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Palm of the Hand

Leaning against the rail, he looked out over the river with slotted eyes, his hands growing warmer on the rough stone. The water changed as he watched it slide slowly beneath him, filming over with the mosaic colors that clotted his brain. His hands began to sting and he pressed them harder against the sun-baked stone, watching the color leave his knuckles, until he felt the heat in the bones of his fingers. The weeks before the festival were grey and dank and he wondered if it would be worth it to go. Then he decided it didn’t have to be sunny; it could be cool and calm, and he made up his mind to enjoy it. But then the sun did come out and the temperature climbed, and the hot, wet air was heavy on his skin, and he wondered if it was worth it.

Breathing out through his nose, he spun back toward the street to contemplate the next bridge and calculate the extent of his need to see the artwork stuffed in among the crowds there.  He lifted his eyes to the sun to remind his brain of the hour, and when they fell, they landed on a woman who stood directly across from him. The sun shone kindly on her softly colored face and pulled auburn shades from what he would inadequately have called her dark hair.  She was a small figure from his position, and hazily outlined in the glow of sunspots, but he concluded that she had beauty, and he permitted it to wound him.  She was alone, as was he, and she must have paused for the same reason: to allow the many moods that had been brushing against her flesh to soak in, and to test her footing with the added weight of them. So there they were on the same bridge, burning in the July sun for the same reason, risking loneliness above a silent green river. That was a lot to have in common.  He wanted to talk to her, and his mind struggled, when called upon, to explain why he would not.

Time staggered on as he stared at the girl, thinking how easily he could step forward, how rapidly the distance between them could be closed, how readily she would accept the addition of his presence to hers.  And the seconds continued to lurch forth as his vision blurred without his notice, and the sight of the girl was replaced with the thought of her, a tentative vision of her, an auditory illusion of her welcoming voice, a belief in her comfortable smile; so many traits that made her perfect company for looking at art on a bridge, and were almost certainly true and present in her.  All this he was sure to behold once he was across the street, and all this filled up the crevices of his inflamed skull as he leaned against the stone rail, making no motion to move forward.

When his eyes began to hurt he closed them tightly, then blinked lazily, waiting without rush for the softness to fade and his eyes to focus on the block of brown stone in front of which the girl had been standing. Suddenly tired, he lunged his bulk away from the railing and walked toward the nearer end of the bridge.

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