The West |


by Marco Lean

edited by Kate Folk

Lorraine’s listening.


Is that rustling?

Lorraine opens her mouth to breathe with stillness;
her full aloof lips slightly apart—a louvre for the quiet air.


Lorraine breathes the camouflaged breaths of her childhood.


She listens.


This is the only manner of breathing, she thinks, when a monster is hovering above you.


Rustling! Definite rustling.

More rustling.


A moan. Another moan.

Lorraine hears a moan of milk and honey.

A hoveringly rapturous moan.


Lorraine’s face tingles. 

Lorraine feels, at the base of her throat, a warm and pitiless loss. 


Lorraine covers her mouth with her hand. She breathes out of her nose and into her hand and then she breathes in again.


She smells her ring’s warm metal. A smell that she feels in her teeth, that hurts.

Well, thinks Lorraine.


Well. I guess he is.

She pivots; tiptoes to table in middle of room. 


Lorraine unholsters the guidebook from under her left armpit and places it on the table.

The table has two chairs, an amenities booklet, a city guide, a small brass lamp.

It’s very silent here, at the table, Lorraine thinks.

She sits.


Lorraine twists the little brass knob on the base of the lamp. 

She twists it on and then off and then on again. 

Her fingertip hovers around it—over it. 

She touches it softly, as though she were touching the air near her neck, just behind and below her earlobe’s tip.

It’s smooth, this brass knob; almost cold.


Lorraine is barely touching but touching. Barely grazing but grazing.

Lorraine pushes herself deep into the chair. She looks at the wall then at the door across the room from her.

Lorraine, with her left middle finger, rubs the knob, faster and faster. Lorraine licks her finger. She squeezes the knob between her fingertip and thumb, as though putting out a candle. 

Lorraine takes a deep breath.



Lorraine’s index and middle fingers, having abandoned the knob, prop up her temple. Her thumb tripods her chin.

Lorraine has left the deepness of the chair, and sits at its end.

Lorraine, without moving her fingers, looks at the city guide.

She opens up the guide; glances at the face of her watch.

And then it’s 8:40. And then it’s 8:48. And then it’s 9:00.

And she should be in the lobby by now.


Lorraine, you were going to be in the lobby by now. 


Lorraine is at the wall again and presses her ear against it.

She hears him.

Is it sheets?

Lorraine hears a rustling like Christmas morning. 


Lorraine puts her hand against the wall.

Is he alone? Should I go in? Should I knock on his door and wait for him to open it and just walk in?


Lorraine hears a moan.

A loud moan. A moaning moan. A moaning sin-parar. A moaning continued.


And behind that moan, what is that? Is he alone? Is he watching something? Or is he alone. Or is he not alone.

Lorraine leans her ear nearer. 

A halt! 




Silence. Echoes of a moanhalt, and silence.







Lorraine is catatonic.

Hush, she thinks. 





Lorraine is monster breathing. 

She’s acoustically attentive as a lynx. 

She is lemur-eyed. 


Lorraine slowly moves her ear away. She turns away from the wall. 

This is slow motion, she thinks.


Once, while transporting empty bottles to a trash canister, while Alexy slept inside, on the recliner, she moved the same way, same slowly, thinks Lorraine, avoiding the halogen sensor beams of their garage door exposing her, revealing her.


Lorraine is wanting to return to the other side of the room but not wanting to reveal herself on the other side of the wall.

Not wanting to reveal waiting, needing, she waits.


One slight rustling sound finds Lorraine from behind the wall, which, she thinks, equals green light.

Silence and stillness equal red light. 

I’m holding my breath, thinks Lorraine.

Rustle plus rustle rustle equals yellow light. 

Lorraine pivots and red light! pauses, left foot hovering in air.  

Silence plus stillness equals red light. Lorraine looks at the small table, the safety of the other side of the room.

Rustling plus moan = green light!



At the table, Lorraine takes a few deep gasps of the hotel’s cool blue curtain-infused crisp air. 

Lorraine feels cold.

Some rooms are too blue, she thinks. 

Lorraine walks to the bathroom on tiptoe.

