Iowa Writes

CHLOE LIVAUDAIS
Locked (Part 2)


        The man is staring down at Brooklyn, the palm of his left hand inches away from where her bare foot rests against the glass. She stares back, her laughter fading away, and rests her hands on her belly. When he pounds his palm against the glass again and says hey! her foot plummets towards the ground. She is stumbling past us, pushing legs and arms out of the way, her mouth gaping open like a tent flap. I hear the door slam shut in my sister's bedroom and then nothing.
        This is how my mother finds us when she walks out of the bathroom seconds later, her bangs dripping from the shower that had masked the noise. She is tying the belt of her white robe closed when she looks up and sees the man standing on the other side of the door. She stills briefly, her leg raised and hanging in the air like a bendy straw. Finally she is at the door, but instead of opening it she begins to yell through the glass, inches from the man's face. Help! he says. What is it? What's wrong?, she answers back. Please! Fire! And then, from her: Are you ok? The man takes a step back, and I am both relieved and frustrated that I cannot see his face anymore. My mother unlocks the door with shaking fingers, motioning with her other arm for us to head back, up the stairs, away. But only Brooklyn has gone. Even Stormy sits motionless beside me, her pigtails unraveling in dark wisps down her back. We are invested now. 
        When the door opens I can see more clearly the orange lights on the road behind him. I realize suddenly that it is fire, although what is on fire is shielded by my mother's hand, which is holding onto the doorframe with a grip that turns her fingers the color of bone. Please, the man says, and his voice is clearer, younger. My friend is in the car. Do you have a phone? Please. My mother gasps, and says something like Yes or Hold on, and in the moment before she locks the door again and runs up the stairs, I see him rub the sweat away from his eyes with a long sweep of his wrist.
        But it's January, I think. It's January and the trees are waving behind him and the ground has ice on it and a cold breeze is sliding up my legs and the man on our doorstep is crying, not sweating. I realize suddenly that I have never seen a man cry before.

        The man is staring down at Brooklyn, the palm of his left hand inches away from where her bare foot rests against the glass. She stares back, her laughter fading away, and rests her hands on her belly. When he pounds his palm against the glass again and says hey! her foot plummets towards the ground. She is stumbling past us, pushing legs and arms out of the way, her mouth gaping open like a tent flap. I hear the door slam shut in my sister's bedroom and then nothing.
        This is how my mother finds us when she walks out of the bathroom seconds later, her bangs dripping from the shower that had masked the noise. She is tying the belt of her white robe closed when she looks up and sees the man standing on the other side of the door. She stills briefly, her leg raised and hanging in the air like a bendy straw. Finally she is at the door, but instead of opening it she begins to yell through the glass, inches from the man's face. Help! he says. What is it? What's wrong?, she answers back. Please! Fire! And then, from her: Are you ok? The man takes a step back, and I am both relieved and frustrated that I cannot see his face anymore. My mother unlocks the door with shaking fingers, motioning with her other arm for us to head back, up the stairs, away. But only Brooklyn has gone. Even Stormy sits motionless beside me, her pigtails unraveling in dark wisps down her back. We are invested now. 
        When the door opens I can see more clearly the orange lights on the road behind him. I realize suddenly that it is fire, although what is on fire is shielded by my mother's hand, which is holding onto the doorframe with a grip that turns her fingers the color of bone. Please, the man says, and his voice is clearer, younger. My friend is in the car. Do you have a phone? Please. My mother gasps, and says something like Yes or Hold on, and in the moment before she locks the door again and runs up the stairs, I see him rub the sweat away from his eyes with a long sweep of his wrist.
        But it's January, I think. It's January and the trees are waving behind him and the ground has ice on it and a cold breeze is sliding up my legs and the man on our doorstep is crying, not sweating. I realize suddenly that I have never seen a man cry before.
        I want to unlock the door. I want to clean the fingerprints he's left on the glass. I want to help him. I want him to go away. Instead I just stare while my mom walks past us with the cordless phone in her hand, unlocking the door and handing it out to him. He is in the middle of saying thank you when she shuts the door and locks it again. When she returns, she is gripping the collar of an old trench coat up to her neck with both hands, concealing her robe. She watches the man through the glass crisscross the yard with the phone held closely to his ear. When he is done, he places the phone on the front step and walks backwards with a jerky wave, though whether this means thank you or something else I cannot tell.
        The sweep of red flannel against his skin is the last thing I see when my mom steps outside to retrieve the phone, her hands shaking when she locks the door back in place. Well, that was an excitement, wasn't it? she asks us. She doesn't put the coat away for a long while, not even when we coax Brooklyn out of my sister's room with ice cream, not even when our laughter begins to finally sound real again. Wasn't that crazy? asks Courtney. Wasn't that just absolutely crazy? Yeah, offered Whitney. I bet he was glad we were here. Brooklyn sits in the middle of the group and presses the handle of her fork into her belly button. It was insane, she says after a long while, lifting her chin and pulling up her pajama bottoms. I mean, he was just standing there watching us! What a creep! We all giggle and nod our heads, an understanding locking tentatively into place. Brooklyn takes Stormy's pigtails in her hands and begins to redo them, her small fingers digging into the mass of dark tangles, and Courtney watches from behind, memorizing the movements. The music is loud again, and Whitney and I write the names of the boys we like on our hands in looping pink cursive. No one faces the window, and no one looks up when a wail of sirens fills the air, the sound like the buzzing of a dryer full of someone else's clothes.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


CHLOE LIVAUDAIS

Chloe Livaudais is a third year MFA candidate in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.  Her work has been published in ReCap, Qu Literary Journal, and is forthcoming in Little Village.  She is originally from Auburn, Alabama and currently lives in Iowa City with her husband and two cats.

Locked appeared on the Daily Palette in 2 parts.  If you missed Part 1, be sure to check out yesterday's page.

This page was first displayed
on September 30, 2015

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