casting shadows

There was a trash can on fire outside of your apartment this afternoon. I'd been walking through the streets in a haze, staring at the sky, wondering if it was always so empty, if the clouds of winter were doing us a favor by hiding that vast expanse of shapeless blue. There was no one to be seen anywhere in this city. If the sun wasn't at my back casting my shadow, I wouldn't even have believed that I was out there.

I stood there and watched it burn, red flames licking out of the black metal, warping the air above it, spitting a little cloud of black smoke. The flames focused my mind--it felt like weeks since I've had any sort of mental clarity--on the message I knew you must be sending. What else could it mean? No one else walked under this empty sky. But the signal was anything but clear. I hoped you wanted to leave this world in flames with me, but when I finally walked in you gave no sign.

The thought of this message gave me purpose under this empty sky. I searched for patterns in your speech when you greeted me, in how you would look at me or not look at me, how you touched me and kissed me and undressed me, but there was nothing. That night, as I watched you sleep, listening for patterns in your breathing that might betray your message, your intentions, I was struck with the certainty that there was no message. You had intended nothing for me. And so my purpose faded, my mind adrift once more.

I went outside to smoke a cigarette, and the sudden impulse struck me to throw the burning cigarette into the same trash can. It didn't catch, and I was alone in the dark. The streets, the sky were still empty as they'd ever been, and there was nothing to focus my mind anymore--just the dull buzz of the streetlights, casting my shadow across the sidewalk. I stepped behind a tree, shielded from its light, and closed my eyes and let the dark empty streets swallow me.

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