The cold stone floor like Japanese plates sticking to feet.

Rust-red heat lamps saving Lorraine with saffron light.

I think I’ll take a bath, she thinks.

Lorraine starts filling the tub. 

The filling tub sounds like wind.

That time, on the Buttes, up above Sardine Lake, in the Sierras, and Alexy, her husband then, yelling over the wind, his hand clutching the baseball cap on his head.

Lorraine! The last time anyone touched this breeze was in Japan! Think about that!


Lorraine thinks about the sound.



Lorraine is forcing one foot into hot water. 

Water up to L-ankle, now knee. 

Lorraine practicing deep breathing techniques. 

Right leg bent at 90° angle. 

Looking at mirror Lorraine sees she is posing like flamingo as right foot hovers over water. 

I’m pink as a flamingo, Lorraine thinks.


Lorraine’s palms go one to each side of the tub the wood sweating with her and now yes you can Lorraine it’s just right as she lowers her body in and sits back in the water up to her breasts and slides back against the tub slips smoothly below the water pinching her nose.


Completely submerged, Lorraine hears the reverb of the ventricles of her very own heart; behind that, she holds her breath, listening, hears a faintly humming world.



Caiman-like, Lorraine allows her nose to emerge above the surface.

Her breaths echo in her ears like empty cathedral chambers. 

Her heart beats heavy becomes louder than her breaths.

Lorraine, relax Lorraine. 

A few deep breaths. That’s better. Calm regular breaths. Soothing and relaxing.

Concentrating on breathing. 

In and


In and



Oh, hey Lorraine.







Lorraine, there could be someone staring at you, Lorraine.


There could be someone hovering over you.


There could be, Lorraine.


There could be someone standing there, wide-eyed, staring.









It could be Alexy’s ghost. It could be Alexy’s face, grayer than a clam, waiting there, staring there, in the periphery.

Even if you open your eyes right now you might not see him, Lorraine, might not see that blown vaporous pupil, that stained glass. Might not see that pupil that, in the inside, you screamed at: the eye you shrunk away from; you: small and tiny; that pupil: huge, gaseous, blown and gone. That thing that you couldn’t look at as you dialed. That eye there.

Staring there.

In the periphery.




Lorraine’s head emerging from water.

Bursting from water.

Lorraine rushing to open eyes crossing legs Lorraine wiping water off eyelids off.                         




Of course.

Of course not.

Lorraine’s gaze, straight on the foggy mirror, moves to the sun lamp above.

Lorraine hugs her knees.


Water drips from all of Lorraine’s clefts—her nose, chin, breasts, shoulder blades. 

Lorraine stands in the tub. 



That stroke, she thinks. That stroke.

Alexy knew. 

And when he looked at me he knew that I knew.




And, Lorraine thinks, looking flatly at the drain, the water funneling down, so Alexy saw me, so I remember seeing him, spiraling; holding his head; his mouth open, twisted; each moment a drop falling from her, each drop a dull reignition. Their kitchen phone then, next to him, next to her, and between them that eye, that change, moving through him. She’d dialed. Lorraine feels a water drop leave her cheek. Once twice, only slowly: the moments passed like holes.


He wore a towel.

He’d flung it around his waist.

He looked at me.


Water dripped to the floor. Puddled.


And now here I am, Lorraine thinks, reaching for a towel.

In Vancouver.

What had I hoped would happen?

If he’s not — if he hasn’t knocked on my door by the time I’m ready, then, that’s it. I’m leaving. 

Then I’m leaving, thinks Lorraine. My mother wouldn’t give a rat’s ass.


Lorraine opens the door and walks into the room and it’s cool and blue and crisp. 

The room is empty. 


Was someone in his room? 

Had someone come up? Had she heard someone there? A giggle?

That giggle.

There was a giggle wasn’t there?

Wasn’t there a giggle?



I’ve got to leave.


Lorraine dresses. Sweater, pants, heels, trench coat.

She rummages through her purse, breathes in a bouquet of blush, and adds her phone and keycard. From the small night table she adds the city guide. She opens the mini-bar and adds a mini-Pellegrino. She grabs and holsters the guide book. 

