I presented it as a joke, and by all accounts a poor one.
She sat on the couch by the window in the main building of the residency flipping through a book of paintings. The red building by the river that rose seventeen feet the previous night and flooded the small New England village.
“I’d like to fuck the afternoon away,” I said, admiring how the sun hit an icicle hanging outside the window, heating it to clear and melt for nothing.
She glanced up. A painter, she resembled Nico, but with more innocent features.
“Which house are you in?”
I said the house and room number.
“Okay,” she said and returned to the book of paintings.
When I told Ashley, a seismic silence dulled the line. Sensing the emptiness of our shared apartment punched me in the gut from 2000 miles.
“Why?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I wanted her.”
“Well that’s just great,” she said and laughed in disbelief. “Do you still love me?”
“Yes, I do.”
She breathed out audibly, something far more damning than a sigh.
“I have to go,” she said, and the line perished.
I wandered down to the river. The water had receded. I spotted an Adirondack chair I’d sat in the previous day, a few hundred yards down river, entangled with a tree limb. I climbed down the bank, tried to retrieve it but couldn’t reach.
I walked out of town toward a trail that led to some falls. The leaves were long since gone; the naked branches fleeced of what filled them with life. I hopped rocks until I was right by the falls. The rocks were slick from flood waters. The river sliced through two rocks then opened into a lagoon before compacting. I turned to leave. Before I realized it, the ground was under me. The sky tilted backwards as I fell. I banged my shoulder hard but got out safe and hurried back to the trail, scanning the woods hoping no one saw me.
I paced the afternoon away in my room, calming myself with light-reading. As night fell, a soft knock rapt the door. It felt like forgetting and then remembering. The shear curtains ebbed with air from the fan. A room lit only by a reading lamp.
She waited outside wearing paint-splattered coveralls, the paint pattern a work of art. Not weary. Her eyes daggers. While dissecting me she found my truth—my bark bite and soft edges.
We fell tragically into bed. Unsure how we’d arrived but unable to stop the ways of things going, I bought the ticket and took the ride; exiting, I crumbled into the ether of city streets.
Weeks later, back home with nowhere to live.
In isolated silence I toed cracks in concrete. Walls and bricks. The backs of my ears, like the concrete, once wet, now sidewalk hardened.
The truth is, I barely knew her.
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. He received an MFA in creative writing from The University of New Orleans. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He has work forthcoming or published in Pembroke Magazine, New Pop Lit, X-Ray, Running Wild Press, Borrowed Solace, The Tulane Review, The Fictional Cafe and Five on the Fifth.