Shadows on the Wall

William Philbin


I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Why am I so afraid? No, that’s not what I don’t get. What I don’t get is anything. Anything at all. I’m hungry.
I always get the same thing: turkey and American cheese on parmesan bread at Subway. Maybe I’ll try something different today. Maybe some liverwurst and pepper-jack cheese on garlic bread. Mustard. Subway is as sterile as it always feels, and there is a depraved human being behind the counter. She is slumped over as I approach to administer some further punishment.
“What will ya have?” she asks, suddenly becoming erect, speaking in that heavy Southern drawl.
“Turkey and cheese on parmesan style bread, with all the trimmings.” I hate mustard.
I watch her make the sandwich, thinking how it would be to make them day after day, wondering about the stories she must go home to tell.
“Oh honey!” I hear her saying. “I made a million and two sandwiches today! Isn’t that amazing?”
And he says, “Sure that’s great… now go inside and make it a million and three. I’m starving.”
But maybe its not like that at all.
She takes the money in exchange for my sandwich, and I leave with a wave. It’s already evening, and the stars are peeking out as the sun sets beyond the Verrazanno Bridge.
Tossing the sandwich on the ground indifferently, I fall somewhat dramatically, one leg stuck out into the air so as to gaze up into the decorated space. There is nothing that impedes my peripheral vision, in this particular spot, allowing the sky to just engulf me completely. It’s amazing, how much solace the stars can offer. Some people return to the sea, which is nice, but the stars are so much nicer.
My eyes grow heavier as each second passes. A feeling of excruciating loneliness begins to weave through me, as my mind wanders on a pasture of pretty faces. Faces that I’ve never known, nor will I ever know the quality, the texture of, and bodies whose warmth I never understood. Women have been to me as hurricanes, and I have been but a helpless tree in their path of destruction.
As I lay, I can hear footsteps approaching, muffled by the soil. It’s probably a rent-a-cop coming to inspect me, or commit me or something. He’ll say, “I caught this one sprawled out on the ground, staring blankly into space. Yeah, a real loony… cold cuts everywhere.” The liar that he is. My sandwich is still packed neatly beside me. I come to my senses for a moment, and a beautiful figure enters my field of sight, another hurricane, I suppose, as she smiles a smile that somehow relieves the strain on my heart- momentarily, anyway.
“What are you doing?” she asks, with a hint of amusement in her voice. She stares at me, puzzled.
“Just losing myself for a minute or three…” I reply, with a sigh.
She looks up and agrees that the stars are wonderful tonight.
I roll over, and I see this beautiful foot practically begging for a massage just as much as the other. She grabs me by my collar, gently bringing me to my feet, dragging me into the eye of the storm.
And so, I came face to face with this short, brown-haired, angelic creature looking up at me from beneath my chin.
“What’s your name?” she says, with almost comically sharp eyes. It appears that she has snatched me.
I think of a billion names that I could give her: Dan, John, Olreich, Raul.
“Elliott.” I decide to be truthful.
“Marie,” she says still holding my collar.

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