Cole Santos sat cross legged on his bed and tore open the letter for which he’d been waiting. In the weeks before its arrival he woke up early with a pounding heart, felt sweat in his palms whenever he checked the mailbox, and allowed himself to entertain fantasies about its possibly positive contents.
Cole read the letter. When he finished he folded it neatly, inserted it back into its envelope and gently placed the letter on the bedspread in front of him. Something moved inside him. He inhaled and expanded his chest. He exhaled and collapsed his chest. He felt stillness within him once more. Cole raised one hand and looked at it. He clenched it into a fist before relaxing it and opening his palm. He repeated this several times. When he finished Cole placed both hands on his knees.
A familiar and chilling tingle spread through his body. It brought mild goose bumps out on his arms. It slackened his muscles. His mind thought about moving for a long time but his body remained perfectly still. He worried about this feeling after the first time it crept into him, but this time it felt like the embrace of an old friend. The feeling’s reliability silenced any internal conflict he had about its negative qualities. The feeling was not one of nothing itself. It felt like the only thing that comforted Cole when all else retreated and left him alone in black seas of infinite. He welcomed its presence as it inhabited him and shut down his senses, the senses which burned with rising passion and searing pain in alternating order when left to his own control.
Cole’s eyelids began hanging heavily over the tops of his eyes. His lips rested together and his mouth didn’t move as his nerves froze. His pupils darted around his surroundings, looking indirectly at the frayed fabric where the carpet met the wall, at the top of a distant building through the window and at the digital clock’s still numbers in the eternity it took for a minute to pass. At last they looked up, half at the monotone, gray plaster ceiling above and half into his own skull. He blinked slowly and stared straight ahead, his detached gaze looking through everything in front of him instead of at it. Cole’s face reassumed the same catatonic stare he’d worn while motionless and seated behind his office’s desk at four-fifteen pm on a Wednesday, that he’d worn while in the wicker basket of a hot air balloon three thousand feet above the Arizona desert, and that he’d worn while walking past the scene of a minutes old shooting on the streets of San Francisco’s tenderloin district.
Thoughts began and died away half-finished in his head.
What if I waited for-
Maybe if I just-
Is it because-
Why does it always-
Cole remembered someone telling him once that all the strung together moments of absence, pain and isolation in life would one day dissolve and become validated by the arrival of a golden, majestic reality, indescribable because no one had yet received it, but which could, and indeed would arrive any day now, as long as time continued marching forward.
Cole felt the need to lie down under his blankets and appropriate the darkness beneath them. The chill within him blossomed into a winter’s fog that surrounded Cole, terraforming the space around him into a frigid and anesthetized eternity, a room of his own which he’d been to before and that he’d come back to again.
Author’s Note: I read this piece to a friend shortly after I wrote it. She commented on how in the story, despite its brevity, a lot seems to happen in just three seconds of time. Until then I never considered how much chronological time actually passes in my stories when frozen moments like descriptions of place, inner thoughts, and interior monologues are factored in. I was pleased to hear that, though, because this piece was an attempt to zero in on, isolate, and examine the instantaneous heart of a moment by cutting straight to the bone, so to speak. I wanted to examine someone’s reaction to something by only presenting that which is present during the three second gut instinct reaction one feels before logical and rational thought begins sorting through the surge.