T W E N T Y E I G H T

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It wasn't too dangerous to take a nighttime stroll across the bridge in midtown. It was a clear, quiet night, so Audrey threw on her jacket and slipped out of her apartment. She stood under the front door awning, plugging her headphones in and lighting a cigarette before she went on her way and went about kicking herself. That she always did that. She hurt people when they tried to get close; when they tried to tell her things. In her mind, she had stirred up a mild apology she would plan on reciting to her, and then upon seeing her, change course and forget anything ever happened. Rinse and repeat.

In the calm of the night, her boots echoed against the slumbering walls of the sandy brownstone buildings. In this part of town, they cared enough to maintain the streetlights, so the blackness of the night was blotted away in blended gradations of dusky blue. She could see clear to the other side of the bridge, although she wouldn't go that far. Something midway had drawn her attention.

"If you're gonna jump," she cooed. "You could pick a worse night. It's beautiful out this evening."

"Don't worry, I'm not trying to kill myself," she said with a weathered smile, genuine in its warmth and pain. "Y'know, I'm not quite sure I'm even really alive."

They stood in silence for awhile, enough for her to finish her cigarette in between. Audrey nodded. Her voice was small but steady.

"I think it's perfectly fair," she finally said. "When you strip away all the grandiose affirmations of self-importance and impact, these constructions of divinity and purpose, what are we? What are we really conscious of?"

Audrey wrapped her arms around her. Rey did the same, burying her nose into Audrey's lapel.

"But that doesn't mean it's nothing. Maybe our lives are really simple things; we're simple beings. Maybe the joy is right in front of us and we keep looking past it for something else. Even if any and every such feeling is totally arbitrary, I can't explain why it feels like so much, much, much more. I don't want to be without you."

The silence of that moment was comforting for them. Brown leaves, left over in places where snow had melted, whirled about in the intermittent gusts of frigid air beneath their feet. The lonely road was their island, if only for a very short while, as if the tide was soon to back out and expose a land bridge to their own world, regrettably accessible, and invasively public.

"I miss you."

"I miss you, too."

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