Lorraine pauses. 

She listens.




In the lobby Lorraine is backhanded by a chlorine smell that fills the bridge of her nose. 

If he is alone, then what is he doing? Why would he be doing it like that? So loudly?

Does he do it like that? 

Does he want me to know?

He knows I’m in the next room. Is it, what is it? A signal? An invitation?

Alexy didn’t do it like that.

So loud.

So moaning.

But was there a giggling there?

Was Giggles there? 

What did I hear last night?

And who am I? I can’t

I have no right to tell him he can’t.






Lorraine wanders out away from the hotel. 

She enters a store filled with glancing youths, eyes down, tapping through hangers like gamblers tapping buttons on slot machines.

We’re all gambling, thinks Lorraine.

We’re all gambling. 

And he?

Did he gamble that he could find something better? And did he?

Have I stopped gambling?

I did think so, thought Lorraine; but, then, I came here. I got excited.

I wonder what he’s thinking about right now?

Lorraine taps the hanger.

Lorraine taps the hanger against the other hanger against the other hanger.


Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

And Alexy. And Alexy. And Alexy. And Alexy.




Outside of the store, Lorraine sees that walls of clouds luminous and present are gathered over the sea like billowing smoke.

Lorraine walks a block and a half down the street and enters another store.

She feels the waxy collar of a jacket. 

A man sits behind the counter. 

He has curly muddy hair.



Oh no I’m just browsing, says Lorraine. Great store though. San Francisco. Beautiful — yes it is, yes.  I wasn’t exactly sure . . . sushi, maybe? Well, haha, yes, that’s true. It is all the same, isn’t it. Izakayan food?  Umm, no. No tell me. Can you write down the names? Thank you. Well, I’ve really got to go. Thank you!



Lorraine rubs her fingers. Lorraine wanders through Stanley Park until she sees the sea before her. 

This ocean is surly and discourteous, she thinks.

Lorraine laughs.

Water drips, then pours.

Lorraine turns, running uphill, toward a tree.

Lorraine runs below a tree. 

Lorraine is standing in the niche space: coniferous park behind her, city streets before.

She sits and leans against the trunk of the tree. 



Lorraine looks at the underside of her wrists and arms inside the coat.

Precipitous drop remains hover upon the finest hairs of her exposed skin; she feels drops accumulate on her cheeks, on her hands and wrists, on her exposed neck. A gust brushes Lorraine’s hair to one side and she watches as drop fragments on her arm shudder.

Lorraine feels a feverish regret.

Her body jolts.

Lorraine warms her palms with her breath and then she rubs the drop fragments into her hands and rubs them into her neck like wholesome tonics.

Lorraine tightens the belt of her trench coat and rests her head against the tree.

I’m at the edge of an ecosystem, she thinks, turning and looking around the tree trunk and up at the branches and leaves and rain weaving behind her.

Looking forward, Lorraine watches people, about a half a block away, pass by her on the street.

Lots of black umbrellas, she thinks; some reds, some pinks and blues; one girl carries a translucent umbrella. Lorraine can see this girl. She’s wearing a cigarette dress, a red coat unbuttoned, hood on.

The umbrella envelops her like a pod. 

Lorraine stares at her.

While crossing the street, the girl stares at Lorraine.

She stares and stares and stares.




What’s she looking at?



The girl recedes into the distance.

Lorraine listens to the rain drum the grass around her.


Lorraine doesn’t know how long she has been asleep. It’s raining, but softly.

The sky is the same gray, Lorraine thinks, but has dimmed by one little click.

What happened?

The whole world has moved beneath me, Lorraine thinks.

Lorraine watches as one group of people groups, waits, then passes, crossing the street below.

Softly, Lorraine sings, a green-a-light go’o’oooo, a go, a go, a go-go-go, a red light, yellow light, a-green-a-light go.

Other groups pass.

All these people, would they stare at me if they had clear umbrellas? 

Perhaps I should go, she thinks. 



Lorraine stands.

She pauses where the ends of the big branches above her create a barrier between wet and dry. 

