you are walking down the street

Short story by Lexi Vranick

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You are walking down the street.

It is dark, but the moon is bright. There are street lights. The street lights flicker. Their yellow glow flutters like fireflies. They blink like stars. You are in a pool of light. You are in the dark. Pool of light. Dark. The change happens so quickly that you don’t even notice it. It just happens. Dark. Light. Dark. Light. Dark.

You are walking in the dark.

You are going home.

Home is a tall building made of bricks. It juts up into the sky. Its windows wink- little squares of light cut out against the deep, dark sky. The people inside are busy with their lives. They close their curtains. They shut their blinds. They do not look outside. They do not see you, but you see them. You see all of them. You see that they are afraid. You see that they are excited. You see that they are happy, that they are in love, that they are angry, that they are terrified and elated all at once. They all feel so much. You think it will make you burst.  

You stop at a crosswalk.

There is a man on the other side. He stands on the street corner in a pool of yellow light. The light flickers, and the man is swallowed by shadows. Light. Shadows. Light. Shadows. The man is looking at you. He tips his hat.

“Wait,” says the crossing meter. “Wait,” it repeats. A big red hand burns on its black surface. It flashes once, twice, and is replaced by a small figure with forward momentum. You walk like the figure: forward. The man walks forward, too.

You walk through the man.

You see the things behind his eyes; the things he keeps inside, the things no one is meant to see. You see the mirror he looks in every morning. You see his breakfast table. You see his desk with work still on it, ready and waiting for Monday sunrise to pick it up again. You see the flowers at his father’s funeral. You see the way he cried. You feel the hollow in his chest. You are the man.

The man looks at you. You do not look back. You do not need to. The man calls you a freak. The man is scared of you. You know this although the man does not speak either thought aloud. You know this because he feels this. You know this because you have felt it, too.

This is a gift. This is a curse.

You are walking down the street.

You hold your head down. You watch the sidewalk pass beneath your feet. You are going home. You count the steps until you make it to the tall building of bricks. You are going home. You watch the yellow street lights splash their shaky yellow light in circles on the ground. It is light. It is dark. It is light. It is dark. You hear everything. You hear nothing. You feel everything. You feel everything. You feel everything.

The world is too loud. The dark does not quiet it nearly enough.

You are walking down the street.

A hundred people are walking down the street.

You hear them all.

You are going home, and home buzzes with a million little honeybee thoughts. People are yelling. People are crying. People are screaming. It is quiet. It is deafening.

You live on the third floor. You count the stairs all the way up. You are breathless. You are exhausted. You are going home.

The door yawns open. It swallows you whole.