On the Ground
The leaves are on the ground and you think it is too bad that they are dead. They are dead when a wind blows and they dance; they are dead when they are too crisp to crunch but still do. They are dead, but they are red, orange, and yellow; they are beautiful. You smile.
You go inside. The woman from floor three is waiting for the elevator with her son. She grabs his hand and sucks on her cigarette when she sees you. You go to check your mailbox even though it is too early for deliveries. The elevator closes with the woman from the third floor and her son. You walk to the elevator and push the up button.
You are going to floor seven, but you stop on floor five. The door opens to a man you know. He sees you and looks at his feet. “Going down?” he asks.
“Going up,” you answer.
He will wait for the other elevator. He does not want to ride with you. You understand.
The elevator stops on seven. There is no one in the hallway, but the window is open. You pass your door and look: children are laughing, screaming, jumping in leaves. You try to remember doing that when you were younger; you cannot. You don’t see their faces, but you know they are smiling.
You walk to your room and see the note on the door. It is an eviction notice and it is printed in red ink. You’ve paid your bills on time, but that is not why it’s there. You can be evicted if complaints say you make too much noise, if they say you do not follow safety regulations, if they say you are a criminal. These complaints were contagious: they spread like Salem’s.
You take it down and smile again. Smiles, like eviction notices, can be from more than one thing. You open your door.
Your newspaper is where you left it; it still has your face and license number on the front page. There are three other pictures, but you can’t look at those. If you had known you’d be next to those, you wouldn’t have risked it. You wouldn’t have had a drink. Or another. You wouldn’t have insisted you could drive and wouldn’t have kept driving. You wouldn’t have left them if you had known what you did. But you did.
Someone knocks on the door. You go to it, but you don’t open it. You lock and bolt it.
The knocking gets louder.
You open your window. You can see the kids playing, but they are too far away to hear. You think that is a good thing.
There are voices with the knocking. They know you are there and they have a warrant.
You are sorry. But you are too sorry to think about why you are sorry. You laugh and smile and try not to think about what you have done and what you are about to do.
You pull yourself into the window. You breathe and the door breaks open.
You are falling. The leaves are on the ground and soon you will be too. You hope your life will be remembered as beautiful.
N.E. Matin has previously been published in The Blotter Literary Magazine. Next year, Matin plans to attend University of Iowa to study English and Creative Writing. To contact Matin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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