The Year of Fire and—
A man was frozen in a block of ice for a year and a half.
That was his perception upon hearing the news. The doctor stood before him in an oversized, white lab coat and matching white clipboard. He tried to imagine the doctor with a tube running from his nose to match his own. Together, they would look like a pair of aliens.
He cleared his throat gruffly. “So what’s the story, doc?” His voice was lower than he remembered.
“Well…” the doctor hesitated. The man watched him flip through a few pages, knowing his eyes saw nothing. “Well, Robert, there was an accident…”
He seemed to come to terms with this. “You were in an accident.”
The man had never been one to need much bedside manner. Information was what he needed. “How long have I been here?” Cleared his throat.
The doctor shuffled, looked down at his feet. “Look, Robert—“
“How long have I been here, doc?”
Pursed his lips. Looked older. “A year and a half.”
A pause. It was as if the room were filled with pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds and flowers. And snow. Rain on the windows.
The room was filled with silence.
He hardly dared to break it. “Did anyone come to see me?”
The doctor hesitated again, blue eyes to brown eyes. The man realized how young the doctor was.
The answer was evident. They wouldn’t have found any family to send for. Not a wife or girlfriend. He vaguely remembered a woman from a side street bar, the stroller stored in the back room away from the noise. A blanket the color of desert sand.
Without another word, he sent the doctor away. The white coat swept from the room like a flag.
The man cycled through the room like a broken circuit. She wouldn’t have come. He remembered the way the music had throbbed through the bottles of beer, clusters of shot glasses. The main bar needed to be cleaned. Strands of deep brown hair slipped and curled from her ponytail.
The room was too white, walls and bed sheets. He finally met the silence with the creak of the window on its hinges. He watched the room change. The bed sheets became pregnant with wind. Old diagnoses drifted to the floor in soft tongues. There were dried flies in the window sill.
The first time he met her, he noticed the baby had blue eyes like his own. The night at the bar, he was asleep under the blanket in the back room, the door ajar. The rush of sounds lulled him to sleep.
The room was dark with leftover sunlight. As the sky disappeared, he counted the stars. Said prayers on each one. Like a pulse. The wind became ice.
With each star, he let go. The strands of hair tucked behind her ear. The blue eyes. Desert sand. He remembered how delicate her wrists looked in quarter-length sleeves. The small strands of blond hair, darkening around the roots on the child’s head. The transition of songs.
He stopped moving. Focused on the chill in the breeze. The bed sheets had fallen back into place. The old papers had shifted into the doorway, under the bed.
By morning the man had turned to stone.