The Picture of Alice

The porch was a concrete block with steps formed into it and a visible tilt, or so I thought, like some chunk of brutalist architecture that had fallen out of the sky. It was about five by five feet. Young people were crowding there to smoke, despite the rain having lapsed into the faintest trace, with individual drops coming like random stragglers.

She stood on the corner of this grotesque pedestal facing me on the lawn below. She was a standing shadow shrouded in the halo from the bare porch light behind, a white trash Birth of Venus, and, I knew, no less beautiful behind the dark there, mercifully hidden from my searching eyes.

The outline of her hair was the only discernible, familiar thing about her–otherwise it could have been anyone there–but it was undeniably her. This minimalist sketch evoked the full light of memory, the memory of her still compiling that final version to take her place when she’s gone, the dead thing to replace the living, the trace of her arc across my life, documented and filed away on paper already yellowing.

That was Alice up there on the porch, looking down on me with–what? I couldn’t see. Was she talking? I couldn’t tell. Was she talking to me? Was she smiling at me? Did she see me, finally? See my desire?

That was Alice, midway through her ruin, long after mine.

March or April 2017

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