Fareeda Bullert

 

 

My Last Sun

            My eyes were fixed upon the sky. Its oranges and yellows hid behind the Manhattan skyline, and I could feel my hands grow tighter around Gabriel's. He stood in front of me, the look of defeat on his face as we watched our lives get taken away from us. I waited for the apocalyptic crash, the sonic boom, the end of days. Gabriel shook me, and as I turned toward him, my mouth opened to speak.

            “I love--”

###

            “The new horror story going around is that the world is ending. While we have heard this already with Y2K, and with the failed rapture in 2011, this is backed by supposed actual scientific proof-”
            My finger tapped the off button on the mini T.V. screen behind the driver and I leaned back into the chilled cushion of the cab as we sped along the FDR Drive. The news ate up apocalypses like it was a drug, and society followed along.  This was just another reason for people to go to church and beg to be absolved from their sins.
            The cabbie zoomed onto the roadway for the bridge, the tides of the East River glistening below us. I eyed downtown Manhattan and smiled as the sun's rays reflected off the hundreds of windows. We slowed down as cars zipped between others to get onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and we made our way into Dumbo, Brooklyn. When I finally made it home, I noticed the mud saturated Converse sneakers that sat in a heap by the door.             “Gabriel! If you're going to come over at least don't make a mess!” I bent down, picking up the shoes with my thumb and forefinger before dropping them on the bristled mat I had designated for Gabriel a couple weeks prior, when I gave him the key to my apartment. He wasn't the best at being tidy, his own place resembling that of a department store after Black Friday.
           “Sorry Addiecakes,” he said, his brown curls tousled like a five year old. I got up and poked him in the stomach.
            “Don't call me that,” I grumbled.
             I dumped my purse on the side table and made my way to change. My room was on the other end of the  living room, although its size and shape was more of a studio. One wall was made of windows, and the kitchen in the back opened up to a large sitting area. Most nights I found myself asleep here and my bedroom was merely an extension of my closet. I pulled the cotton dress over my head and searched for some clothes. Digging under some shorts, I could hear the TV from the living room.
            “Churches, Mosques and Synagogues are noting a rise in participation since The Science Foundation made its astonishing announcement last week.”
            I pulled a UCLA t-shirt & shorts on, stomped toward the living room, and flicked off the set. Gabriel sat on the muted green sofa, mouth gaped open.
            “Addie, come on! I was watching that!” he protested.
            “Are you kidding me? You really believe that-” I pointed to the TV, “is going to happen?”
            Gabriel's face hardened and he picked up his Bud Light from the side table.
            “I told you already, I'm not watching that crap,” I repeated. He took a swig from his beer.
            “Fine,” he muttered. I rolled my eyes and headed to the kitchen for a drink. Sipping some water, I felt his hands on my waist. The stubble from his chin tickled my cheek.
            “I'm sorry,” he whispered. My hands tightened on the edge of the sink. “Its just hard not to believe.” His breath trailed lightly on my neck.
            I leaned my head on his shoulder. I heard him sigh.

