Everything is a mirror—

see how they play with the light?

It is only a game, after all.

It is no more a performance than walking down the street, he thinks. The figures surrounding the bowl of his vision pull against his focus. They are inconsequential – inhabiting only the occasional glance of his eye as it curls across the fountain.

He sees the rhythm of the board before he feels it. Watches it stretch into the earth before him, carving a pattern of wheel-bound beats into the concrete. 

He is a jazz musician. At his feet he collects the notes of an untamed city, weaves them into the melody of his movements with the delicate twine of untaught skill. It is a game of happenstance; he will fall or he will not. In the end the music will catch him. 

They have settled in this spot many times before. It is their own now- the small grooves of earth which bend gently to accommodate them are all too familiar with the weight of their rounded bodies. Yet this day feels different. The girl studies the fibrous patterning of the tree’s shadows that have strewn themselves over the blanket. She traces them gently with her fingers. Wonders about the degree from which the light is cast. The branches stretch towards him like the tendrils of her heart. It is the first spring of their love. It will not be the last. 

Many years later she will call him. Do you remember, she will say, the way the light tilted? The gentle caress of the breeze? 

He will not. 

He is the underbelly of the city- takes pride in his role as a forgotten essential – one of eight million cogs endlessly churning the great beast on. At the corners of streets and the edges of parks and beltways and businesses, he goes unnoticed, and notices all. He knows the people of the city intimately; stretches the record of their stories in cellophane and plastic, in wrappers and bottles, leftovers and diapers. 

In the evening, he lays on his bed and makes small talk with the ceiling. He recalls his mother’s hands in the kitchen. The husky smell of his brother’s bedroom. So much is lost, he thinks. Thrown away. Perhaps life itself is the greatest waste. 

Tuesday. 3pm. A gust of wind. Ambient unsilence. Always, this spot. Neither here nor there. Going without having left. 

Today it is especially perfect. The sun has beckoned the city to life. There are fresh blooms spinning onto the heads of strangers. The bus will arrive in five minutes. Maybe ten. It does not matter. 

Always, together they wait, chatting over the day’s nothingness. Laughing at jokes too immature for their age. Both will look forward to the moment all week. They will never tell the other. 

Her mother has just texted about taxes; says she can’t figure out how to do them online. Fuck the internet, she says. The girl decides (or fools herself into believing it is a decision) not to respond. 

She wants to be rid of this life. Wants to set fire to the rule book of responsibility with her cigarette butt. From her perch on the steps she asserts to the city, once again, that she does not belong. She is an outlier amidst humanity,  it is her destiny to remain misunderstood. 

She is sketching a tattoo in her mind -drawing the dark lines together in tidy corners of discontent, anticipating the needle’s pain. 

Later, her not-boyfriend will slap her face while they fuck. You like that? He’ll ask. She won’t, but she’ll say yes. It will feel right, in some way. It will feel like something she deserves. 

The sun reflects off of the turf, framing the scene in filaments of golden light. Like always, joy lingers in the air – unspecified, unacknowledged– yet tangible. The man wants to reach his fingers out to it, to wrap it in his coat and take it home. He would stash it in airtight jam jars, lined on the shelf in neat order, labeled: Handle With Care. Maybe: For Emergency Use Only. 

Every day is an emergency. 

His life runs away from him like the little boy’s soccer ball- skipping easily over the smooth surface of the grass. His bones are too tired to catch up. All he can do is watch. 

She has only just realized what it means when people call somebody their home. As if this unbalanced collection of organs and skin could ever really keep one safe – and yet, somehow, it is true. She looks at him and the pixels of the world fall into focus. Like the crack of a chiropractor- they reassemble into this simple symbiosis. Who knew it could all be so easy?

Ice water and spring and bikes collecting heat on the sidewalk. 

Forty minutes of solitude. Though, one is never really alone in this city. His eyes fall on the mis-patterned footsteps of jay-walking pedestrians; he connects their strides in his mind, tries to make sense of the way feet and limbs and signals from the brain somehow result in this basic act. 

He has always preferred material. Wood and metal and neat corners fitted with screws and logic. He appreciates the surety of product. The fact that his coke can will always be 140 calories and sealed air-tight. The weight of a hammer in his hand – the speed at which it moves through the air. 

At the end of his life he will pause and wonder whether he spent all his energy being afraid. 

Sophie Mulgrew is a writer and mixed media artist based out of New York City. She is pursuing a degree in multimedia expressions of literature at NYU, and works part time as an educator. Her work is interested in the particularities of the human condition, and how it manifests itself across and between artistic genres. Find her on Instagram @thesophisticatedscrapbook.