The Same Streetlamp

January 12, 2008
By Nicholas Mecikalski, Madison, AL

He arrived at the same streetlamp every day. Every day, at the same time, right before the streetlamp cautiously flickered on, like a tired old man lost in the regrets of his past. Just enough time to close his eyes, grope down and feel the nostalgia of the ring resting humbly in his pocket tingle the tips of his fingers,
and remember her.

Within the recesses of his closed eyes, she lay sprawled there on the park bench, a stream of blood trickling ominously from the corner of her mouth. Strands of chestnut hair dangled carelessly across her pleading eyes, death’s grasp closing in on her etched face. Each breath struggled its way in and out of her lungs, each blink closing in more and more on her everlasting sleep. Delicately, she slid the wedding ring off her finger, the weight of the moment muting the sirens in the background that constantly clung to the back of his mind.

Go take it and sell it, she said, make something useful out of it, because our love doesn’t need to be channeled through a hunk of metal. With a cheerless smile and a waterfall of salty tears raining down on his cheeks, he clutched her hand, squeezing it as if he were clinging to the last strands that kept that stream of blood from trickling the life out of her.
Her mouth creaked ajar, her voice cracking into a few barely audible words that fought to reach his ears beyond his own rasping sobs.

“I…always thought…that we—”

And the whisper was snatched away by the icy cold stroke of the wind, a connection never to be made, an idea never to resurface, her eyes surrendering helplessly to death’s eternal, empty gaze. All she had been, all her smiles and ideas and spirit, all drowning in the wisp of wind, sifting out through those gaping eyes. And with the emptiness of those eyes that had stepped through life with him for the past twenty years came the darkness. The darkness that enshrouded him, constricting his sobs and dumping all its faults on his shoulders. The darkness that failed to notice the panicked lights of police cars that threw dancing beams on the surrounding buildings, failed to notice the squawks of walkie-talkies or the hurried, hustled shouts of frantic men and women that entombed the air with panic. All the darkness was watching was the one, empty man kneeling at the foot of his dead wife. The man who glimpsed, in the corner of his eye, a streetlamp across the road, and above the screams and dancing beams and ever-enshrouding panic, a streetlamp flicker on like a tired old man lost in the regrets of his past,

just as he’d open his eyes every day, as he let the ring slide back into the seclusion of his pocket, so that today, maybe, just maybe, he’d hear what she was about to say.

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