Rachel’s a gangster. Disappointed by the trainloads of broken promises rumbling past as she hangs from the earth, desperate and alone. Her rage walks with her, a dance partner that never let her down. She became a feather when the wind drew mimes around her forehead. But the insistence was on crushing ice with her teeth and staring into sets of eyes lost in the machinery. Dabbling in the arts without shape and distance her hands found her own skin and traced her legs from shadows on the ceiling.
“It’s not fair,” each night whispered. She would lick and stamp the days of the week and send them to her acquaintances never really knowing where they were. Muttering the chants she heard on TV as it rambled in the background of her mother’s bathrobe trailer, slumped to one side in the drive-in movie circle where puddles form. She could only dream of the art she loved, she could only fall back into herself and the hands that would not produce the art she loved. World war poisoned her heart, but the DADA movement she read about was a place to hide from reality. Save her dreams painted by her imagination, she was frozen in a world that she didn’t want.
She would leave early for the five & dime. She stayed late near the bus stop. She would walk every small-town mile like a length of string, speechless wheels and rubber streets reflected in her eyes to advertise her footsteps. Steps that always bleed.
Perhaps tonight she might be robbed or kidnapped. Or maybe her reflection might take her to a dance at the Rocket Lounge.
She walks past the night as it drips dew and begs for absolution. Wrapped ever tighter in her ankle length coat, she headed home without the effort of too much thought. Store fronts shrug off her reflection. She passes and fades like windblown litter. No echo reports her approach. The gravel beneath her feet is silent, sometimes a car will pass, it tumbles without touching anything and then fades from her hearing. She’s a nursery rhyme. “Ladybug, ladybug fly away home.” Nearer to her destination ever nearer to the empty broken carousel sitting on its side burning up space, a heart living in shadows.
An hour of the night finds her sitting on the front steps, looking at the moon in the trees and separating the players for the long ride. A ride she is not ready for.
Her southern drawl flew above windy passes. Gone before she could feel how soft the yielding grass. She spoke to yesterday, so easy, reciting the past. Gypsies tossing a tambourine, a spell she meant to cast. A willow in the distance bent by breezes far away. Logic bows to silence. Her heart wants her to stay. Bricks line walkways wet with moon, electric blue shades the dawn, the looking glass of dreams fades.
She turns slowly, easing her heart into her abandoned soul.
Far beyond the gentle power of her reality, past her poets’ words where passion hides, she pulls herself close. Far closer than flesh allows. She melts again, slowly into embers, warm, cradling herself in the energy that captures her. Stained glass shades draw over her like darkness on a new moon. The sound of liquid roadways falls the way rain does. Large dark oval eyes see her lying in wakefulness, waiting for sleep to liberate her from pallets dabbed with the colors of the night. Tumbling into the abyss of her own thoughts, there are places lit with ambiance beneath stone lamps wet with starlight. Looking up to the people staring down, seeing through train cars riding on. Whose carousel is dangling from her finger behind nickelodeon dreams? Getting away on horses running from thunder over green fields of smiling naked ladies giddy in the sunlight.
As she turns, her place is stolen by figures moody, shallow and brisk. Laughing barkers bend ugly mouths in her direction. Hands pull at her and fog horns tear each ember causing it to burn her, causing it to fall from her sky like postcards filling her letterbox until she can’t see. Blindness is her wealthy friend, treating her to music in her kitchen. It remains a forest of temperamental cattails pointing at her, telling stories of her past, bowing to tales of white nights and long roads traveled just before winter.
Snowy drifts, forgotten mountains long frozen haunt the inn for long draughts of ale in yellow candle shade. By the will of winter, they shiver under hats of hide and smoky places near the fire. Surrounding bards’ yarn, beyond brisk wind and ice, a stranger from the highlands sits silent and alone, staring at the lass near the long end of the town table. Empty kegs and old dogs fill the room nearest the flame. His warm blue eyes call her. She feels so flush as she tries to look the other way, but still her longing brushes past a heartbroken once by a boy with those same eyes. Finally, she looks toward him. Seeing he’s not in his place, she turns and stands only to find him there. Face to face, he smiles and speaks like all men do, teasing her with flattery, arousing curiosity as he looks straight into her eyes.
“Are you here for the warm fire or do you perhaps have a room here? A rest before you travel on?”
“I have a room, but it’s a room that I live in, Sir.”
“Ah! You live here. Such a willowy love as yourself might have had many men pursuing her.”
“I’m sure you’re mistaken and I believe I’ve already revealed too much to a stranger.”
“Well we must do something to end my strangeness. Good evening my lady. They call me Elhan. I’m a traveler and bounty man. What rare bird have I the pleasure of speaking to?”
She loved being trapped by his smile, she hated wanting to give in.
“Tara Lee good Sir. Now if you’ve gained the upper hand with me, I’m sure I want to be alone by the fire.”
“Gaining the upper hand would consist of holding you in my arms forever, sweet Tara Lee. Falling short of that would break my spirit from this day forward.”
“Well I certainly wouldn’t want to be the object that destroyed you, now would I?”
“I’ve hunted bad men down in the farthest forest and chased them over all seven oceans. But nothing I’ve known is so hard to tether as a woman’s heart.”
“Perhaps dear Sir, you’re using bait that women don’t care for.”
“Maybe a walk under the misty moon will cause you to long for a warm embrace?”
“Perhaps my wrap will keep me warm enough.”
“Then let us stroll among the stars and find out which it is.”
Her heart was letting her override her senses, but he was much too hard to excuse and a walk with a handsome man sounded sweet. She wrapped herself tightly in a woolen shawl. Stepping into the night, they turned towards the water’s edge. She took his arm. His voice rolled with the breezes as he told her of his life. They stopped at the water and turned to each other. Their eyes locked. He whispered her beauty. She lifted herself to him. Just before their lips touched…
Rachel opened her eyes locking on the cold grey stairs leading into the leaning mobile home. The peeling grey paint turned up and twisted over dry old wood that it once covered. Warped steps lead up to the broken screen door that hung by two rusty hinges. She looked into the hollow night sky and wished past the treetops. No handsome stranger would be there to walk with her. No fire at the inn to warm her. She raised herself up and turned toward the door, pulled her coat up and left her dreams for the starry heavens.