This morning the sky was bird shit white. It complemented the rest of the bird shit white on the ground. It was a fine day.
I watched my breath as it curled away from my nostrils, waiting for something exciting; or at least something less boring than slush and pink noses. But of course, as life is, nothing happened as I wondered around aimlessly through the streets. Soon I was just creeping around, squinting my eyes and sharply glancing at people. Some, if they were awake at all, would glare back. The ones who were too happy to be in this world lifted their eyebrows in mild confused pity. Assholes.
“Hey there, haven’t seen you in a while.”
My stomach fluttered at the sound of such a pristine voice. I scratched the side of my head, hiding my face with my hand. I muttered a hello, not facing her. Boy the cold really stung the cheeks today.
“Where have you been?”
I think my vocal cords might have vibrated.
“Have you been avoiding me?”
I could feel her smiling at my back. The cold smacked at my face. I shrugged, looking at anything that might pass as interesting. She moved into my line of sight, peeking from the hand still scratching at my head. I caught her eyes and swallowed, hard.
“Where are you off to?”
I looked away and mumbled something idiotic along the lines of ‘just walk-fishing’ or ‘shoe.’ I wish she would just go away so then the cold wouldn’t feel so sharp and alive. Wanting to turn and walk away, I stayed grounded to the spot.
“Hmm, I see.” She looked off over her shoulder then back at me. “Mind if I tag along? I’ve got nothing else much to do today.”
I sputtered something incomprehensible and we started going her direction.
“There’s a blowout sale at an antique store, I heard it was quite fantastic from one of my friends. We should go check it out.”
Her hair was curly today. A few spiraling locks whipped behind her, glinting pearl flakes oddly contrasting with the deep chestnut. She smiled back at me. Jesus I think I have lice.
The way to the antique store was quite random. It was all white. I think I might’ve stepped on a twig once, I couldn’t tell. We might have crossed a street, or else some idiot was driving on a lawn or the side walk.
“I hear the place has some really old, almost historic stuff, and they’re just giving it away!”
“Isn’t that the point?”
She raised her right brow, glancing at me through the corner of her eye. Damn that’s a fine looking dead tree. It could have been blow glass.
“That’s quite an itch you’ve got there.”
My fingers went numb from the cold and I jammed my fists into my coat pockets. I sniffed and mumbled something about radiation allergies from the heater near my bed.
A tiny piece-o-crap shack cowered before us, bile yellow and if my nose hair follicles weren’t so stiff I’m pretty sure it would have stunk too. The sign above the door flaked golden specks of cheap sharpie finishing and read ‘ANTIQUES’ in old English style lettering. Pa-thetic. She reached for the door handle and I snatched it before her fingers could brush the tarnished fake brass. And as life goes, of course the door was so much lighter than I had expected and it swung a million miles per hour and of course I hit myself with it. But, as smooth as I am, I kept it pressed against my shoulder after the impact. Nothing happened. I meant to swing it into myself.
“Oh,” she raised her brow, “thank you.”
My shoelaces had somehow gotten muddy. The welcome mat was interestingly woven, I’m pretty sure it was made out of hemp. Odd. It squished gently as she passed over it. I made sure not to slam the door behind me.
Well if outside was bird shit colored, inside it was piss in a cheap copper kettle colored and smelled like dying grandmother. Why did I come here? I rubbed my shoulder, missing the cold.
“Lets go to the back, there’s where all the oriental stuff is. I was really hoping to find something there.”
She took my elbow, I could feel her delicate fingers through my winter coat. Jesus it was a freaking furnace in here.
“What do you want to find?”
She smiled. “You’ll see.”
Every time she smiles her dark eyes glitter, almost mischievously. The corners of her lips go up, and her upper lip is the first to part to reveal her nice teeth. And she grunts softly, like a half laugh. She stopped and raised her left brow.
“Well look at that.”
A painting had caught her eye. It looked like baby-shit puke mashed about with a spoon. It was probably the crappiest, most uncreative, piece of—
“If you really look closely at it, it almost looks like a swirl of leaves. Almost like a canopy of tree tops if you were looking up from below. I think it’s quite serene, I feel like it’s almost like the artist was thinking of looking deep into someone’s eyes.”
—trash oil on canvas I’ve ever seen. But if you really look closely at it, it almost looks like a swirl of leaves. Like deep eyes or something like that.
“Don’t you think?”
“Yeah, deep.” What the hell? She laughed and once again began to tug me along to the back of this little piss-kettle crevice.
Piles of trinkets and Chinese…stuff were scattered about everywhere. I couldn’t even see the tables which held some of the red and gold mess at hip height. Yellowing silk cascaded to the sickly-grey floor, held on to the tables by the weight of fat man statues and red wooden dragons, each with demented-looking faces. Cracked china tea cups littered the spaces in between, and random jade figurines cluttered in a wick woven basket at the center of the tables. Yet, to my surprise, she didn’t approach the little breakable toys. She went off into a little grey corner and crouched out of my sight behind a particularly gigantic pile of red-gold crud. Out of pure curiosity, I followed.
I crouched beside her as she pulled out something wrapped in brown paper towels, obviously hidden.
“Look at this.”