I’m dry, and I’m in the dry world. 

Out there the world is cold and wet and I have to run through it. 

I am about to get wet. 

Lorraine sticks her arm out. 

Drops of water flop against the top of her hand. 



Lorraine runs through the rain. 

Water splashes against her ankles, runs toward the inside arches. 

She stops under a dry street corner.

She waits.


A man pops his head out of a doorway to her right. 

Have you had your Bloody Mary today? he asks her. 

It’s enough of a lure, Lorraine thinks.


Lorraine enters the bar. 

It’s dark with booths off to the side. 

A large chandelier hangs in the middle of the room, reflecting light from a television that hangs in the corner.

This air, thinks Lorraine, is dusty and decayed.

But is it empty? 

No. No, no. 

There is the man, of course, the Bloody-Mary man, and a few others. 

The Bloody-Mary man is behind the bar, standing on a chair, moving ears on the TV.

How quaint. How old, thinks Lorraine.

Little here is exciting, Lorraine thinks.

Lorraine walks to the bar.


I’ll have that Bloody Mary, Lorraine says, top shelf.

Top shelf Mary? the man asks.

That’s what I said.


Lorraine had forgotten about Bloody Marys. 

This is authentic, she thinks. 

Celery leaves droop against her cheek. 


I wonder if he’s still in the room?

I probably shouldn’t have left. 

He’d had a lot to drink last night, yes. And this morning, well.

And here we are, at this conference! He told me he was coming, that we’d catch up. And we’ve done that. That’s done.

And how long was I supposed to wait?

The thing is, was it just him? And what was he doing and what was he thinking about in there?

Last night, at the bar, there’d been a blush. There’d been, a look.

And then, an interruption. A hand touching him. Touching and giggling: Giggles.

And this morning?

Was it Giggles? Was there giggling in there?

If I could know that it was me. That the thinking, the moaning, was about me. 




Forget that.

Forget that, thinks Lorraine. 


Think about snow, Lorraine thinks. Think about the wind.

Think about that breeze from Japan.


Lorraine turns the ice with the celery stalk, then bites off the end.

Another Mary, Lorraine says.

Top shelf?

That’s what I said, she says.


Lorraine sees a leaf pause in the open door, then be blown aside.

Lorraine listens to the wind soughing through the streets.  


What vodka is that?

That’s Goose.

It’s good. Make me a Goose martini, filthy.


Later she has one more. 

Then no more, she thinks, no more.


Not this Mary man, but the other man, in the store, the curly-haired Merry-man, that man was a treasure. 

He was a treasure. 

That’s what my mother would have said, a treasure.



This Mary-man here, this one here, his cheeks wobble. 

His cheeks are like yo-yos. 

Look at them, yo-yoing about.


The treasure told her sushi is the same everywhere. 

That’s true, nodded Lorraine. 

Don’t you want to try something new? 

He had friends from Japan—Izakayan food. Basically, he said, Japanese tapas. There are two great places and they’re both on Denman Street. 

He guaranteed it, the treasure.

He said, I guarantee.


Lorraine had listened to him.


Mary-man, Lorraine says, a glass of water.


The man brings the water and returns back under the hanging television. 

Lorraine is feeling hot. 

She leaves her city guide on the bar. 


In the bathroom mirror Lorraine’s reflection looks swampy. 

Lorraine tugs at the neck of her sweater. 

What a green sweater, she thinks. 

What blue pants. 

What color blue is that? she asks her reflection, looking down. 

Maroon heels, royal blue pants, a green sweater. 

At least I still have style, Lorraine says to the reflection and laughs.



“Who’re you talking to in there?”



The Mary-man! Lorraine thinks without balance. 

Nobody. No one! Lorraine calls out.


Lorraine looking at mirror. 

Goodbye, she thinks; I’m safe here but I can’t stay forever.


Goodbye sanctuary! 




Lorraine is scared to open the restroom door.

Who knows how long people have been waiting to enter here? 

In the mirror Lorraine sees that she’s perspiring.

A huge queue, Lorraine thinks. 

People queuing up.

A million queuing faces. 





