Friday, October 15, 2010
Short fiction: "Fishbowl"
I step off the train and am instantly embraced. It has been a long time since Larry and I have seen each other. How long? How long? The money has not changed him at all at first glance. His shoes are well-worn. His hair needs cutting. He has lost weight, I think. He tells me that he tried growing a goatee, but shaved it off his last day in Denver. You should have waited to let me see it, I say. Don’t worry, he says, I took Polaroids. (Yes, he says Polaroids.)
I can’t remember if we walk or take a cab. Larry babbles about his kids, his business, quantum mechanics. I babble about my life to him, my career change, my divorce. I keep trying to remember how we were when we were 14 and I helped him with his paper route after school. How much have we changed?
I didn’t know they had apartments in the John Hancock Building. Larry is renting a penthouse suite. Modern furniture. Everything black. The entire south wall of the living room is glass. We are giants and Lake Michigan laps at our toes.
The lights are dim. There is faint music in the background. Tortured, beautiful. A woman’s voice, dry, cracking. Barely audible above the music, there is no sign of emotion in that voice, no anger or tears. Unfeeling but fully resolved she repeats over and over, I can give you no more. I can give you no more.
Larry returns with my drink. He finds me with my forehead against the cold glass, my breath clouding over the stars. Looks like a storm, I say, noting the lightning dancing among the skyscrapers.
What people don’t realize, Larry says, is that there is almost always some lightning up this high in the city. It’s just not bright enough to be seen at ground-level.
Beautiful, I say. And it is. Below us, the great lake stirs restlessly and waves roll in and crash silently against the shore. The wind howls. I sip my Scotch slowly.
This is living, says Larry, as he sinks into a huge black chair and puts his feet up. I don’t move from the window. I hear Larry humming to the music. I have no more. I can give you no more.
The waves are growing in size. I see the lights of the city below. Floating. Blurry. The toy cars are washed from Lake Shore Drive, their headlights dancing, bobbing in the waves before sinking into blackness.
I turn to look at Larry. He is babbling again about Colorado, about his kids. When are they coming here, I ask. His reply is vague.
The waves continue to grow. Streets are swiftly becoming rivers. The roar of the rain is deafening. I can feel the building shake. There is mist on the window, and the electricity flickers.
It’s all right, Larry says, we’re not in danger. But I am not concerned. Ahead of me and to my right I can see the top few floors of the Aon Center, illuminated by lightning, battered by waves. Nothing else is visible beneath the cold, black water.
And then we are covered completely, and there is water coming in around the edges of the window. Larry laughs about building codes. Do you know how much I am paying for this place? He is laughing hysterically. Too much, I think. He is laughing so hard he is choking. I close my eyes and try to let the crashing waves drown out his voice.
Cracks widen in the walls and ceiling, and we are tossed about the room by the invading water. I lose my drink. My grip on it was too relaxed. I know I must brace myself, but I feel indifferent.
And the water is not so cold after all.