Phillip Erfan

I came down from my place and I had to wrap the jacket and let it hurt me, for if not the jacket, the wind. And the wind is always left and white and quick and free. He came down in good time, for I did not have to wait long for him. We passed those close and he said to me that he sees them but they don’t really see him; he said they don’t really see me either. We came away from them and he told me he let them stay. They may have the place he said, we will not return. And though we were walking the way for much time we still remained within the town, and I knew the way was long.

The people, they looked to us, and he told me they thought we knew where we were going; he said he didn’t know where we were going. He told me he wondered how we would leave the town, as he pointed to the mountains so near surrounding. But he was not upset for it, for he said he knew, then, how we would come away. He asked if I could see the bridge and did I know the small bridge carries the I-5. It makes the place not right he said, but it is our way.

The wind was with much snow, and harsh, for it did build a tall height all upon the road. And the cars moved slow, and we were at even pace, and we all struggled against the wind and its snow and its heft and the water upon our face which made everything worse. He told me to look into the cars, and he asked could I see their faces and what I thought of them, do I see them truly for what they are. I told him it was hard to make them out, and he told me try another; he said there is many to choose, they are all the same. Farther down he questioned me once more and I was upset for it, and I chose one and looked into the wet window and saw behind it, beneath the portion of the snow I saw a face, and I could not understand it, but it seemed to know me quite well.

Do you see them for what they are? he asked. I said to him I didn’t understand his meaning, or why he was asking the question, or why he was so intent on my answer. I said I wanted to shut up my mind and he should do the same. I struggled upon the snow, then the ice, then the snow farther down.

I had been walking the way a long while and it was evening settling down over everything, turning to black everything, but the snow had stopped falling. There was land on either side of the way, and I could see the horses being led by a figure of a man to somewhere that didn’t exist in the dark. And as I turned to the opposing side, some distance away, the heifers were brown and standing as many figurine. I noticed no movement, and they were left alone, and I wondered about them. They kept their gaze in my direction, and I decided I should encounter them, and I went to and came over the metal railing, which stretched all the way, which was flimsily, was weak and I let my foot come upon on the wet of the snow covering it, and I easily and by the quickest time came over the other side into more of it.

I made a great depression, for I felt myself sink a little, more into the mound of it gray and black and white. I couldn’t move, presently, not for want of it, and I thought of the heifers behind me, brown and still and quiet, that they were left alone. I could not make company with them, for I did not wish to move, and felt, now, worse about it all, for I did abandon them as well.

My jacket was defeated and the white hurt me, a breeze came over me, and its breathing continued until I finally, without consent by mine mind, arose from the hole in the mound hurriedly, and I made a mistake and fell back in. And I made a few more mistakes and came up and down, until I threw myself over one of the sides and out of the mound. But now a tiredness was in my arms and in the stronger part of my legs, and I wished to remain ever still of motion.

He told me it would be warm in my apartment, that my bed was proper for laying, for a warm feeling, for the greatest comfort, and that he had enough of the way and the way could be with itself, that it was a better way with none upon it. And I came up this time with no mistakes and so quite easily and I forgot about the heifers and went over the tin foil railing, and it almost gave way underneath as my stomach put too much pressure on it, and I rushed a little in my pace, now in the opposite way. The dark had released a little its grip over everything, was now a lighter shade of blue, though dim, still with cold wind. Upon the I-5 I saw no cars for many hours and it was empty back and forwards, but when finally one appeared, and it came unexpected and quietly, he would turn to me, with only his eyes asking me once again the question from the previous day; but the cars would move too fast and I felt better about it when it went on past me.

And a bird, a kind which I have no idea about, but which had wide wings with reaching fingers on its ends, and which only appeared as a shadow of its true color from my view below, came overhead from behind me. It must have been cold, for the glide of it was inadequate, the wings oscillating it seemed too many times for it to be called a decent bird. But I still admired its advantage, its way above all, the nearest creature to heaven. And then it went into a slant, taking a slanted direction, for the wind came with new life, but the bird seemed intent on the other way, and I enjoyed the altercation.

I knew not who came out winning from the contest as I returned my view to the new way before me. I realized I had made my way back into town and was happy with the idea. I caught the feeling and put on it the strongest grip and tried to keep it going and moved quickly. There were few people about for the hour was too fresh, and only those who like to catch the fresh feeling were all upon their different ways. And I saw a man and woman of great age who were to pass along by me. And they wore their age, and had rubbed it all upon their bodies, and washed their faces with it, and put it in their hair and dried it out, forcing the color gone from their hair.

In approach I no longer watched them but looked to the ground and their feet and mine appearing up and out once and again where my lower vision terminated, and he told me to mark them and he said many times, he said mark it, if one knows who they are. And I looked up slightly so as to not come into them and do harm, and I heard their voice together warm and was low but profound, for they had eaten their age as well. A how are you, after the hello, and a what a handsome young man, and then an enjoy the morning, son; what a beautiful morning. He asked me did I mark them.

And I saw many black birds along the fences, now removed from all the stores and places you eat, the downtown, nearing my place, and in the neighborhood there were many houses which block your passage, your view with tall brown fences. And the birds were on the fences and they were talking things like families do and they might be relations I thought. When the fences were behind the bend and the houses were exposed, I saw people by their cars and some were in the wide holes of their houses, with music playing, and some were working machines with music playing, but I was not able to see them as I went by.

And farther along the way, my place a few streets down, past a busy road, I went through a quiet area, and there were homes which were dark and withdrawn and covered by many trees, but there were birches which made noise by the timid wind and made them not mysterious in an ugly way. I heard a child’s voice say things like you’re dead, remember I shot you and you have to be dead when I shoot you; it’s not fun if you don’t play it right. And I looked in the direction of the noise and saw the child speaking, and he had hair overgrown, which came to his eyes and he had to swipe it away, the blonde hair that was dirty, and he was very small and had a small voice and had a small blue gun. He had a long table cloth tied in a great big knot around his neck and he tripped many times on the floral patterned cape. The other child would say things as I shot you first, and you never die when I shoot you, and I always have to die and I don’t want to play anymore.

As I went past they could not see me, too busy telling each other why the other had to die and how he should do it and why it was he and not the other. And at my place a person familiar, a familiar unknowing about him is what I felt about him, saw me and was waiting for a quick talk and I couldn’t give it and I had his mind and thought like he did, and I saw everything from his view and I could see me and we smiled at how foolish I was and I went away from him because I didn’t like what we both could see. Up the steps and at my door I was unable to open it—I had never learned to open it. And it took me too long to get it open and I had his mind again and we wondered why I was never able to get it open as he watched me coming round the railing to the first and lowest step of the ascent to my place. I tried many directions and turned it with each key (there were two), switching again, once again, and I got it finally not knowing how I was able to do it.

We waved and smiled at me and we both knew I was fool as I went inside. I noticed nothing about the apartment and I went into the room, and went to the bed and inside of it. I moved around on it and couldn’t find the right feel and when I did the jacket was obstructing it somewhat and I bent back my arms and it hurt for they went back too far. And one came free and I threw the jacket and heard it sink to the floor and I felt a little bit free and searched for the feel but it was gone. The heat came on with a sudden clicking, then a rattling, then the clicking noise again, the sound of a machine droning, and I thought the way was wrong. The warm was rising, was finding its way to me, and I knew I would never find the right way.

Phillip Erfan currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a fiction writer, focusing on publishing his first collection of short stories.