                                                                        ###

            I curled up on my sofa  that night and sipped my evening chamomile tea. As I stirred the honey that sat at the bottom, the light on my answering machine blinked crazily in the darkness, and the number 8 shone brightly next to it. The messages were likely from my estranged aunt wanting to rekindle, my brother suddenly wondering how I was since the funeral.
            It's been a year and two months since my parents died. The funeral held a crowd of about 15 in the local church, a block from my old house in North Carolina. My father's sister, Maureen, was the only one to speak at the podium, her short black hair covered in an ugly yellow and black hat, making her look like a plump bumblebee . I sat in the back, sunglasses covering my grey blue eyes, watching the scene unfold. I waited for Logan to come in, expecting him to make a grand entrance like he always did. But even after I threw the last bit of dirt onto the coffins before our parents were buried, Logan didn't show.
            Maureen came with me to the old house. The once robin blue shutters now hung haphazardly on the hinges, and the white peeled painted door squeaked when I pushed it open. Fresh air mixed with the dense antique air, shifting dust into swirls in front of me. Parting through, I could see the couches were still blanketed in the quilts my mother made when Logan and I were young. A half-finished scarf sat near a basket of yarn.
            “Hows it feel to be home?” Maureen asked in her scratchy voice from the kitchen. I came in to see her pick up and examine a plate. It was from the collection my mother let me pick out from the store when I was 9 and it had blue lilies and ribbons. The same ribbons that used to be tied onto the ends of my braids. Reaching up, I picked the plate out of her hand and set it back onto the table.
            “It's alright. Nothing much has changed.” The tile floor still looked like it never was cleaned, and Logan's 5 year old red hand print still marked the bottom cabinet.
            “Where is he?” I asked. Maureen opened the top glass cabinets, admiring the vases my mother had from when she used to plant and harvest her own lilies. Maureen hummed.
            “Maureen, where is he?” I stepped closer to her, watching her eyes envelope every detail of the vases, her hands rubbing the dust off the ridges. I slapped her hand down, and while she didn't jump at my motion, her black beady eyes glared up at me.
            “Honey, you know your brother by now. He couldn't make it.” Her lips formed a thin line on her wrinkled little face.  I ran outside and quickly dialed the only number I knew for Logan.
            “Baby sister!” He followed his greetings with a few coughs, probably from the smoking habit he talked so highly of giving up.
            “Where are you Logan.”
            “Babe, I got a show! You know I can't miss this!” He coughed again, and I could hear a woman's laughter in the background. My free hand dug half moon circles into my palm.
            “Our parents fucking died and you're worried about some show?”
            “I'm doing this for them! Come on, you over exaggerate baby sister!” I hung up before I let him continue. Even though I was two years younger, he was the one who acted like a  27 year old child.
            When I went back inside, Maureen had set aside two vases and the china set. I took a deep breath and took  in the scene. I could only wish those half moon circles on my palm were the least of my pain.
            “They're not even dead yet, and you're already taking their shit?” My voice came out only half as strong as I wanted it to, but Maureen didn't budge. She flicked her head towards me.
            “Honey, they're not going to use it anytime soon!” She laughed and continued to go through the glasses. I left that house. Refusing to visit my old room, their old room, my brother's. I went back to the only home I really knew, in Brooklyn.

                                                                        ###

            Sipping my tea, I eyed the little black box in the corner, its light blinking madly in the dark. I thought of a person  waving wildly in the water while they drown, hoping for someone to save them. This little light wanted me to save it. Stepping lightly on the wood panels, I tip toed to the machine and ripped the plug from the wall. The red light burned down, until it wiped out completely from the little screen.
            I awoke the next morning to a salty sweet smell in the air. Leaning up from my bed, I listened to the clatter of pans, and the sizzle of bacon. Gabriel's sorry. I quickly skipped to the kitchen only to pick at the bacon slices, attempting to find the least burned piece.
            “If you're going to make breakfast, at least try not to burn it.”
            “It's the thought that counts,” he said as he turned and planted a light  kiss on my forehead. I scrunched my face and rubbed the place his lips touched. Grabbing a mug, I filled it with coffee. Gabriel dropped a sugar cube inside, and I stirred it quietly while watching him flip a pancake.
            Sipping the coffee, I went to the bathroom to shower.
            When I came back,I saw Gabriel on his hands and knees, attempting to reconnect the answering machine.
            “Don't bother.” I grabbed a plate, and shoved two pancakes on it. He grunted something inaudible and continued messing with the wall.
            “I'm only gonna rip it out again,” I let out between chews. His head fell, and he turned to look at me. I shrugged at him, and shoved a pancake, uncut, in my mouth. Rolling his eyes, he dropped the wires.
            “What if you need to call 911?” he asked.
            “That’s what I have a cell phone for.”
            “You never check your cell phone and I know you have messages on here.” Gabriel took a seat next to me.
            “So?” I replied. His soft honey eyes narrowed at me.
            “I'm not all there is Addie, you can't just be alone forever.” Getting up, he walked to the door. I opened my mouth to stop him, but my words never reached his ears.

