Monday, March 06, 2006

microfiction: [untitled]

Under the platinum harshness of brooding sky, I'm briskly passed left and right by hunched figures, so clenched against the weather they could be gravestones on wheels. I'm no different, and less mobile. I look up at the glass awning beaded with droplets, each tiny droplet a pearl matching the sky. Vienna in the rain is like being in a tank with a shark: it menaces you with its clean and efficient yet ancient lines. It waits for you to succumb to its beauty, its history. Even in the rain, the few blown-out scraps of litter look clean. It's not a city, it's a bell jar.

In this center of Old Europe, I was told to always look up. Wherever you look up, there's something in an improbable place: a rooster, a trio of saints, a sun sculpture, a sapling growing in a half-kilo of silt and dust captured by four hundred years of rain. My favorite is the statue of Diana, calling unseen hounds forward, readying her bow, the hidden folds of her dress blackened with age. Surprise at finding each new treasure delights the newcomer until he realizes they've been there for centuries.

The sky draws down. She said she was sending a taxi, but it's been nearly an hour. Maybe she's playing a bad joke: see how long it takes for Martin to phone and complain about being bored and miserably cold. She knows I don't have a decent coat, but sends me to stand in front of the most expensive hotel on the Ring to wait for her cab. Cars whoosh by, Mercedes, Opel, Lexus, Smart, Saab, Skoda, though not like Paris. Vienna's too orderly for a 24-hour Le Mans around the Arc de Triomphe. Still too fast for me, though; I prefer the streetcars.

Why do I do this? Why do I wait? Christina is beautiful, for one thing; she's also wealthy, a necessary consideration for a half-assed hack. I'm a liar. The streetcars are nice, but a car is beyond me, and I'm no better than a whore, making her laugh, drinking her drinks, making her feel intellectual, and waiting patiently for that moment at the end of the evening when she asks if I need some help. If there's poverty in Vienna, they hide it well.

When I call Christina, I can only hope to see her. Sometimes she calls me, but for what I don't know any more. Am I an old friend? The guilt burden that old lovers become when they don't find new lovers? Cheap entertainment? Whatever the reason, she calls, and I come.

The daylight's gone, and I'm so tired. Seeing Diana will cheer me up. She's on the corner of the museum to my right, just beyond the opera house. I walk into the street, looking up, not at the delivery truck.

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