Lorraine very very slowly opens the bathroom door to the hallway, dark and barren.



At the bar her empty martini glass has olives, and Lorraine eats them, standing. 

What’s the time?

It’s 4:30, the Mary-man says. 


Lorraine takes her trench coat from the back of the stool.

She ties the belt of the coat closed and picks up the guidebook. 

Lorraine glares at the Mary-man. 

Who asked you? Lorraine says.



Outside the wind has calmed to sighs, the rain to mist.

Lorraine closes her eyes and rolls her head back from side to side on her shoulders.

Lorraine breathes in, straightens her head, and slowly opens first one eye and then the other.

I’m a soubrette, she thinks. 

Then she panics.



Can that even be? 

Her hands go into her trench coat pockets, then she fumbles through her purse. 

Lorraine opens her phone.


Three missed calls. 

One message. 

It was her neighbor, her hotel neighbor, her acquaintance, her conference pal. It was him; she is sure.


They knew each other years ago. They were both married then. Both beginners in their field.

Neither of us look bad, Lorraine had thought, when she thought of him being here. Neither aged badly.

He sent her an email a month ago to say that he’d be at the conference this year, where she was presenting.

It’s Vancouver, he wrote, not bad! Then, he wrote, looking forward to reconnecting . . . smiley face.


Lorraine moves down the street, phone in hand. 

When he left, I was upset.

He will be worried.

Maybe I’ll wait a little longer, maybe, then, I’ll even regret it, but it’s worth it; it’s worth it.

The trick is to not listen to the message. Pretend that you didn’t notice it was there. 

And then she is decided. 

No calls. 

There were no calls. 


No one is going to feel sorry for me.


Lorraine notices the streetlamps are on. 

That’s funny, she thinks. 

Lorraine notices that she is crossing Denman Street and she heads down it.


I can’t control what he thinks or what he does.

I’m here.

I thought that it might be fun.

And yesterday everything seemed to be happening for the two of them, all the fun fun fun.

And I never had fun easy.


I have never had fun like women like Giggles have fun.

So easy, thinks Lorraine. For some, it’s so easy, fun.

Just a giggle; just a touch of an arm; just a little touch here, a little smile there; and now demure, she thinks, and now vain, wanting; now passive; and now discriminative; and all for play, she thinks, and all of it, fun.


Last night she became so upset. 


Flirting indeed, he said, at first laughingly, and later with heat, after following Lorraine up to her room.

You know I’m too old.


Too old indeed, she said back. 


Then, the lights off, she stared at the wall while he rode the elevator back down to the lobby bar. 


Too old, too old, I’m too old.


Lorraine arrives at the beach. 

She has come to the end of Denman Street. 

In the distance, the dyeing of the day’s sun has left the waterline covered with violent purple scratches. 

The soil and grass around her have the earthy smell of beets. 

I’m at the beach and I’ve gone too far, thinks Lorraine.


Lorraine heads back, watchful for her two choices. 

She passes the first Izakayan restaurant to check out the second one. 

The first one seems better. 

It has soft electric blue light, and sharp black shadows along the walls. 


Lorraine waits for a space at the bar, observing the people around her. 

The bartender is away. 


She had vodka today.


She remembers vodka. 


Vodka was always my thing, she remembers. 

Of everything to have slipped off the rails with.

Maybe gin would calm me, Lorraine thinks. 

Get me thinking straight. 

Alexy calmed me down once with a green bottle of gin.



Lorraine turns and watches a group of three young men standing close to her, speaking sometimes English, sometimes Japanese. 

One of the men splashes beer on the floor. 

One of them says, No one ever said feeling was easy.


To drink? a voice cleaves the space behind Lorraine.

Lorraine turns to the man tending bar.

Gin, she says, top shelf, and tonic.

Sorry, we don’t have gin. We have sake, the man says, we have sake, beer and wine. 

Sake then, Lorraine says, your favorite.


Of course. 


But what did I think would happen?

Before Giggles came, he said he was thinking, dot dot dot. He said, looking at her, I’m thinking maybe, dot dot dot. But then, after Giggles came, I watched it, I saw that, could see that the thinking had changed.