She unwrapped the parcel and unveiled a black blade. It was probably the most freaking awesome blade I’ve ever seen. The handle was simple, black with a gold dragon engraved on it, and the blade itself curved like the finger of a wild black flame. It was a knife about as long as my forearm end to end and it was beautiful.
“Here.” She handed me the blade. I held it gingerly, turning it over within my hands. “Do you like it?”
I nodded, letting my eyes follow every curve of the enticing metal.
She took it back and stood.
“Let’s go then.”
I looked up, but she had already turned away. With no other choice besides to stay crouching next to shitty history until she finally disappeared, I got up and followed her to the front desk.
Mali, that’s her name.
“Hey Drew, I didn’t know you worked here.”
The man known as Drew beamed at Mali, and stood up straighter— obviously trying to impress. Asshole.
“Well you learn something new everyday.”
The man then proceeded to laugh loudly. Why was it so freaking hot in here? I squinted at him. His shirt was too tight. His face too acne-free. His nose too straight. He looked like a fucking Wal-Mart mannequin.
Mali began to engage in a short friendly conversation. A-nnoying. I kept squinting at the bastard, wishing I had laser vision. And of course, he ignored me. All of his miniscule brain was focused on Mali, since he was too dumb to do much else. And yes he was blond, and fucking tan in 12 degree weather. And bigger than I. And Mali’s cheeks were softly pink, her laugh more gentle, her eye lids almost half closed. I bet he had herpes too.
I pulled at a short spike of hair and finally just gazed around. I could see myself within every freaking piece of greasy copper shit. It was all looking at me, and collecting heat waves. I glared back, seething only at a short punk kid with black-dyed hair, a large heavy black jacket with the sleeves way too freaking long, and a spot on his face where a lip ring should be. Yeah I forgot to put it back in, screw you piss kettles!
My attention snapped back to Mali.
An itch ran up the right side of my entire head and face. In trying to relieve it I blocked out Mali with my hand.
“Yeah it’s kinda hot in here.” I said it soft enough so only Mali would hear me, or luckily, would not.
“Oh alright, let’s get out of here then. Bye Drew.”
She waved by a quick trill of the fingers. The blond hooch smiled broadly and held up a hand in farewell as he watched us leave. I held the door for Mali as she slipped by, then shot my arm straight up, middle finger in the air, and walked out.
Well I was hoping to get on with my business, wondering around aimlessly and making imaginary friends, but Mali suggested we go to this place overlooking the lake. She wanted to see the snow. Yeah, because there wasn’t enough of it right now.
I wanted to bail but ended up saying something stupid along the lines of “ice is pretty…pretty.” She ended up laughing and took hold of my arm, steering me towards the lake. The whole way there the cold pinched my cheeks and ears and the lice thrived. And the kettle heat stayed, toiling in my stomach. Why didn’t she just let go and go away?
“See? Look at this.”
We came to a cream-colored stone bridge, which matched Mali’s warm coat. Her coat had soft white faux fur in the hood’s lining which delicately framed her face and clung to a few stray curls. She had brought up her hood now that the temperature had fallen a bit. It made her look almost—
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
She smiled at me. It’s amazing how uniform the crystal formations on the trees look here.
Mali tugged me back down to the base of the bridge and I followed her around its stone wall into unpaved ground. She proceeded to climb up a boulder at the underside of the bridge’s cream-stone curve and sat at its top. I wanted to follow. So I did.
Sitting beside her, I actually looked out to see what she saw. The lake had yet to freeze over and was a mint grey; the water swallowed up large lazily falling snow puffs without even a ripple. Blowglass trees framed my view, still in their delicacy. Their branches reached across my vision and bowed to the green-silver water. Why? Why now of all times was it suddenly so fucking peaceful? I looked up at the bird shit sky and decided it was actually faux fur colored. I didn’t even feel hot or cold anymore, it was as if everything was stopping. Even the fat snow puffs which circled toward my upturned face seemed to just float there. Taking their time. Nothing is ever peaceful. This is bull.
“Has Drew been here?”
Mali raised her right brow. Well at least I imagined she did. I didn’t look at her.
“Perhaps, maybe with one of his girlfriends. I don’t know. That was random.”
The cold came back, digging its nails into my face. I perhaps mumbled something. I don’t know and I don’t care. I moved to slide off the boulder but Mali caught my hand before I could even decide to push away. She turned my hand over so my palm faced up and then unzipped her coat with her free hand. I made an incomprehensible noise. And she pulled out the plastic wrapped dagger she had just bought and placed it in my palm and closed my fingers over it. I just stared.
“Happy Birthday Adam.” She whispered.
I couldn’t even blink.
“I’ve been wanting to get that for you for sometime, but I didn’t know if you’d like it.”
Mali looked down at her hands then back at me.
“Lucky I saw you today right?”
I swallowed. She leaned in and kissed my cheek.
“Well I’ve got to go, I was suppose to be home a little bit ago. I’ll see you around?”
I blinked. Then she was gone.
I just sat there, holding the crinkling plastic in both hands. The wind picked up, sending glass trees and fat puffs whirling and crashing into each other. I brought the plastic to my chest and held it there.
“Mali, I didn’t even know your name.”