Wednesday, April 02, 2008


In the soft rain, the sidewalks glistened like rumpled mirrors. Down the street, taxis jockeyed as the light changed. Their brake lights reflected smears of red.

Rachel walked past the sparse businessmen heading for the late trains.

She checked her text messages.

Friend number one flaked.

Friend number two flaked again.

Backup friend, nothing at all.

She resisted the urge to chuck the phone into an overflowing trashcan.

She could've dug deeper into her address book, but didn't want to deal with the humiliation. No use going home either. Not another movie alone in her apartment on a Saturday night.

People shuffled by in the long winter coats despite the humidity. Their shoulders darkened with wetness where their umbrellas couldn't reach. A tiny taste of summer poked through the wild spring days. She heard it in the thunder ducking down trashy, dark alleys.

When she reached the bar, all the reasons not to go inside fluttered in the back of her mind. She pulled open the door and slid through the noise. It didn't touch her. Nothing touched her. The chaos opened a path for her as she took the last open seat at the bar.

She bobbed on the surface of the sea of noise, as she ordered an apple martini, even though it was passé. A game flashed on one of the corner televisions. The drink was pale green. It nipped at the point of her tongue.

Someone tapped her on the shoulder.


"Would you mind turning around?"

A male voice. Loud, even for all the noise.

She turned. Half around.

Two guys with two spiked haircuts held foamy beers in feminine Belgium bottles.

The taller one grinned. "See? Totally back-pretty," he said. "I told you, man."

Goatee-boy looked incredulous. "No way! She's definitely decent, dude."

Rachel touched her long black hair and looked down through the forest of legs.

"Back-pretty, and that's my fucking final answer."

A shoulder got shoved.

A hand faked a retaliatory head slap.

The assholes continued their fight and collided their way back to a group near the tables. Some looked over, and some laughed.

Rachel turned back to the sparkling wall of bottles. The bartender was looking at her.

She gulped too much of her drink and slid a twenty over.

She didn't wait for change.

Outside, the fine rain brushed her face like silk curtains. Nice. A reminder of the grace of the Earth and her ancient cycles.

Near an empty park, she saw the bronze statue of a man on a bench reading a newspaper. A local landmark. Pigeons liked to roost on the man's fingers.

She smoothed the back of her coat a sat next to him.

"Hey there."

Traffic lights flashed yellow by the bookstore across the street.

One car's tires sizzled by.

"You probably see a lot, sitting here all the time," she said.

But the man seemed pretty intent on his bronze paper.

"Everyone walks right by you. No one stops to say hello."

She slid her foot out.

"That's what you should do. See that? Just a little foot action. I bet it would be a blast to trip one of them up."

The rain lightened, and a nearby church chime wobbled in her head. She drank that martini way too fast.

She surveyed the sidewalks.

A guy turned to cut through the park. Alone.

A breeze tussled his hair.

"Tonight's your lucky night," she said. "You sit tight."

She snuggled closer to the cold statue and drew her foot back into the shadows under her.

A police siren moaned in the distance.

As the guy got close, she bit her lip to keep from laughing.

There's a harvest each Saturday night
At the bars filled with perfume and hitching a ride
A place you could stand for one night and get gone
And it's clear this conversation ain't doing a thing
Because these boys only listen to me when I sing
And I don't feel like singing tonight all the same songs

Here in these deep city lights
A girl could get lost tonight
I'm finding every reason to be gone
There's nothing here to hold onto
Could I hold you?

--Sara Bareilles, City


Chris Eldin said...

Very nice.
I love the creative twists this story takes.
Very good with the dialogue.

Miladysa said...

Absolutely awesome!

Wonderful imagery, totally took me on the most amazing ride.

Thank you :-D

JaneyV said...

God! Those jerks in the bar were so rude! It's not just the misogynistic view of treating any woman alone in a bar as meat - it's the total lack of manners. You painted them so well (I love that you gave them girly Belgium bottles of beer). Froar! They make me mad.

Sometimes a girl just needs an apple martini y'know? (In my case it's a jug of frozen margaritas- but I digress!).

Great dialogue, characters expertly drawn and beautiful imagery.
"Outside, the fine rain brushed her face like silk curtains"
"A tiny taste of summer poked through the wild spring days. She heard it in the thunder ducking down trashy, dark alleys."

were my favourite lines. As always it is a great pleasure to visit Clarity of Night.

Bernita said...

Janey picked my favourite lines too.
Very NICE, Jason!

Aine said...