We have a table ready, a woman behind her states, follow me and I’ll bring you your drink.

Lorraine follows her to a small table near the corner. 

Minutes later the woman brings her the sake.

On the tray is a a small candle in a green glass lighting the woman’s face.

She is the most beautiful person, thinks Lorraine, as she moves the candle in the green glass, and then the sake, from the tray, and places them onto the table.

The woman’s face looks the creamy white of a freshly bitten pear. Her blue-black hair reflects the green candle light, her bangs an edge, a cleft, thinks Lorraine, barely revealing two deep and black eyes.

Are you the waitress? Lorraine asks.

Yes, I’m here to help, the woman says. 


Obligingly, she chooses Lorraine’s courses. 

She brings a soup.

A clear broth with a floating egg.


Lorraine tastes the sake.


It tastes like vodka.




There, Lorraine!  There!

On the right! In the corner.


There two blue eyes are staring, Lorraine, looking there, staring there.


Lorraine looks away from the corner.

Then, slowly, Lorraine begins moving her head toward the corner.

Lorraine looks in the corner.


Alexy is there.


Sitting there, staring there. 

His hands folded in his lap.


Lorraine looks at Alexy.


Alexy’s head doesn’t turn. He stares directly ahead, toward the bar.


Lorraine looks at him.

She can see only his left eye, so blue.


Very slowly, Lorraine braces her hands on the table and turns her body farther to the right, looks all the way out to the street through the window behind her.

Slowly, very slowly, Lorraine turns her body and her head back to the left, slowly turning back toward Alexy.


He’s staring at her.

He seems to look away but then again he’s staring.

His right eye shiny like oil like metal flecked green in the green candlelight.


Like marble, shiny marble, thinks Lorraine, like chrome oozing.

So wet, that pupil, so many colors and now black so huge so huge and black.         Lorraine looks.

Alexy smiles.


Alexy smiles as the eye oozes, the eye liquid and marble and begins to pour out.

Lorraine looks.

She remembers that in the kitchen he’d looked at her, the towel around his waist, and he’d opened his mouth and there was nothing, there was only the eye.


Alexy, his eye socket empty now, stops smiling and turns his head straight.

Alexy turns his head to Lorraine.

The green candlelight illuminates the empty socket of the eye with green light that flickers.

He waves.

He waves again.


Lorraine stands up. 

She sits down. 


The server comes over to her.

She asks Lorraine if she is all right.

Lorraine looks at her. 

No, she says, I’m not all right.


The girl takes a step back, focuses on Lorraine. 

Hold on, she says.


The server returns cradling a large bowl. 

She places the bowl on the table and removes plastic wrap from the top.

Drink, she says, this will help.

Lorraine takes the bowl with two hands and raises it. She looks at the server and then she looks in the bowl.

Lorraine can see herself reflected in the liquid.

It’s black.

What is this? asks Lorraine.

Drink it, the woman says, it’s squid ink, it will help. 

Lorraine looks up at the girl.

She tilts her head back and pours the liquid into her mouth. 


The ink swells over the corners of her lips, courses into her nostrils. Lorraine can feel her cheeks getting wet, her shoulders.
Lorraine chugs. Lorraine can’t gulp it down fast enough.

Lorraine feels the ink down the back of her nose.


Lorraine puts the bowl on the table, wipes her mouth with her sweater. 

She looks at her sleeve, then down at her lap, then up into the woman’s eyes. 

Ink pours out of her nose.

Lorraine looks down, then up at the server.

My sweater’s covered in ink, she says.


Lorraine stares at the candle in the dark green glass and the candlelight on the table.

She stares and stares and stares.

The server stands there, waits for Lorraine to look back to her.

Lorraine looks at her.

It’s no cure, the server whispers.

Then why did you give it to me?

I feel sorry for you, the server says, it is good for you, but you need to learn: nobody ever said feeling was easy.

The server stands and glances toward the bar.

Now, she says, you’ve caused a scene. You have to go.


Lorraine stands. 



She is covered in squid ink. 

