against the window ledge. Resting his guitar on his thigh, he stared
out the window. It had been one of those gray days, a sort of
twilight before the winter. The sky was washed out and formless and
the trees had curled their bare branches into withered claws.
Nothing moved outside, nothing stirred, as if the evening was made
out of the void between moments in time and space.
There was something oddly satisfying about days
like this, when the world seemed so far from perfection that nothing
anyone did could ever really mar it.
He strummed a chord with his fingers. Something
was off, didn’t sound quite right. He fiddled with the tuning
pegs. Across the room, his friend Jake plopped onto the bed.
“You never answered my question,” he said.
“What question?” Mike hedged.
“Do I look any different to you?”
Mike shrugged uncomfortably. He hated questions
like this. What was he supposed to say anyway? Yeah, Jake was
different, totally different since he’d gotten off his depression
pills. Meaner, angrier, like he had an edge to him. Something to
prove. Not that Mike agreed with what Jake’s parents had done to
him, sending him off to some shrink ’cause he was gay and all.
What a head job.
“Dude, I don’t know,” he answered finally.
“You look the same as you always do.”
“Which is … ?”
“A pain in the …” He stopped at the
belligerent set of Jake’s lips. “All right, all right. You look
the same to me, man, maybe more stubborn, a little more stiff.” He
strummed his guitar again. Still off, maybe a little close-voiced.
“Sort of like a bird.”
“A bird. Yeah, like a crane. You know, those
tall birds with the long beaks, the loopy necks and those thin-ass
“I know what a crane is and I don’t look like
“Ever seen yourself dancing?” Mike said
“Gotta live with what you got.”
Jake fell silent and Mike gratefully returned to
tuning his guitar. He strummed the chord again, one string at a
time. Still a little close-voiced, but it was growing on him. There
was something soothing about the dissonance.
It wasn’t until he was leaving that he found the
right words for his friend.
“Look,” he said, “I know what you’re
asking and I’m telling you, don’t worry about it. Pills or no
pills, you are who you are. Just try and keep the edge off, man.”
Mike walked outside towards his motorcycle,
The colorless sky was blanketed with ribbons of
thick clouds. He sucked frozen air into his nostrils, tasting it,
harsh, untouched. It wasn’t that days like this were so flawed
they precluded perfection, he realized. Days like this were
As he mounted his bike, Mike heard the faint
sounds of slow jazz. He looked at Jake’s room. There was a
silhouette in the window, the skinny frame of his friend with arms
stretched out, hands bent like drooping lotuses, legs straight and
locked. Just as the first wet flakes of a slushy snow began to fall,
the figure moved.
Jake was dancing the dance of a crane.
Sankaran is presently writing a collection
of vignettes, to be titled Ordinary Lives. Her recent work can be
found online at Prose Ax, The Independent Mind, Orchard Press
Mysteries, and The Paumanok Review. Her current print work will
appear in upcoming issues of Mindprints, The Guild, and FUTURES. She
is also an editor at the new e-zine flashquake.