By Catherine Martinez Torigian
The last time I heard that sound I was a girl of fifteen, give or take a year. But it was only this morning that I realized it what it was, like a flash of heat lightning on a summer’s day, baffling until the thunder came.
A man and woman from the new building on the corner walked by and I drew back, blending into the house so they wouldn’t see me. The woman said, those crazy bastards, they nearly smashed into the pizzeria, and two ambulances and three police cars had to clean it up, but what did you expect with the streets deserted?
Half a century had gone, yet suddenly I was there again, the slats of the Venetian blind threatening to cut my fingers. Not that I could see anything anyway, out a window that opened the wrong way. But I could hear the drone and roar of the engines on those unairconditioned, sleepless nights.
And now, at the start of a pestilential spring, they were back. Different boys, different cars, everything different. But the siren song that rose from the new grass and pulsed in their young veins was the same. Death and disease laughable, then and now.
Now there was no one left to stop me going. I held the broom still until the couple was gone, then swept every dead leaf-shard into the pan and dropped them in the trash. I could go now if I wanted. There was nothing left to do.
They always came out at night, should I go back inside to wait? It seemed silly, suddenly. Not slowly, gradually, the way everything around here had changed, streets widened, buildings were torn down and built up taller. Not the house. It was still the same. Together, the house and I made a window into the past, one of us static, the other mobile. Not fast, not reckless. Moving slowly toward the present. Feeling its pulse in my veins.
I sat on the front stoop. Everyone who passed by would see me and I would see them. I would wait there instead of going inside.
But no one else came down the sidewalk. The sun sank low and the sky on one side grew darker.
It was then that I wondered, suddenly, for the first time, how they even did it. How they dared – then and now – not believe they could perish from the earth. How was it possible? The dark dropped like a curtain. Slatted clouds, massed to the horizon, stopped any last sliver of light escaping.
But the house was there behind me. I rose and closed myself inside, desperate with longing. I flipped the bolt and cradled my head against the door.
Raised in an immigrant, working-class family in Brooklyn, NY, with a father who served in the military and a mother whose artistic ambitions were abandoned for a life of waiting tables, Catherine Martinez Torigian seeks to illuminate the passions and frustrations of people often overlooked. Before writing fiction, she taught Latin and ancient Greek, and her short story, “King,” appeared in Bellowing Ark, vol. 16, no. 4. She’s currently working on a novel, The Rose of Heaven.
© Catherine Martinez Torigian
Photo Credit: © Gessy Alvarez