This makes me feel so lonely. I'm glad those days are gone. And, glad I didn't have to go through that stage of life in a city.

Once again, great job creating atmosphere!

JP (mom) said...

Enjoy how the vignette and lyrics compliment each other. Loved the woman's dialogue with the statue. Peace, JP/deb

Geraldine said...

This was a great read Jason. The loneliness, sense of darkness and abandonment comes through, loud and clear. Well done!

Niiyara said...

was a really good read! she has had a tough day of it hasnt she!

Anonymous said...

Chris, I wove in some local color in this one.

Miladysa, I had fun with the descriptions of a rainy evening. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

JaneyV, the fact of your outrage is a very nice compliment. Thanks! :) The moment must have felt real for you. Creating that sense of real time is such an easy thing to talk about, but a very hard thing to accomplish. Hats off to all writers who stand up and take the challenge.

Bernita, I know what your compliments mean. Thank you!

Aine, yet, there's hope and resilience. She'll find her way.

Jane, the vignette was very much born from the lyrics. I've been listening to that song quite a bit.

Geraldine, thanks! I especially like using scene descriptions to move the story emotionally.

Niyara, welcome! I love seeing new faces! =) As for my character here, even after it all, she keeps her humor. That's something, at least.

paisley said...

there are times in this life when the world is so cruel.. that being able to hide under a bronze facade on a public park bench... would be the most absolutely perfect refuge...

this was excellently crafted jason....

SzélsőFa said...

Although both the character and her loneliness and her surroundings were unlikeable for me, it only means that they were so vivid and close to reality I almost felt being there.
I loved her way of talking to the statue, too!
Very nicely done.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Jason, this is actually one of my favorite pieces by you. I really felt her aloneness. I loved her sitting in the park with the statue. I really enjoyed this immensely. I liked her. I want to read more about her.

Precie said...

I enjoyed that! Made me miss Philly. I agree with Aine, though, that it made me glad I'm not part of that "scene," especially the vulnerable bar part. If I end up slapping a random spiky-haired guy today, I'll have to blame you. :)

Meghan said...

Hola! Just wanted to jump in and say great job. I can really feel the humiliation of the poor girl in the bar. That would be awful.

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Jason, very cool! Aa great piece!

Naxcz. said...

I don't even know who you are, and I could probably say that the only link between the two of us is that we're both blogging at and we both admire Sara Bareilles' song City on Youtube, which is how I came to find your site. Just wanna say that I love the way you write, and of all the vignettes you've written here, I love this one the best. You're good!

Anonymous said...

Paisley, thank you. :) I like the little refuge for her too. She could speak a little to the world itself without the distraction of people.

Szelsofa, that is high praise! Creating a sense of presence in stories is what I have tried so hard to achieve.

Ello, I like how The Clarity of Night is populated with so many different people, all of whom feel real to me. It's a community that I can turn to if I want to carry the characters further. And thank for letting me know this is your favorite so far. That helps me understand what folks like to read.

Precie, I hope you got through the day without being booked for assault!! I'm glad you like your walk through Philly.

Meghan, great to see you! This piece was one of those times when a scene, a moment, forced itself into my head.

Kelly, thanks for stopping by! It's always a pleasure to talk to old friends. :) Your writing success is inspirational.

Naxcz, thanks so much for coming over from Youtube!! I find inspiration in many places, music and videos being som of them. Sara's song is so powerful. Thank you for the very kind words. I hope to be seeing more of you, both here and on your own blog.

Sarah Hina said...

Wonderful, Jason. I could smell the pavement and ozone in this one, and feel the mist on my cheeks. She is lonely, sure, but not intimidated or undone. I liked her quite a bit.

The statue was a master stroke. And the last line has a great, dark giddiness about it that feels so right.

I'll have to go take a listen to the song now. :)

Liane Spicer said...

Wonderful and evocative. I was right there in the bar with her, and outside in the rain. This is really good writing.

apprentice said...

Yes I liked the dialougue very much indeed,but I fear for the poor guy who is approaching her!

Anonymous said...

Sarah, you captured the essential emotions of the scene. I know I'm a subtle writer, leaving the impact of the scene up to the reader's perception. It's very gratifying when I see it communicated. Thanks for telling me.

Wordtryst, many evenings seem to be like this one this spring. Today is grey.

Apprentice, ha! It should be fun.

Vesper said...

A very good piece, Jason, very nicely written. It leaves me slightly worried about her, though; what if it's a bad guy, what if the bronze statue can't hide her...