The Arbiter

God, I am sick of metaphors, says the blue man. The Egyptian sells him a sandwich sliced in half and hears him say ‘metal doors’. They both shake their heads under their hats and look down as a city-bus passes.

A few children still play in the park, refusing to give up their swings to parents who shout from the benches. One father has a briefcase. It’s a black leather briefcase with two silver locks. It looks expensive. I am sick of allegory, says the blue man.

A crow hops on one foot over the leaves and a girl by the slide throws a stick at its head. She misses.

The blue man waits inside the park and upstairs in her one room loft, a woman reads his new novel. Her kitchen light is on. Her heating pipes rattle. And cars park by curbs under her window. She will leave me, says the blue man.

The crow hops and flies to a tree top. It is black against the angled skyline with its sharp beak. Stories and stories of  dark buildings edge in the park like corners of hard cover books. They loom and belittle it’s openness with their brass elevators and marble floors, with their violin cases, bowls of syrup covered oranges and wooden coat racks. A taxi honks and another one echoes.

The fountain is dry. It has been dry for weeks. And the nozzles in the mouths of  concrete fish from which water spouted during summer months are silent. And the woman upstairs reads his new novel.

The blue man loosens the knot of the scarf around his neck. He imagines what could have been different. What she might, at that very moment, be clucking her tongue at in disapproving disappointment. He had tried so hard. I did! he says to himself.

Two squirrels argue in a tree by the swings. They chatter. They spin and circle around the trunk like a barber’s pole. A boy with pink mittens points and laughs and the man with the leather suitcase watches as the squirrels run through the fallen leaves.

The blue man is a tall man with long limbs. He is not unlike a pencil. And when he sits in the park by an empty fountain in autumn by himself at evening with a hat and a cup of brown coffee  in his knuckled fingers, the thing a couple walking together might notice, as they kiss and move in warm wordless understanding, would be that there was nothing to notice. The man blended in with the concrete under the storied buildings, like a number on a license plate, that not even the glow of his frustration could crack the slightest peripheral interest. No more! says the blue man between his teeth.

The squirrels are gone. The children, resigned to the late hour and tempted by dinner, skip into the outstretched hands of mothers and fathers. The leather suitcase has left with its secret contents inside and the blue man is alone in the park. Who is she to judge me!

He throws his empty cup down and he runs.

He runs past the Egyptian. He runs between the taxis and their honks. He runs past the cars on the curbs. He avoids the elevator with its cleaning women leaving after a long day’s work and he climbs the stairs, and jogs down the long carpeted hall to stand before her brass handle. His hands shake and his knees itch. He takes off his hat. He places his ear against the door.

The blue man can almost hear her disappointment.

In the stairwell he stops and sits.

He unwraps one half of the cheese sandwich and says to himself, God, I am sick of conflict. 


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