She notices that one of the drunk young men has pointed at her. 

Everyone is staring at her.


Lorraine straightens her shoulders, raises her chin straight.


Objectify me, she says. 

The people glance away.


Lorraine stares at the server.

So beautiful, thinks Lorraine. 

Lorraine pulls on her coat one arm at a time, and then she ties the belt of her coat, and then she pulls at the loops of the belt, and ties a double knot, and then she tucks the loops into the belt, and then she begins to leave the restaurant, moving   as slowly      as she feels that         she possibly could. 


Outside of the restaurant Lorraine stares back into the inside, pacing back and forth before the window where she sat.

Lorraine looks through the window.

She looks toward the corner to the right of her table.

Alexy is gone.

Maybe it works, the ink, thinks Lorraine.


She waits.

I need the girl to look at me once, just once more, for strength. 


Lorraine keeps pacing before the window, turning her body from side to side.

She sees the girl glance at her, but only so very briefly. 


That counts, says Lorraine.


A few blocks down Lorraine hears a siren approaching. 


Lorraine jumps up onto the curb and looks into a store window. 


A casual peruser, thinks Lorraine. 

Lorraine laughs.

I am a window shopper, says Lorraine.


By the time the siren passes her Lorraine is casually turning around.


Lorraine crosses streets without looking to see if cars are coming.

Lorraine is cold.

She shoves her hands deep into her coat pockets. 



Lorraine rubs her fingers with her thumbs. 

Her teeth chatter, and then they chatter violently, thinks Lorraine,

in a way that I cannot control. 


I think I’m ill, thinks Lorraine. 


With her thumb, Lorraine turns the ring on her finger, deep in her coat. 

Lorraine turns the ring on her finger. 


This ring Alexy gave me. The last time anyone touched this breeze was in Japan! Think about that! he yelled, and the wind blew the baseball cap off his head, and they watched it fly down from the top of the Buttes, watched it float all the way down from where they were at the top of the Buttes to Upper Sardine Lake, and then he turned to her, Alexy, and dipped his fingers into his chest pocket, where he pulled this out, this thing, that she couldn’t not smell, she realized, as she wiped it, wiped the smell, this stupid smell, into her wet cheeks. This, thought Lorraine. This. So stupid, how she’d rushed to put the ring on before the wind took the ring from her, like his hat, like his hat circled down and away; so stupid, she thought, this stupid smell, wet against her, remembering the wind, the noise of the wind, and, the smell and the rush to not lose it, to have it, the ring, to secure it, this warm smell, this stupid smell, that went from the tips of his fingers to her own.


Lorraine rubs the ring with the tip of her thumb, rubs it harder and harder, looking down at it.


Lorraine stares at the ring.



I need to do something.



Lorraine stops at the curb, on the corner.

Maybe at the next curb, she thinks.

Lorraine walks down the next street, she sticks her hands deep in her pockets.


Maybe there, at the next street, Lorraine thinks, looking down the block, until she arrives at the corner before her hotel.


Lorraine stops. 


Before her, across the street and half a block down are two workers chatting and standing along the hotel’s glass door.

One of them looks at her for a moment, then looks away.

They’re no Swiss Guard, thinks Lorraine, looking at her ring. She laughs and looks down but can barely see. Everything’s blurred.

Lorraine smells.

To her left is a black street. 

Far down that block, an entrance is bathed in a soft pink light.  

To her right, across the street, is a large black gutter.


Lorraine looks at the ring on her finger.


What does this mean?


Lorraine takes the ring off of her finger and places it on her palm. 

Then she places her palms together and brings them to her lips. 

Lorraine breathes into her palms, breathes heavily, and inhales with her nose.


Goodbye, says Lorraine, looking at her rings.


Goodbye! yells Lorraine.


I won’t forget you, says Lorraine.


Lorraine turns to the right.


Lorraine puts the ring in her right hand, she looks to the gutter in the street before her, steps back, and throws the ring forward into the blackness, up above and over the gutter and high and away from the guards, far away from the soft pink light.


Lorraine stops.  



Lorraine doesn’t hear it land.