No One to Miss

by

She may remember how the air sounds, late in the morning, once a bird has stopped singing and gone away. She might consider her own stillness—or how the bedroom, in a way, has become empty. Her fingers, gathered together softly, are somewhat in the position of a hand holding a pen, which makes it seem as if she’ll soon begin writing, once she can remember what she’s forgotten—the color she sees when her eyes are closed, maybe, or her name—certain words.

The view of a path which stretches, like his or her body, out ahead of him—a path with rows of nameless trees on each side; tall trees, which lean toward one another, creating a roof of some sort, or a small night. He loiters at the beginning of the path, with his hands in his pockets. There, he looks down the path as far as he can, lonely, like someone lost in a hotel hallway. He assumes he knows where the path leads. He can imagine what will be there—at the end—so that, when words return, a small list of what would not have been there may be made: wicker chairs in a garden, a pulling of wind, some laundry-line of outgrown dresses. Nothing to see for himself.

Small moments of feeling nothing beneath her feet; the sensation set in pattern above the sheets. She thinks to herself without words. She notes the clearness of space. Meanwhile, language comes rushing across the well-groomed plane (the constant field; the unnoted silence), chasing her, like a parent. She isn’t amazed by her feet continuously finding an object of hardness. There’s this ladder that she’s got to get down.

[The dancer—wearing a black leotard beneath a black skirt, which plumes outward at the waist—flirts with what’s the center of the stage, while the audience, in the dark, watches. She rolls her shoulders, and then her hips, as she dances in a tightening circle—which, in turn, creates another circle within the circle she’s drawn, a lonelier and smaller place, where she designates her absence. And she watches without sound, or sympathy—as she spins—this enclosing. Lifting her hand, she touches her cheek. Then, for no certain reason, a low wave of applause scatters through the blind.]

“An empty branch,” says a sudden gust of vacuity, “is too unremarkable to be the site of life in the future. How can stillness promote an act of relocation?” And the condom is withdrawn.

She remembers the story she heard as a girl, the one about the woman who took a felling axe from the shed behind the house, late at night, when her husband was sleeping. The story about how the woman walked into the woods beyond her field, wearing her nightgown—the head of the axe, the bit, dragging through the grass behind her and, in doing so, forming a trail. She remembers how she heard the story many times, since the woman lived in a small town—the one where she grew up—and how, in some versions of the story, there would be a light falling of rain. She recalls the way certain tellers of the story would lower their voices as they told her this part: how, come morning, the husband woke and followed the trail of the axe—and, as he went, they said, he could he hear what he thought was thunder. The husband walked into the woods and came upon an unexpected clearing, a circle of recently downed pine trees, where he found his wife sitting in the grass. And it was never raining anymore, now. There was always a clean morning light shining on the woman. She had the axe—the tellers said—and the hem of her nightgown pulled above her crotch. And the husband could only watch—they told her—as his wife, surrounded by the blooming stumps she had made, cut lines into her thigh. And she remembers how the women, as they ended the story, would explain quite plainly the blood dripping on the needles beneath her, unlike the men, who never seemed to mention the color of a low burning fire, or the relief in the quietness.

He stares over at the bedroom door, the embalmed wood, which is locked, although he is alone. He touches his body, now calm, or muted, like another piece of architecture.

[The dancer, who has all this time been moving, takes a moment to be still. Speaking of light, there’s only the single band of some unseen spotlight. It falls from the ceiling, out of a darkness more complete than the layer spread over the audience, to land in a circle around the body of the dancer. The dancer and the light, like sisters, are taking a long moment to be still. Because of this, someone near the stage can observe the freckle on her shoulder. Someone can observe that it is large, brown, and oddly-shaped, somewhere between the outline of a rowboat and the body of a mattress: a space of disparity which is vast enough to recall, strangely, the feeling of waking late at night without knowing who or where you are, there in the dark, as only someone—the clock, on the far wall, heard but not seen. Then the dancer steps backwards, twice, leaving the light in front of her. Everyone attempts to feel sure she’s still there, just beyond their vision, meaning past the location of the light: off, within the fullness of the dark.]

An empty bedroom can mean different pictures: 1) bedroom unpopulated by a thing that’s alive enough, or conscious enough, to understand the space it occupies is a bedroom; 2) room with no decorations, dresser, or shelves; no books or clothes on the floor, a room without even a bed, which may not be a bedroom; 3) a field without houses, walls, fences, or trees; unlit.

His ( body stretched across the mattress on his back; a freedom of hair on display, the overgrown grass of him: a slight reminiscence, while watching his chest, of some abandoned backyard where she used to lay as a child. Yet there’s no one to call her home, now, when she’s already there. Memory extends and then returns. She watches his penis, as it shrinks, forgetting what she meant to him, only a moment before) or her (on her side by his side, one knee on top of the other; the door now closed. She closes her eyes when he looks at her. It’s a pleasure to let his vision roll down her body and not be surprised. The falls, the rises—her neck and her waist—he navigates the turns of her skin like a man driving home. During the length of her thigh, the wheel is released; the quiet of the night takes over. Between them, there is either nothing to say or the luxury of sharing silence, from body to) body. There’s the feeling of missing someone, with no one to miss.

With the windows open, with a thin cloud set before the sun, the light in the room shines in a soft and ashy hue of yellow. And the feeling within the room, like a small feeling of loneliness, seems to nestle inside the cavity of her chest, where it feels somewhat warm, somewhat fibrous, as if she could unbutton her shirt and begin unbraiding her sternum; as if she could dig hands into her body, past skin and past bone, and put her fingers on the feeling (the light (the room)) and untangle each and every thing.

[When the light finds her again, she is already dancing with all of her body. A good dancer, like the dancer that is here, humiliates the air above a stage. She reveals the emptiness around her. She does this without the sadness of language. And the audience—because the end of the dance, which is coming soon, will mark only the end of itself, and not the end of such things as walking alone through one house or another in the morning, or discussing the weather when there’s nothing to discuss, or starting over—the audience is preparing, in silence, to describe what they have seen, along with what they haven’t, and just however they can, or like we have.]

 
 
 
Travis Vick’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Booth, H_NGM_N, The Mid-American Review, PANK, Parcel, Waxwing, Wordriot, and others. He is from Texas.