“Orbiting”

By: Rebeka Singer

Evening rain seeped into the city ground to sleep that night. The boys wandered down alleys, jumped fences because they could, and ran through the dorm corridors for recruits. They found Sharon and Ashley in their room, readying for the night. The dresser door hung open and clothing collected in corners. They enlisted the girls to join them in their aimless revelry. “The night will be dreamless, and boundless.” They bartered promises for company.

Charlie had just taken his final exam earlier that day. It was the last day before holidays began. Then they would return home for a winter hiatus of boredom, Christmas turkeys and lousy reunions. The kind when everyone pretends that they have their life together and, over cheap cocktails parading as symbols of sophistication, smiles broadly at one another, bearing teeth, to convey post-adolescent success.

What were they in the day but a bunch of college kids? The world wasn’t looking now.

Ashley stroked on her eyeliner in the mirror above her bunk bed. Charlie clutched a bar on the battered wooden ladder, leading up to Ashley. The bed swung ever so slightly as he pulled on the bar and shifted his weight outward.

Walt eyed Sharon’s smooth hand reaching for his arm. Her shirt rose as she stretched out for him and a bundle of bracelets slunk to her elbow, exposing the white of her wrist. Walt shuddered at the sight of its vulnerable flesh. Even when they used to date, he never grasped her delicate wrists in affection, but preferred her sturdy shoulders and silky neck.

They navigated the maze-like halls, passed around a bottle of gin and cola. They laughed and leaned into each other’s bodies.

December nights are cold.

The December cold freezes memories: pictures with captions. Feeling and fact are muddled.

Outside, Ashley’s eyelids were silver dust. The wind swept that dust through the air.

Tiny particles glint under the streetlights.

To Charlie, Ashley’s eyes shone something feral, something stirring, and he longed for the gaze of those dark eyes, the blackest he had ever seen.

The streets were quiet, whispers under foot. Those lost side streets, lined with tenements and markets and underground fetish bars, slept that night—on the outside. The city was a continent all its own. There was too much ground to cover in the waning hours until morning. They trespassed that continent.

“Look at us!” Sharon lifted her arms above her head, reaching her fingerless-gloved hands to the heavens. “We’re like outlaws.”

They wandered into a convenience store. The Indian clerk eyed their ashen skin. The boys bartered money for cigarettes and beer.

The four sat on the steps in front of a small deserted park. Walt administered each team member their share. Ashley and Sharon embraced and took long drags of their cigarettes. Everyone drank until the bottles were empty.

They spun softly in their newfound states of existence. The shiny streets fused with the moonless night and lit up the skies. Their eyes glowed something wild. Their eyes glowed triumph. Trespassers; now, proprietors of that continent beneath their feet; its atmosphere cradled their unsteady movements.

Ever forward.

The sky grayed over the Hudson. Lit bridges faded into the earliest hours of day. The lights of the city dulled and the sun peaked through the low, heavy clouds. The sunrise was just a color that time of year. You couldn’t feel its warmth blanketing the Earth. Just a vision, so far far away.

They wandered through the tangled city, tangled in each other’s arms, tangled in their minds.

A version of “Orbiting” will be published in Linguistic Erosion on January 2, 2014. 

In “Orbiting” I set out to write about a group of college students trying to carve out a space to inhabit in a world that doesn’t necessarily accommodate the transitional nature of their no longer adolescent, but not yet adult stage of life. It’s a story about existing somewhere in the middle, about feeling lost, and about friendship.

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