December 09 2013, 09:34 PM
(the alluring aftertaste of smoke hangs in the frigid air)
(shredded colours of blue and green and gold and red)
(hundreds, laughing, crying,shouting, stumbling drunk, arm in arm)
(discovering that it is all too possible to drown in a sea of isolation without anyone noticing)
There were many things about the passing of a year that were difficult to accept. Among them, there was the concerning question of time: at what precise moment did the past open its door to let the future cross the threshold of the present? Perhaps the answer was found in the precise moment a snowflake drifted to the ground and eventually, as it was joined by many other snowflakes, something worth noticing began to occur. In fact, it was snowing steadily now. The cold air reverberated with the sounds of human life. Ornaments and twinkling lights adorned the four massive pine trees that seemed to puncture the sky, spilling stars into the eyes of everyone that gazed upwards.
A streetlight illuminated the wooden bench close to the main street of downtown, and the lukewarm angel that sat on it all by herself.
Perhaps it was her distant demeanor that signified she was separate from the fabric of this world. Or the way her threadbare, charcoal winter coat carelessly covered her body. There was no wind at the moment, or else her pale blue toque would surely have been swept off her head, freeing her long, dark, slightly curly hair. Her hands, covered by woolen finger less gloves, were clasped together and she was sitting very still. There seemed to be a certain harsh wisdom that showed on her face, which was painted by the streetlight to reveal untroubled colours on her rosy cheeks. Occasionally, her hazel eyes would glance ahead to observe the people in the distance. Some were drinking hot chocolate, others were smoking, while the rest wandered aimless around as if searching for a sense of purpose in the new year.
As the reveling crowd slowly began to disperse, people began to pass by the bench. Most of them did not notice her, but the few that did offered smiles, as if that simple courtesy alone could warm her shivering body (none of them had any idea how long she’d been sitting there. It probably wasn’t long anyway, judging from the lack of snow on either side of her, so why worry?). Eventually, a drop of distinctly human reality was spilled on the snow-a taxi pulled up to the curb and a moment later, a screaming woman was unceremoniously removed from the vehicle by the driver.
“Let me go!” she screeched, her shrill voice echoing down the street.
“No money, no ride.” he growled.
“B-but it’s New Years!”
The driver shrugged and walked over to the other side of the taxi. The window facing the street lowered and a young man’s impassive face leaned out.
“I told you Sara, it’s over. You shouldn’t have gotten in with me!” he snapped.
“So you’re going to leave me here to freeze to death then, Julian?”
“What happens to you now is none of my business.” he said contemptuously. Sara and Julian exchanged cold stares as an unbearable silence stretched between them. It was finally broken by the squal of tires on the slightly icy road and a puff of pollution. Sara coughed and then walked over to the bench, sinking down on it in disbelief. She rummaged around in her purse, oblivious to the observant gaze of the other young woman. Sara was wearing only a thin, sequin covered party dress and high heels.
“Can you believe this?” she asked, then didn’t bother to wait for a reply as she finally managed to find her cellphone. Sara resumed to mutter under her breath, and the young woman only caught certain words such as “cheap” and “overbearing.” As the minutes passed, Sara became more visibly distraught until finally she began to yell:
“I was at a party, I was having fun! He had to ruin it by making a scene and taking me away and-listen, do you know someplace I can get change?”
“There’s a hot dog stand at the other end of the street.” The young woman said calmly. She had a warm, pleasant voice, as if someone had deliberately soaked its timbre with coffee, and just coated it briefly in smoky mystery to make you want to keep listening. Sara stood up and smiled stiffly, gathering what little material there was of her dress closer to her.
“Thanks. It was nice talking to you!” she called over her shoulder as she walked away briskly.
The young woman watched Sara in amusement as she tried not to stumble in her high heels. Then with a shrug, she glanced at the enormous clock tower across the street. Almost one full hour into the new year. The thought made her suddenly melancholy as she traced a finger over the splintered wood pattern on the bench. It was very strange to entertain the thought that since last years events had happened not so long ago, perhaps it was still possible to reach into the past and drag them forward once more. Resuscitate them. After all, if that clock tower were to be toppled to the ground this very moment, time would cease to matter because she would no longer see it.
A sigh escaped her winter-bruised lips and she watched her breath curl entrancingly into the night. Sara was gone. In her place, a large older man wearing a denim coat with its buttons almost bursting at the seams was lumbering towards the bench. He was carrying a hot dog. The young woman shifted over a bit, and he sat down beside her, making the bench creak in alarm as if it had just woken up from a pleasant sleep. The older man had a grizzly like beard and a thick mustache.
“You the one who sent the dress lady to me?” His voice sounded like someone had mixed gravel with the menacing sound of approaching thunder.
“She needed change.”
He grunted and held out the hot dog to her. “She needed more than my kind of change. But you, I see you sit here for a while. Eat.”
The young woman hesitated for a moment, then with a grateful smile accepted the food.
The man watched her eat, stroking his beard. “Why didn’t you go to a party?”
“Who says I didn’t?” she retorted in between mouthfuls.
His eyes tinkled merrily and he chuckled, shaking his head. He stayed until she finished her food, then slowly rose to his feet. “I don’t know how long you stay. But if you need more food…” he gestured over to his stand and she nodded. After another grunt of acknowledgement, he gave her an awkward wave and walked back. Once more, she resumed running her fingers over the rough skin of the bench, lost in thought, as the lights twinkled around her. The snow had stopped. She could hear his boots crunching the ground. It was true that she didn’t know how long she would be here. But now that her hunger was satisfied for the time being, the dull, constant pangs from her stomach wouldn’t distract her from paying attention any longer. And she definitely would have to pay much more attention to who passed by.
After all, it could be anyone.