A Quiet Piece
by Pierce Nahigyan
All of the world exists all the time. Finding a small piece of it, a quiet piece, does a lot to rub away that fact. The rest is done as easily as not worrying about it, which is easy enough to do when life and limb aren’t at stake.
I had taken life and limb in hand when I invited Hannah over, and we were lying on the bed in the aftermath of that. She was thin and hadn’t always been so, and my fingers idly traced the stretch marks on her breasts and stomach as she burrowed her chin into my neck and drifted to and fro. Sleeping now, half awake. Her eyes would find mine and shyly turn down, willing to believe in the intimate act but in no way trusting me to see her seeing me. She sighed something I didn’t hear.
Outside there was a massive crack. My apartment, perched in the middle of three ramshackle stories, was angled at the crossing of one wide alley and a narrow, empty street. The street faced a condemned YMCA and a closed dry cleaner and the train platform abutted the front of the apartment; any sound louder than a tinkling dog collar got caught up in that crossroads and echoed out, up, around, everywhere, all the time. There was another crack and Hannah’s short nails dug again into my shoulder. “What happened?” she said.
I went to the window over the toilet, the one that faced the alley. Hannah asked again what happened, and I thought about what I would tell her.
What had happened was that she had smiled at me at the restaurant. Folding my apron and stacking menus, I looked up at the end of a long day that was, almost to the customer, dissimilar from no single day that week. David had stopped by her table after setting down some drinks and they’d chatted, and so I’d asked him when I was clocking out who she was. Hannah was a friend; she’d been in the restaurant before. He told me to talk to her, so I did, and we went out for Pho on Sunday.
That Sunday had led to Tuesday, parking lots and conversations about her home in Arizona while she studied in Orange County. Did it bother her I was older? It didn’t bother her. I wasn’t sure if it bothered me. Driving back from LA after a very late independent film screening (it was something miserable about rain and cars), we’d gone back to my place, put lives and limbs together. Tonight was no different. That was what had happened.
And below my window a man was dead, or dying, unmoving, his body curled up like a black roach in the penumbra of a dumpster.
Could I go downstairs to him and help? Had someone already called? Eventually they would, and the alley would be lit by the blue and red of the investigation all night.
“We’re leaving,” I said.
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