Posted: 29 December 2013
Word Count: 707
Summary: Hope this isn't late! Hope it's enjoyed! Thanks for reading!
The skeleton was tiny, frighteningly so, like a child's, and he imagined, shining from those eye sockets, the inquisitive brown eyes that would hunt and search about the world for food, for a mate, for a safe place to hide. According to the plaque it was not a child, only small and ape-like and covered in a course brown hair, the prominent brow jutting out over its eyes like a visor that protected it from whatever harsh sun shone three million years ago.
He felt her sidle up beside him; a stranger would never stand so close, almost touching, the presence of her body making him strangely uncomfortable. “Well isn’t she darling?”
It was hardly anything, a few fragments that hung in a display case: pieces of skull, a humerus bone that had been split in two, almost half of the pelvis, which seemed remarkable. “Poor thing,” she said, then took his arm and leaned her head against his shoulder. “Named after a Beatles tune—how do you think she died?”
“Gun shot,” he said, which wasn’t that funny.
She raised an eyebrow.
“It’s okay,” he said. “She was not a good person.” He did not mean this as a dig, but the soft line of her lips seemed to harden. She stared off across the room and he followed her gaze: the black walls, the display cases that exposed the different eras of humanity, from long before they settled down into these foolish pairs.
She walked away, towards the geology section, and he followed her through stacks of meteors and geodes the size of Volkswagens and children disobeying the “warning, do not touch” signs and running their greasy little fingers across the rocks.
There had been no overt attempt to escape him--she did not take off for the exit, only steadily paced ahead, and if he approached would turn her attention to another display: through the geology exhibit, then circling the pathway around the Hayden planetarium, down to the gift store where he saw her pick up a couple of post cards, all of the way to the top floor, where the dinosaurs lurked, all terrible and fossilized, and she paused in front of a giant sea turtle to snap a photo. The Archelon, he read, when he approached moments later.
Eventually she left the museum and he followed her down the concrete steps; the faster he went, the faster she went, until finally, along the cobble stone path that lined Central Park, both were sprinting, pumping legs and arms in unison, past mothers pushing strollers, and couples holding hands, and people alone and contemplating or listening to music. Then something made him stop. He heaved breaths, watched her up ahead, as the tail of her grey jacket flapped in the winter air, and the funny way that she ran, slightly hunched, limbs a bit too long.
On the train ride home he oscillated between the extremes of action. He would pack his things and go. That night. He could stay with his brother. As he sat with that idea for some time, with that intention, it eventually withered away, and the anger, the frustration, gently scattered, like sand on the surface of a road, and what remained was a deep caring, soft and hollow, that had been eroded into his center, the way a river carves a ravine, or the ocean slowly swallows away the shore.
At home, as he turned the key and entered, he listened; he called out to her, but she did not answer. He waited, and he checked his phone. When the sun set, and darkness settled outside of the window, and the apartment was cold and lonely, she did not call, and as he waited for the sounds of the door knob, so that he could go to her, and embrace her, he realized that perhaps she would never return. Then, as the full intention of desolation swept through him, he heard the doorknob turn, and he went to greet her.
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