Editor’s Note: This is one of my favorite short stories I’ve ever written.
There was a bite to the air, as there often was late at night. The area was desolate, as if mourning the gloomy weather. The waves lapping against the shore were the only sound to be heard, other than an occasional rumble in the distance. There were faint streaks of cerise cutting through the swaths of blackness in the night sky, but they were nearly impossible to spot with the naked eye. The moon glimmered from behind a small cluster of clouds, affording minimal light to anyone intrepid enough to venture out. The beach was deserted, properly so, as it would be unwise for anyone to stumble upon the sands in the dead of night.
There was one brave soul, looking impossibly small as she stood on the cliff high above the ocean. Even though the night was chilly, she was wearing only a thin carnelian dress that could more rightfully be labeled a slip. She didn’t seem to be affected by the cold as she twirled in the dark, her hands extended exultantly to the sky. Her burgundy-painted lips stretched into a generous smile as she soaked up the frigid atmosphere. There was condensation in the air—signaling an imminent rainfall. She squared her shoulder and straightened her spine as she took her first step forward.
San Francisco. She looked around her tiny crackerjack box studio in Bernal Heights. She thought her studio in Minneapolis had been small; it was palatial compared to this prison cell. She could stretch out her arms and touch the wall on either side of her. Slight exaggeration, but not much of one—and the place cost her twice what her studio in Minneapolis had. The walls were an ugly salmon pink, and the paint was crumbling in the corners. She hated pink. She hated crumbling paint. She hated corners. She hated hills. She flopped down on the futon and stared at the stucco ceiling instead so she wouldn’t have to deal with the glaring defects of her new home.
The next few weeks passed in a haze. No job, no school, no friends, no life, no prospects. Each day bled into the next. She’d wake up and lie on her futon, staring at the ceiling for hours. Many minutes would pass before she’d remember to blink. By then, her eyes would be dried out, and shutting them would literally hurt. The stucco swirled before her eyes as she stared and stared. Like a Dali painting, shapes began to emerge when she softened her gaze but didn’t actually close her eyes. Voluptuous nude female figures recumbent, standing erect, doubled over, flirting, making love with each other. When she’d found the last hidden figure for the day, only then would she drag herself out of bed and throw herself into the shower in order to eat up some of the interminable time that suffocated her days. Sure, she could have done something useful like paint the walls a different color – a bright coral would have been nice – but that would have taken energy she just couldn’t spare.