There was

Emma Copley Eisenberg

There was brick and there was sun. There were floorboards of stained pine. There were water circles from where terracotta pots full of cacti had been, and leaked. The sun went down and people came. The friend who stood with me on the fire escape in summer, pretending to throw bottles of Heinz ketchup at the Empire State Building. The friend that held the back of my shirt after a shot of everything in my parents’ liquor cabinet. A woman I hardly knew, but who I wanted to know with a ferocity scraping sickness. This is the apartment, I said to her, and took her hand. Fire passed through me. Let me show you around.

There were the three empty chestnut built-in closets where my father had hung his dress clothes. The rack for bow ties. How my father, color blind, would stand in one of the closets, his fingers fumbling with the silk. Which one goes? he’d say, holding up two ties against his shirt. Up two stairs, my mother’s carpeted dressing stage. The sound of the light switch clicking on, and flooding her hair with light.

The glass cupboards were bare. We drank from red plastic cups. In the space where furniture had been, we danced in stockinged feet. We turned the volume up. We wanted to hear and not to hear. We wanted to dance. I held the hands of my old friends and thanked them. My sister did the same. We did the robot. We laughed. I caught the woman I hardly knew looking at me through the brick columns. We recognized each other there. There was warmth I could not reach, that seemed to say, I can give you something, but it won’t be nearly enough.

We blew first one, then a second set of speakers. We stomped on the floor with our feet like a last-ditch line dance. We knelt down and bowed.

I woke, mashed in the armpit of the woman I hardly knew, in the blue light of almost morning. We raised our heads and looked out the window of my bedroom onto New York. There was the water tower and the turbine air vent that spun like a pinwheel. There was the grey sky and the quiet street. One taxi skated by. We stared at the ceiling, painted purple long ago when it was my favorite color, and I made animal choking sounds, and she put her hand in my hair and said nothing.

In my early story, there were red wagons and matching Easter dresses and reading for hours by flashlight. There was how, at the wedding, here in this apartment, my parents’ friends snuck to the back to put their bed together again. In the end, it was good.

The room filled with sun. Slowly at first, then faster, creeping along the floorboards and up the purple walls. The room filled with more sun than I ever imagined possible. It filled and filled.