            ###

            The next morning,  Gabriel knocked furiously on my door.  He apologized before begging and pleading to me in my foyer to spend the day with him. I ran my hands through the slightly wet ringlets in my hair. He caressed my face, and I could feel the calluses on his hands.
            “Do you really believe that today is the day?” I asked. 
            “I know you don't believe but I do. Would it be so wrong to spend today with me?” I pondered his question. Why he even slightly believed that world may end was beyond his usual grasp of reality and I didn't know the history, the research behind the sun. I hardly believed the announcements. But if this was important to Gabriel, then what could one day hurt?
            “Fine,” I sighed.
            I changed quickly into a pair of shorts and a light t shirt. My hair could dry outside. Leading the way, Gabriel headed outside. I quickly scanned my apartment before shutting the door behind me.
              The weather hung at a low 70 degrees, and even though it was only 10 am, I knew it wouldn't waver. The cool breeze hugged my calves and licked at my cheeks. Gabriel took my hand in his as we walked down the small streets of Dumbo, Brooklyn towards the park.
            It was not just a Tuesday, it was the day. A small boy played catch with his father, two teenage girls giggled simultaneously over a dog's funny trick. Gabriel and I talked. We caught up on our lives, we talked about the future we would have wanted for ourselves, for the kids we would never have.
            Around 1 pm, we ordered a pizza from a local family business a block from the park. They were open because their customers meant the world to them, and if a slice of their pizza was enough for a customer, it was enough for the family. I smiled graciously when the old man waved his hand at my $20 bill, because what good was money anymore?
            “You have sauce on your shirt Addie.” Gabriel pointed down at the hem, and where some of the sweet tomato juice had dripped . Sighing, I quickly rubbed whatever I could out from the shirt, knowing if I tried to wash it, the stain would never come out.
            “Don't bother, its not worth it.” He took the napkin out of my hand, and fed me another slice of pepperoni and garlicky amazingness.
            “So good,” I managed to say between chews. He nodded and finished his slice. He reached for his bag before pausing.
            “Did you listen to any of the messages?” he said. I choked on a pepperoni before shaking my head. Thoughts of Maureen and my brother attempted to break free from the barrier I had built in my memory.
            Gabriel nodded and reached back into his bag. Pulling out a chess set, he started to line up the pieces. I watched his hands glide ever so carefully back and across the board. His hands were etched in so many places with lines and wrinkles, so apart from his young boyish look. I placed my hand on his own, pausing his swift dance with the pieces. His eyes fluttered up to me, and I admired him. In those couple seconds, I took him in and embedded him in my memory. The small curves in his smile, the strong lines in his jaw, the ways his eyes always had a certain fire in them when he looked at me.
            “Done yet?” He poked at my tummy playfully. He knew I wouldn't do anything farther. I looked down at the game in front of us.
            “I go first.”
            We played for a couple hours. My bishop overcame his knight, his pawn somehow took out my queen. I won, then he won. I fought him over an illegal move, he let me slide when I tried to move my king without his knowledge.
            It was nearing 5 o clock when our surroundings began to change.  Only a few people, like us, stayed behind in the park. I clenched my jaw and looked out to the water that separated Brooklyn and Manhattan. Sunlight glistened on the small waves that hit the rocks. It was the sunlight that made it glisten. The sunlight that  gave us this moment today.
            “Addie...are you alright?” Gabriel's voice sounded soft in the afternoon setting.
            “”Do you really believe its true? That this time it could really happen?”
            “Oh Addie...” he murmured. I felt the tears bowl over my eyes, down my cheeks. His arms were around me faster than I could ask him too. It wasn't that I believed it all was going to happen, but if it did, would I be happy that I didn't speak to Logan again? Would I be ok with that? Gabriel held me for a couple minutes before I brought myself together. I looked down at my watch, it was 5:35 pm.
            I stood up, and reached my hand down to him. He looked at my hand, before sliding his own in. We walked together to the water edge, and leaned on the small metal fence that blocked us from falling in. Downtown Manhattan looked impeccable in the afternoon light. The buildings tall and mighty, screened my vision of the land beyond. I could feel the weight of the small hands on my wristwatch click down the seconds.
           Gabriel rubbed the back of my hand with his thumb. I could feel the heat emulating from him, into me. I turned towards him, only to see his eyes at the sky. My stomach grew heavy, and I let my eyes follow his. There it was, the “everlasting” sun. Except, it did not set. It seemed to move gracefully across the sky. Looking to the East, I saw darkness edging closer to us. The bright yellow warmth was being crushed.



Copyright © 2012 Fareeda Bullert

 
Fareeda Bullert is a current student at the City College of New York CUNY in New York City. She is in her final year of pursuing a degree in English with a focus on Creative Writing as well as acquiring a certificate in the Publishing Certificate Program. She hopes to one day work in the industry. Fareeda writes mainly young adult literature and is inspired by the ever changing characters she has created in her head.