by Alexander Fredman
The small car starts. The overpass reaches over the sea. The sea waits daintily for the sun to break. When the sun breaks, the sea will begin to move. It will ripple and quake and its surface will soon be slashed through with pleasure crafts.
Sara stares at the blacktop ahead of her. It is not so dark here. It never is. In the distance condo towers pose, rimmed with balconies. Earlier, Sara stood on one of those balconies, where she looked to the beach and to the sea beyond the beach, and both were black, but they were different sorts of black. Sara lost eyes in that border between the two.
There are not many cars out, but there are a few, and those few drive either very slow or very fast. An Italian convertible glimmers by, rises with the bend of the bridge. She likes this about this city—that the rich people buy cars like that. They are not yet burdened by fun. If Sara were rich, she thinks, she would get such a car. Her friends would think it ridiculous. Sara is, presently, drunk. She is drunk and she is aware of it, and she drives slow, and hopes her slowness is not so noticeable.
It is good that the sun rises in the east.
Sara does not want to think about what this drive would be like if the sun rose behind her. She is glad to head towards the lagging glow of light. She is sad, too. Sara is sad because she feels like the dark, because she understands that the dark isn’t nothing. It’s something, and it’s something other than herself.
When she reaches land, she turns to the right. She drives first to the tip of the island, and then she veers onto the road that runs along the beach, and she drives north. Many people are out, and drunk. The bars lining the left side of this road are still open, still radiating revelers between them. The people mill around—some of them look angry, others upset. Sara recognizes the sense of seeing a photo of yourself that you didn’t know was taken. They are so—and the term comes to her from some unknown place—kitted out. Their clothing shines, and they sulk. There are a few who are still stuck in the thrill of the night—jumping, joining hands, singing out. She watches them, thinking they are under some spell, knowing that in time the spell will be broken.
Sara parks in a spot and walks to the beach. She feels some slight relief. She sits just before the waterline. Here she will sober up. She cups her hands and scoops those cups with sand, and she lets the sand fall through her fingers. This is something she has seen in movies. She has even done this before, in a movie. The movie wasn’t much. It was really a student film but for the fact
that the director had graduated. He had some funding from an uncle. The uncle had given him an amount of money that would have been enormous had it not been used for a movie. Sara was paid a rate that when sliced hourly was illegal. If she remembers it, she remembers it fondly.
Sara’s lips are ruby-hued and that is new. Also her skirt is new, and her top. Both were purchased the prior day. They are not even really the sort of thing she likes. If you had told her she would spend such a sum on clothing, she would hope it was from a French brand that made heartily draping things in shades of mud and fallen leaves. Not this, from a store that was all mirrors.
Her skirt is shiny and tight. Her shirt is loose and has strange appliques of fruit studded across it. This she removes, because it will be ruined by the sea. She leaves the skirt on, though it too will be ruined. She doesn’t care if the skirt is ruined. That is what she has decided, though it’s not quite true.
Sara is standing in water to her knees. Sara knows that nudity is not freedom. It is simply nudity, and it makes her afraid. Concern enters her from someplace foreign.
She looks back, to see her pile of belongings caringly stacked where she left them. It is so late that it is early. There is no point in sleeping now. She will, she thinks, take a nap after lunch. She is sure she can last until lunch. There will be twelve people there and four were at the party Sara
came from. The others were at different parties, some of which she was invited to, many she was not. She has learned that there is a hierarchy of parties. It is the sort of thing she doesn’t care about, except that she has learned it, and so now she has to care about it, at least a little.
She smiles in this story. She smiles because the people at lunch will be hungover, and she will be, too, and that makes her feel part of a club.
Sara is twenty-eight. It is two-thousand and nineteen. Sara lives normally in a small apartment in a quiet neighborhood about thirty minutes by train from the gallery where she works in the largest city in the country. She is here, in this smaller and hotter city, for one week, for an art fair that draws visitors from everywhere. Really now it’s a dozen fairs. The name of the largest
serves as shorthand for the occasion.
Earlier, Sara attended a party thrown by a man she used to love. On arrival she learned that he did not invite her, not exactly. Rather an employee of his comprised a list, and included on that list was the staff of the gallery that employs her. This was all basically fine, and Sara understood his surprise. But please understand that this is what led Sara to the balcony, to her gazing over.
Gazing over, she was aware suddenly and bodily that this scene had been repeated innumerable times.
On seeing Sara, the man dropped his drink. This is not hyperbole. The crystal tumbler fell to the floor. It fell slowly, and he held his hand above it, open, as if to say, How did this happen? Sara hugged him tight, as a way to prove something.
The water is warmer than the air. Sara is by now up to her neck and floating. She realizes in the small and profound way of a child that this is more or less the spot she was looking towards from the balcony. Possibly someone—and by someone she means the man—is presently looking down at her. She scans the array of balconies to the top of the tower where he stays. That is how he
This is where I stay when I’m in town
Sara did not know whether to understand that to mean it was his place, or it was his friend’s, or it was the sum of some other opaque arrangement.
The place had furniture built from steel and plastic. This furniture was, she was led to believe, alarmingly expensive. On a chair approximating a chair a toddler would draw, she sat and willed her mind to empty itself. She watched the people. Most of them she knew, or knew of. She had the suspicion no one noticed her in the chair.
Now she thinks she can see the unit where the party was. She can, unless there is another unit with a large disco ball. The disco ball is pink and spinning still and Sara wonders if the party is still continuing, or if it was abandoned, if everyone disappeared and left the music and the lights to linger on alone. Probably that’s what happened, she decides. Everyone went to visit some other party, one better and bigger, at a vast house on the bay, or at a nightclub. The man would have been a little bummed to lose that attention, she imagines, but he would have gone along. She sifts through her mind for an emotion to feel, but she can only picture his face, coiled and pulled to a smile.
After an obligatory hour at the party, Sara left to drive through the city like a specter in the rental car. She drove in jagged lines across the map on her phone. She stopped for Cuban coffee, and at a bar in a neighborhood that hardly had a name. Then she drove to a party she hadn’t planned to
attend, and found that it was empty, was less a party than a sort of atrophied exhibit of the night.
The host was a collector—significant, people say—and the pieces, like pieces in a museum, were now set among empties and ashtrays.
As she poured the remains of a bottle of gin into a glass she noticed a small sculpture in tin. The tin is a girl and that girl has sapphires for eyes. Sara sold this to him, a year prior. Now it sat on a shelf among bottles of liquor. Sara scanned the bare room. She heard only murmurs from above, saw only what was waiting to be cleared.
Down a hallway, through the house made of concrete and glass. She fixed her gaze on the art and the empties. Then out, and she strode to find her car margined on the sod before the house. She felt a little bit alive as she held the girl in her lap. This thing, hers!
As Sara floats, the sun is yellow and halved across the polished surface of the sea. It is silent here. Sara looks for a while at the sky. Sara looks for a while at the moon. Sara does not look again at the condo tower, and at the balcony, where, she imagines, a man is leaning weightlessly against the railing. The man is smoking. The man flicks the cigarette down, and it flits in
filaments of wind, and it lands on the beach. It lands in the water, in the black. But it isn’t black anymore.
Alexander Fredman is a writer originally from Miami, Florida. He is currently pursuing a Fiction MFA at The City College of New York.