Writing to a Photograph: The Coin

Another edition of my Writing To A Photograph project:

The Coin

I’m heading out, going for an early morning walk. Too early for the tourists and worker bees, and the sad people that can’t stand the rain. Looking back, I see her rolled in the sheets and blankets, a tornado gone horizontal, a sure sign of fitful sleep. 

Padding out the door, I turn and walk down the hallway, an enclosed alley minus the smell of the garbage cans, the piss. That’s awaiting me below—and I like it. Look forward to it. Haunting alleys is a compulsion of mine—the urban geographer, the detritus hunter. Our culture, the bits better not displayed. Our decisions: things kept, things discarded.

I duck out of the alley, I’ve seen enough for today.

There is a coin in the middle of the street, its features softened by a thousand hands. A car has ground it against the rocks in the asphalt leaving tiny gouges, ending in burrs. I can feel them against the pad of my thumb as I wipe the water off. I rub against the coin, again and again, the burrs tugging at my finger prints. If they were wire, would my fingerprints vibrate—make sounds? 

Slipping into the apartment, I stand motionless for a moment. From where I’m standing, I can see into the kitchen. The faucet is dripping, a reliable indicator of the slow decline of the place. The water is landing on a plate, but it isn’t ringing—a ting ting ting one might expect—the plate has a crack, ruining the harmonics. The sound doesn’t fit my ear, the drops overlapping into a middling thrum; clipped, truncated, a stilted version of what could be. 

I scan back and see her still on the bed, but she’s rolled onto her back. She’s nude from just above mid-hip. Her left arm cocked acutely with her hand just above a hip bone, pushing up through the skin. Her hand is bent like an A-frame house, the finger tips applying pressure. Her right hand has a grip on the sheet, the folds of material between her fingers spreading out like an alluvial fan.

I notice the same thing I notice every time I see her sleep: her eyes are ever so slightly open, a slight split. A gap. And as usual, I’m unnerved. I slide over a chair and get close, peering intently, always expecting to see the pupils move, dart at me, locate me in space—either accuse me of watching a private moment or pinch closed to shut me out… But they don’t. They just rest there, unseeing, occluded and fixed.

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