Fiction 2018 / Spring 2018 / Volume 48

The Light Pole—Emma Bozenda

I’m flickering. My light is growing dimmer each day. I don’t like it. It’s supposed to be either off or on. Off during daytime and on at nighttime. It’s always been that way, always. Hazy. I feel hazy. Trying to remember makes me feel worse, but I don’t want to forget.

    Some of the sidewalk slabs around me are missing. Whenever there is a breeze, the exposed soil gets lifted then slowly floats downwards. When the particles land, it makes everything dirtier. I remember now. I remember that I used to count the cracks in the concrete and watch spit out bubblegum blacken over the years. My normal routine. Everything’s not as it should be anymore. Along with being windowless, all the buildings around me are gutted. People. I watched people gather whatever goods they could in their arms and run. I would have followed them if I could. The street is mostly empty now. People. There used be to so many people. The people I do see rush past me like I don’t exist. They used to touch me, feel me. Some of them would swing on me in circles during the night, their weight would make me sway a little. Just a little. I used to move then. I can’t move on my own, I’ve tried. I used to wait for someone to come back for me. Surely, I thought, surely someone will notice me again. They haven’t.

    Thinking about the past helps me pass time. Back my thoughts weren’t so muddled. I have always been on the sidewalk on the edge of the street. I was placed in the middle of a long block. There was a Marino’s Hardware Store across the road from me with a big pine tree that loomed in front. I always feared it falling over. It did, eventually. It was pulled down with ropes then chopped it into piles and piles firewood. I dread the sight of people now. I have watched them break into the hardware store and steal armfuls of tools, set fires, and abandon their families to save themselves. I wonder if they’ve always been that way.  

    I used to enjoy watching them. I loved watching people walk by. Legs. The unique sway of a human’s gait. Steadiness. Their heads would bob up and down as they continued down the sidewalk. Every once in a while, they would stop and lean against me while waiting to cross the street. I liked how they trusted me holding them along with the comforting pressure of their weight. I wanted to melt against their warmth. At night, they used to gather under my glow, then leave.

    I envied their granted mobility. But they didn’t seem to cherish the ability to move. As if walking was nothing special. Like it wasn’t a gift.

    There was so much I wanted to know. How does it feel to walk? The possibility of movement fascinated me. I couldn’t move anything but I wanted to do more, see more. What does the end of the street look like? The other block? No, no. It was something that I couldn’t have. Concrete, I was securely bolted into the concrete. Four bolts. I wasn’t going anywhere.

    Sometimes, birds would land on me. They were the only things that made me happy that I couldn’t move. They weren’t afraid of me. I wasn’t able to see them but I could feel their talons chipping at my green paint. I liked having the company. Them using me as a place to rest made me feel useful. I liked the red ones the most, I think they were called cardinals. The redness of their feathers always complimented the colors of sky. I couldn’t tell them how lonely it made me feel when they would leave me for the pine across the street.

    One day, the birds started falling to the ground, dead. A living being’s ability to die scared me. My favorite cardinals were swept into bags by people in white masks and suits. Then it was rats, raccoons, cats, and dogs. People were affected next. I didn’t know what was happening. Panic ensued, and I watched everything I knew crumble away. I watched people do horrible things, were they always so evil?

    I think they have been. I remember now. I remember a few years ago, back when I was much stronger. It was late at night. Cloudy. The street was completely empty. My lamp was shining brightly. It cast warm orange beams onto the pavement. I heard a noise in the distance, it sounded like clicking. It was shoes clicking against the pavement. There was a woman running towards me with an unsteady pace. She was wearing a green see-through scarf that flowed behind her. I thought she looked beautiful. Then I noticed that she kept looking over her shoulder. A man. There was a man in the distance. He was chasing her. Right as she approached, she tripped, and I caught her. I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be alright. But the man, he caught up and reached out. Fingers that could reach out and grab whatever, whenever they wanted to, dug into her arm. His fingernails drew out a red liquid. I think it’s called blood. My light illuminated what happened next.

    He pulled her towards him, pushed her to the ground, then kicked her until she stopped moving. He took her bag and left. It was a pink canvas tote bag. It had a blue seashell on it. The woman, with her eyes closed, rested under my light for a few hours. I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was guard her. Through the rest of the night, I watched a purple bruise bloom on her cheek. I began to fear that she had died. She wasn’t supposed to be so still and quiet. People were supposed to be moving.

    As the red sun started to rise, and my light went out, she woke, slowly climbed to her feet, and stumbled away. She forgot her scarf in a bundle on the pavement. Eventually, it blew away. Her legs carried her far out of sight. I haven’t seen either of them since. I wish someone would come back for me.

    The sky has been graying for years. I miss the colors of the sun setting. There’s another flicker. Weak. Weaker. I’m fading. I’m so scared. I need to hold on. I want to. My lamp is barely working. There’s grime everywhere. I don’t like this. I don’t want this. My light. It’s getting dimmer, dimmer, dimmer… The lamp is flickering now. It’s flickering. I-     

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