I step over Maggie and sit down at your desk. You have two e-mails from someone named Steve. The first one says: “If you can come, come.” The second is blank. I wonder if it was eventually meant to say something, whether you have an artifact of an infinite brainstorm, a sliver of reality frozen before revealing its brilliance—a photograph of a child’s face just before the punchline of a joke (or at any point in her life)—or a simple mistake. I get the same feeling at museums sometimes, looking at ancient things. That carving on a satin pillow behind bullet-proof glass: proof of the prominence of religion in society? Or: had bone, had chisel, liked looking at animals and imagining them with wings? I get it lying next to you sometimes, too. Your words, your promises, the key to your apartment: proof of my prominence in you? Or: had extra pillow, had extra key, needed a pair of shoulders to stand on to make you feel like you can fly?
I hit REPLY ALL to the second e-mail and type: “If I can, I will. If I can’t, I might. If I’m dead, you’ll know by the smoke.” I press SEND. Almost. I’m not the kind of person who’s brave enough to say things. I mark the e-mails as unread and close your computer and walk over to your window, tapping Maggie on the head as I go, and she stirs, though I can’t say for sure she feels anything. I wonder sometimes if I’m more than a dream to her. I open your window and lean out until my feet are off your floor and I’m balancing on your sill. I wonder if I should have responded. I wonder if you know who Steve is. I wonder if I should have more answers at this point in my life. I decide you don’t know Steve but that I should have responded, that he meant to e-mail you, you and me and everyone, wanted us all together to tell us in person he’s figured it out, solved religion and hunger and peace and learned everything about history and not just the hard things but the soft things too, the skin and paper and dance and love things. The things that don’t survive a thousand years in the dirt. The things I’m not sure will survive in you. Maybe Steve is our savior. If not some guy named Steve on the internet, then who?
Outside your apartment, a cardinal is singing. There’s always a cardinal singing. They have three or four different songs, and just when I think I’ve heard something new, they appear from the trees in a burst of red as if to say, it’s me, it’s always been me.
Taylor Bostick is from Alexandria, Virginia. His degree from Virginia Tech is in civil engineering, though his parents can’t help but notice he likes to write more than the other engineers. His fiction has previously appeared in the Rappahannock Review, and he’s currently working on a biography of someone you’ve never heard of.