Negative Space

First you notice the writing students in front of you slowing down, then pausing, and moving into the street.

Yellow tape is stretched across the sidewalk tied to a tree and a lamppost. You can’t read the black printing.

The now visible police cars and years of TV say crime scene.

The red lights flashing across the street shift your focus.

More yellow tape, an ambulance, several officers, EMTs, and perhaps a witness or plain clothes somebody talking to a police officer.

Behind all of them is a building with balconies. Black rails. Glass. Red brick. You count the stories.

The grass is green and the bushes are in bloom with pink blossoms.

There is a blank space. White. Like whiteout on a picture. Like an unfinished painting. Cleanly erased. Lacking relief. Flat white.

You don’t stop at the yellow tape. The students with you keep moving into the street around the cars and back on the sidewalk.

A woman outside a church says he jumped. Students pass by and you look up at the building.

Are you searching for the balcony? Counting floors again. Imagining.

You turn and walk on and wonder if all these writers and poets and playwrights are constructing narratives.

Are they building plots, forming characters, metaphors?

You turn back. Stop. Walk a few more steps. Stop. Turn back again. Wonder why?

The urge for a cigarette, a drink, your lover’s embrace floods you.

Close your eyes and breathe, fill the space, and shake like a dog just wet from the ocean.

At the lecture hall, stand in line for your decaf Americana. Find someone to sit next to. Ask him if he saw. Ask her what she knows.

Open your notebook. Open your iPad. Check your email. Start writing.

Ted ChilesTed Chiles’ fiction has appeared in several literary journals including Canteen, Wacamma, Smokelong, Quarterly, and riverbabble. Vestal Review nominated his story “A Recursive Love Affair” for a Pushcart Award. Chiles lives in Santa Barbara, California with another writer and two cats. In a former life he taught economics, the most dramatic of the social sciences.