1.” But I know his efforts are in vain, because there’s never reception this far out on the road. I shake my head gently, left and right—though not really to the right, because the faded asphalt blocks my way. Feebly, I lift a corner of my lips and attempt to offer the man a smile. Realization flickers through his eyes. His teeth press sharply against his lips in frantic unease, and I watch as a drop of cherry-red stains his mouth. His phone drops to his side. The man inches closer; the toe of his boot shatters the surface of a nearby puddle. I observe, contented, as the water smooths itself back into glass.
The man sways, as if dizzied by the sun, and then kneels beside me. His lips part, but he pauses, stunned with fear and confusion. “Are you sure? I… I can drive down the road and find some reception. I can…” He falters as he takes in my expression. “… Does it hurt?”
“It’s not too bad.”
Still, his face is twisted into terror and hesitation, and he cries out: “What was I…? How could I have—!” He grimaces, and his voice dissolves into a hoarse whisper: “I’ll—I’ll be careful next time, I will. I—I promise. Damn it, I should have been careful!”
I blink lazily at the man and drink in his foreign features. “You didn’t mean it.” My voice trembles with effort, but flows steadily in resolution. “So, then, would you keep me company? That’s all I need.” I let out a soft laugh, but pain shoots through me, so I stop.
“O—of course.” His breaths are frantic and broken; I think of crimson sea glass breaking against dark waves. He furrows his brows. “Yes, yes, of course.” Silence. “But… you’re so young. Oh, God, what have I done? I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. Are you… scared?”
“Well—hm.” I sweep my eyes thoughtfully across the open sky—blue, so blue. Azure, actually. The exact hue of my favorite mug, the one that I always keep in the left corner of the shelf above my desk. Another smile slips faintly across my lips. I stare up at that blue sky and the lightly falling rain, fluttering my lashes to free them of raindrops. “You know, this kind of weather is my favorite. When sun and rain meet. There’s something about raindrops when light filters through them.”
A thought enters my mind, and my voice comes out gently, almost silent: “What do you think the droplets feel, sir, when they hit the ground? Disappointment? Regret?”
He looks at me in surprise and concern, but his eyes leave mine as they chase sapphire raindrops into a puddle. When he finally replies, his voice quivers—ripples—with apology: “I… there is no reason, I guess… for them to mourn what they’ve never experienced.” A pause. “So… maybe—perhaps it’s neither disappointment nor regret…?” His voice rises in question, rises toward the serenely weeping sky.
“That’s true.” The man’s outline softens and blends with the sky, and as I admire the hazy whirlwind of colors, the last fragments of my doubt step aside. Calm washes over every speck of me. My voice comes out fainter, but with more ease. “I wonder where the droplet goes? It could travel down the highway, or seep into the earth, flow into a stream. Who knows?” Two seconds pass in silence. “I suppose it doesn’t matter; knowing where it’s going doesn’t change its path. Maybe it evaporates, or even ceases to exist. That sounds okay, too.” I feel myself ebbing, flowing, like the water in the puddle beside me; it mixes with my blood and blushes a soft, rosy pink.
The man lets out a breath and untangles his brows. His voice hums in the air, clings onto the pattering drops of rain. “…I’m sure it will be fine wherever it goes.” Slowly, he offers me a wistful smile. It is a melancholic one, but still it is a smile. My eyes trace the soft glimmering of his tears; they blend with the rain, and in them, I can almost see my reflection.
I watch the raindrops fall—flying, free, thrilled. “And I think the journey down must have been quite pleasing. Short, perhaps, but pleasing.” I finally answer the man’s question: “No. I’m not scared.” For the last time, I admire the shining specks of water descending upon me, melting into me. “Thank you. For talking to me.” I pause, and allow one more smile to decorate my lips. “My name is Anysia.”
The man fades. I listen to the rain as it falls gently with me.