Blank Slate Tags (Part 1)

He started awake and discovered that he was not falling. His chest felt tight as he took a deep, satisfying breath. The white ceiling above him held the familiar pattern of the morning sun through the blinds. The covers were plush, delightfully heavy and smelled of Eden.

August’s heart was beginning to stabilize from his traumatic dream. He had been running for his life, having chucked his spray can into a gutter as if discarding something that would slow him down. A man with a gun aimed at him was pursuing him. In a shift of reality that only occurs in dreams, August had all of a sudden found himself on the rooftops, leaping the gaps and maneuvering the pipes and grates. Then he had thrown himself into a gap, which he found-as he was in freefall-he could not traverse and went tumbling through space to the unforgiving pavement beneath him. He had felt his stomach jump to his throat and had gripped the sheets beneath him to break his fall. He had sworn he was falling into space.

But, he turned his head to the right and smiled as he saw Eden’s beautiful mess of brown curls on the cream-colored pillow. Well, falling into something, he thought. His eyes followed the contour of her neck to her shoulder with a purple tanktop strap just above the covers.

The music of the jazz trio that had set up in Franklin Square last night still echoed in his mind. The lights of the carousel had circled hypnotically and the holiday lights stretched out over the fountain like illuminated bunting soothed him. Ben Franklin’s kite floated over the fountain, the brightest beacon in the square, glowing with the sparks that it had harnessed so long ago. The faint, sweet and sour smell of a cigarette reminded him of the bustling city that was encompassing them, but their world was warm and tranquil. They were wrapped in their coats with his arm around her shoulders and sat on a bench surrounded by light and people and music.

He sighed again and revelled in the memory. Eden stirred and he looked over. She breathed the newly surprised sigh of a waking person, trying to assess location and situation. He saw her rub her eyes and begin to turn over. When her sleepy blue eyes looked into his, they both smiled. “Oh hey, man,” she said with half-hearted, mock astonishment.

“How’s it going?”

“Yeah, um,” she breathed and looked to the window with squinted eyes, trying to assess how much headway the morning had made. “Pretty good.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah. How about you?”

“I’m alright.” His voice was squeaky.

“Alright.” She imitated him. She smiled a sly smile and shook her head with a small laugh.

“What?” He inched closer on his pillow.

“Nothing.”

“No, what?”

“We’re just … we’re funny, that’s all.”

“Why are we funny?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Well, don’t you think we’re funny?”

“Sure.”

“Yeah, well, we’re not at our best in the morning, anyway.”

“Speak for yourself.”

She laughed louder this time, more awake.

“What did you dream about?” he asked, touching her hand.

“I don’t remember.”

“Hm.”

“Yeah. Isn’t that weird? Your mind made up this whole reality during the night and you went right along with it, but you open your eyes and it’s all gone. I mean, for all I know, my mind could have had me dream about being a heroine addict or a senator or something and I would never know.”

“What?”

“Sorry, you’re right. An addict and therefore a senator.”

He laughed and when she saw his smile, she laughed along.

“What are you going to do today?” she asked.

He thought about it. “Um. Do some painting, probably.”

She jolted in bed and grabbed his hand. “Oh, good, good. Where?”

“Don’t know yet.”

“You’ll show me?”

“Of course.”

She had a sweet look on her face as she softened her hold on his hand.

He could see how much she was looking forward to seeing it. “How did I get you?”

“You should know that one, you were there.”

He simply smiled.

She brought her elbow under her head as she scooted closer to him and kissed him lightly.

“What are you going to do today?” he asked.

“Well, I’ve got to go to the market and get some more, um … flour, beef, carrots,” she listed as she rubbed her forehead and mussed some curls. “Stuff like that.”

“And that’ll take you till opening time?”

“Yep, pretty much.”

“Karl going with you to the market?”

“Yeah, he’s actually coming at like ten and we’re going to walk there.”

“Great. What time is it now?”

Eden rolled away from him to look at her bedside table. “Nine thirty-two.”

“Okay.”

She rolled back and gazed at his face. “I loved last night.”

“Which part?”

“All of it.”

“Me, too.”

“Those jazz musicians were really, really good.”

“Yeah. And so young.”

“Right? They were, like, thirteen.”

“They said sixteen.”

“Yeah, but really? They were so tiny.” She rolled onto her back to prepare herself to get out of bed.

“I know.”

“See, I don’t even understand why they would lie about that. ‘Cause their playing was even more impressive because they were thirteen. Like, if they actually were sixteen, it wouldn’t be as impressive. You know?”

“Yeah, but they probably just wanted to seem cooler to us.”

She sat up and tried to tame her curls somewhat by combing her fingers through it.

“They’re kids,” he reasoned.

“Yes, they are.”

“Wonder if they’ll be back tonight.”

“Probably not. It’s Sunday.”

“So?”

“A school night.”

“Maybe not for them.”

“Well, why don’t we see if they’re there tonight?”

“Why? To yell at them to stay in school?”

“Yeah! It’ll be fun.” She set her feet on the floor and got up. Smiling at him, she grabbed her towel, comb and hair towel and went into the bathroom.

“Well, I’m going to show you the painting, remember?” he called.

“After dinner you can show me. Then we can go to the square after that.” The faucet squeaked as she turned the shower on.

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Alright, then.”

“Alright. You want eggs?”

“Yes, please.”

“Coffee?”

“Is that a question?”

“Right. Have a nice shower.”

“Thanks, man.”

August laid in bed a moment longer and finally heaved himself out of bed to start his day.

*******

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